‘Better Call Saul’s Tony Dalton on Lalo’s Unpredictability in Season 5

Better Call Saul Lalo Tony Dalton
Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Better Call Saul continues to near its Season 5 end and the stakes are being raised in each episode. In the March 30 installment, “JMM,” Saul (Bob Odenkirk) was tasked with representing Salamanca cartel point-person Lalo (Tony Dalton) in a murder case.

The case left the criminal lawyer in difficult position as he was promised friendship with the organized crime group in exchange for achieving the impossible and convincing the judge to set bail for Lalo’s release. The catch? Lalo’s identity remains hidden from the legal system. Ultimately, Saul pulled off the impossible and the judge set bail at $7 million. But will it pay off?

We caught up with Dalton ahead of the April 6 episode and he’s teasing plenty about Lalo’s motivation (or lack thereof), the Salamanca’s unpredictability, Saul’s “friendship” with the cartel and much more.

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Did Saul make the right choice to help Lalo make bail?

Tony Dalton: [Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are] really good at storytelling. They know where to put certain things at the right moment so that you get a feel for whatever it is that they’re trying to get across. I think that with [the March 30 episode], you kind of get an idea of where the story’s going to go.

Lalo’s not sympathetic to murder victim Fred Whalen’s family in court. Have we seen him at his most ruthless yet?

Well, I mean, if it was up to me, I’d tell you anything you wanted to hear. I’d love to tell you everything, but actors really do get in trouble when they say things that they shouldn’t be saying… I can’t tell you if this guy’s going to go loco. But I will tell you, you see a hell of a lot more Lalo in the next three episodes.

Better Call Saul

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Gus keeps aiding in Lalo’s plans and allowing him to get away with things. Do you think Lalo is aware of this?

You haven’t seen the full capacity of what Lalo is capable of and his persona. With the next episodes, you’re going to understand the way this guy thinks and the way that this guy moves around in the world. For me, it’s very exciting because it’s kind of like I’ve been trying to keep my mouth shut for a year.

We have yet to learn much about Lalo and what exactly drives him. Will we learn more about him past?

Yeah, I wouldn’t go so far to say past, but you sure as hell get a lot more information about the kind of person that he is and where he comes from. By the time that this season’s done, everybody’s going to have a pretty clear picture of who Lalo is.

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What are Lalo’s motivations? Are they the same as Hector’s against Gus?

[Lalo] is kind of like a little prince, as far as the Salamanca family’s concerned. He’s not the guy who was in charge, but they send him to be in charge sometimes with certain things. He’s a psycho, so he’ll kill with a blink of an eye, but also, he takes things lightly. His beef with Gus really isn’t personal. Hector’s is personal. With Walter White, it was personal, but Gus’ thing with Lalo is only because he’s a Salamanca, but he doesn’t really care, which makes him very unpredictable.

I wanted to make a character that was carefree of life. You always hear about these mafia guys or even especially in Mexico with these cartel guys … [they] know that they’re going to die. It’s part of their lives. They know that their days are numbered. Instead of making a character that’s so intense and scared, it’s a guy who’s like, “I know tomorrow I could just get shot in the back of my head, so might as well just sit back and relax here.” That really defines who Lalo is, he’s kind of carefree.

Better Call Saul Lalo

(Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

How will Saul’s friendship with the cartel evolve? We know it probably doesn’t go well based on where things are between you two in Breaking Bad.

I think that Lalo likes Saul. I think he really does enjoy his company. They’re very similar, they’re little talkers, they smile, and they’re a little bit fake sometimes in things that they say and do. I think that that’s why he kind of likes him, but again, it’s this carefree thing that in a second he could turn around and shoot him or Lalo gets killed. It’s just carefree life.

Nacho is also balancing on a thin blade between the Salamancas and Gus. Do you think Lalo trusts him?

Not even close, no. I don’t think Lalo really trusts anybody except for the Salamancas, but with Nacho it’s like he doesn’t exist for Lalo. He’s just kind of like, “What is this guy doing here?” I know that in his own world, everything is very important. He really doesn’t think about the fact that Nacho could be betraying him because, I mean, if he does he’d be dead. I mean, who would do something like that? He doesn’t really think about Nacho that much, he’s not important to Lalo.

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Does that mean Nacho’s operating under a false sense of security? Should he be worried?

I think he should. As far as Lalo’s concerned, Nacho’s doing the right things. But I think in the back of Lalo’s mind, he doesn’t really care about anybody which is what makes it so crazy. He’ll give him the promotion that he deserves, but that doesn’t really mean that he trusts him.

Where do you think Lalo falls on the Salamanca scale of unpredictability between Tuco (Raymond Cruz) and Hector (Mark Margolis)?

It’s more about the unpredictability of the writers, because that’s one of the things that sort of defines the Salamancas — they’re loose cannons. But as far as more or less than the other guys, I don’t know, because the fact of having a plan and then changing it is also very unpredictable. I don’t think anybody has any idea how crazy this thing is going to get in the next three episodes. I mean, it’s unbelievable. When I was reading these episodes back in my room in Albuquerque, I was like jumping up and down. It was unbelievable.

Better Call Saul Season 5

(Credit: Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

What is it like to go head-to-head with Gus, one of Breaking Bad‘s most iconic villains?

It’s unbelievable, I still can’t believe it. I see myself in [the show] and I go, “What the hell am I doing in there, man?” I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity to work with these guys. It was one of the greatest jobs or experiences work-wise in my life.

What else should fans expect?

There was a tweet that [Better Call Saul writer] Peter Gould put out the other day. He said, “If you haven’t caught up on Better Call Saul, might as well get caught up because the next three episodes that are coming out will be something to be remembered.” I think they will.

Better Call Saul, Mondays, 9/8c, AMC