‘Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn Breaks Down Kim’s Big Moment in ‘Bad Choice Road’
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 9 of Better Call Saul, “Bad Choice Road.”]
After Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) returns from his desert ordeal and turns in Lalo’s (Tony Dalton) bond, Kim is left to pick up the pieces for her new husband who keeps details about his encounter with the cartel secret. Aware that he’s keeping things hidden when she discovers his bullet-ridden coffee thermos, Kim’s concerns are raised. Following her fear over his desert disappearance, Kim makes a career change and despite Jimmy’s protests over her quitting Schweikart & Cokely, that’s the least of their worries when Lalo shows up at their door.
Returning to Albuquerque after discovering Saul’s car in the desert on his way to Mexico, the Salamanca wants answers about what really happened when his lawyer went to collect the bail money. Noticing the need to keep details under wraps, Kim puts herself in a compromising position, turning the confronting tables on Lalo and getting in his face, riling the cartel man. Below, Seehorn breaks down Kim’s bold side, that big moment with Lalo and where it might lead as the finale approaches on April 20.
Kim has been a fairly level-headed character since the series began, but she’s slowly become more bold over time. What has it been like to explore that side of her more this season?
Rhea Seehorn: It is fun. Specifically because it’s in the hands of these these writers and directors where I don’t have to worry about being encouraged to just emote or be self-indulgent. They’re completely on board with what I think is true to the character, which is her fight to remain in control that is so tragic to watch. And then she’s just not fully successful at suppressing everything anymore and I also feel like it’s earned because there was definitely cracks in the armor before, but they are larger this season and her ability to reel things back in once they’ve come out has been diminished. Everything from going to Acker (Barry Corbin) late at night and divulging extremely private information about her growing up — she never tells people personal information about herself — to telling Jimmy not to do something.
Kim primarily gives advice and counsel, but she does not tell him what to do and she tries to help him pursue goals. But that was another moment that I thought was very different for her. She’s both emotional and on the verge of tears, but also specifically saying, “I don’t want you to do this.” It’s been challenging to explore those things. But I keep saying this over and over — it’s difficult to explain to someone what you mean when you say “blissfully challenging,” but that’s what I mean. It’s very hard mental gymnastics work as an actor and there isn’t any greater gift than the kind of writers I have on this show handing me that and saying we believe you can do that.
The biggest moment of the episode is when Kim faces Lalo, and despite his imposing nature she completely flattens him in that scene. Are Kim’s actions fear-based or is she unaware of the danger she’s putting herself in?
I think she’s very aware but even when we saw her go and speak to him in custody and people were like, “Oh my God, what is she doing?” I think she believes in both of these instances there is no other choice. I don’t think it’s a complete ignorance that there is danger involved. The things that are serving you well survival skills wise can sometimes turn on you and be your flaw later, and her believing that she can compartmentalize things — if you just work hard enough, smart enough and keep your head down, you can fix anything — is becoming a bit of an issue. Clearly she has a huge ego as far as what she thinks she can call off and it’s admirable in the way that she thinks “I don’t need anybody’s help.”
As [showrunner] Peter [Gould] said to me one time, her feeling that she can somehow put her finger just lightly on the scales of justice to tip them towards the good guys — winning is not okay. This is a situation where it does look like a very rash thing and the way I came at the scene, it’s not unlike when she decides to say “or we get married” when she was on the verge of breaking up with Jimmy. It is rash but it’s also her survival mechanism, which is to kick into, “I cannot handle the emotional qualities of what’s happening.” So this switch goes off where she needs to be practical, it needs to be problem/solution oriented, ’cause then I can fix it. And I think in the speech with Lalo, what I tried to play and worked on with writer and director Tom Schnauz, is that that she’s sitting there watching this unfold and aware.
At first I just thought what anybody does in a situation of extreme fear like where are the exits? What would happen if we scream, where are the knives in my drawers? What if I called 9-1-1? What am I going to say to them? Would that even help? What can they do? And then she knows Jimmy has some sort of secret because of the bullet hole she saw in his mug. I personally don’t think it was a situation where Kim has been seething, thinking, “You didn’t tell me the whole truth.” She thinks he honored their pact. Kim has a great quality of giving people the space [they need] … she will give you the dignity of that. And so I don’t think she’s sitting there resentful that there’s some lie going on. She goes into the survivalist mode with the superhero tools she has, reasoning out constant logic.
Clearly Lalo keeps asking Jimmy to tell the story over and over again. There’s something that is important enough to Jimmy to not say that he would risk his life sitting here, so she just jumps in. She can choose to debate and win and let go of what’s the actual factual truth. And I think that’s the only thing she can figure out to do [in that moment], because he’s taller than me. If he attacks both of us, we’re screwed, and she is extremely protective of Jimmy as Jimmy is extremely protective of her. I don’t think she planned the whole thing, she would’ve loved to have just said five sentences and [have him leave] but he’s not leaving. And so she starts digging her heels in deeper and she’s looking to see what works, as anybody would do if you had somebody on the stand in the courtroom or when she’s just interviewing and talking to clients. You have to see what’s working, what’s not working.
‘Cause at first she’s talking to Lalo like he’s running a company, and then she starts noticing he seems to respond a little more, like “Oh, wait, the personal ego digs seem to be what pissed you off.” So she starts to go in that direction and then ends up making it about the money and “you need to get your house in order.” And we know as an audience she’s not incorrect about what he needs to be doing, which is pretty funny [Laughs], but it’s a massive gamble. And I haven’t seen the scene, I don’t know if they held the camera on me after he leaves, but in the moment when we played it, I gave a pretty big exhale.
Yes, the exhale is there, but it’s hard to not hold your breath as a viewer too because Mike’s (Jonathan Banks) also watching the scene unfold from his sniper scope.
Yeah, so there’s that as well. I was aware that that was scripted, but of course I couldn’t see it when I was playing, but I was aware that there are multiple levels of danger happening while the scene is going on [Laughs].
You mentioned Kim’s ego and we’ve always been aware of Jimmy’s. Does she outrank him this season when it comes to self-confidence?
Well, he did run down a hallway in public shouting that lightning bolts shoot out of his fingertips. So it would be hard to outdo his ego. But it’s interesting to me that he’s becoming bolder by hiding behind this persona and she’s also becoming bolder and we’re not sure. Is that the real her, is that something she became or something she has been suppressing this whole time? Did she used to be highly reactive and a bully to some extent in the way that she behaves with Acker or her outbursts to Schweikart [Dennis Boutsikaris] when he calls her on scamming? She could have easily, gracefully just let go of the case, but she insists on not being accused of something that she actually is doing.
It’s thematic through the whole series and I’m grateful that my character participates in that ’cause I think it’s such an interesting question. This idea of intrinsic versus extrinsic copies and people, like who would she be if she never met Jimmy? What would she be doing? So I don’t think she’s outdoing his ego, but I find it very interesting comparing the two of them. To some degree she’s been wearing a mask the whole time that she clearly feels like an outsider. There’s always been an element to her that felt like I have to kick and scream and scratch to keep a foothold in this middle to upper class law firm and she’s always trying to prove herself. Whether it’s the ponytail or the suits, she’s very controlled and it’s been fun for me to figure out why. Is that naturally who she was or what she needs to be?
Jimmy tells Kim she’s going down a “bad choice road” in this episode. Should we be worried about her in the finale? What can you tease?
I can’t say much, but I can say I’m incredibly grateful for the fans’ and critics’ support of being so worried about Kim, this character that wasn’t in Breaking Bad and how they have all accepted her and care so deeply about her. I care deeply about her. I think the biggest teaser I could say is your concern is warranted [Laughs].
Better Call Saul, Season 5 Finale, Monday, April 20, 9/8c, AMC