‘Better Call Saul’ Star Rhea Seehorn Reflects on Kim’s ‘Erratic’ Season 5 Journey
The actress — who has portrayed the well-intentioned lawyer Kim Wexler since day one of the Breaking Bad prequel spinoff — brought her A-game as one of the show’s most valuable assets for some overdue awards buzz this season. After years of fans questioning her relationship with Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), Kim solidified their bond for better or worse by proposing marriage and tying them together for the uncertain future.
Carefully self-controlled, Seehorn’s portrayal of Wexler exploded onscreen as she broke bad herself by going toe-to-toe with bad guy Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) and plotted against Howard (Patrick Fabian) with her own career gains in mind. Is she heading down a bad path or will she regain control of her ego before it’s too late? Seehorn reflects on her Season 5 journey, Kim’s major moves and more, below.
Kim had quite the season. How did you digest the writing and approach her arc this time around in comparison to past seasons?
Rhea Seehorn: Well, we get our scripts only one at a time, and I don’t think [showrunner] Peter [Gould] and the writers room had a definitive architecture for Kim for the entire season. I think he even spoke to me about that also organically, having some pivots here and there. But nonetheless, I had the benefit of doing these shifts incrementally rather than trying to think about a large unveiling.
I felt this continuation of Season 4, going into Season 5, very clearly started to ramp up her ability to control herself. So, when I would approach the material, I did notice there seemed to be an erosion of her ability to modulate when she has emotional responses to things and when she lashes out.
There also seemed to be an escalation of reckless behavior and impulsiveness that I had seen some before, but I started collecting these pieces to the jigsaw puzzle and, a couple of episodes in, felt something’s going on here between the internal and external. She’s somebody who never lets people see what’s going on inside, and now, she’s doing that, so for me, it was about doing the math on what is this ramp? Is this something that’s coming out in her because of the circumstances or something that was always very deep within?
Do you feel like you know Kim less now than you thought you had in the past, or are things beginning to make sense to you when it comes to her story?
That’s an interesting question. Because I’ve gotten to play her for so many years now, I find her endlessly fascinating — I always have. But because I’ve been working on what’s going on with her internally for so long, I do feel like I know her better and better every year.
That being said, some of the things that happened this season were explosive and challenging to me, and felt more reckless or more erratic. That was very fun for me as an actor because these writers are so great at what they do that even when they have a behavioral reaction that is alarming from people, when you actually sit down and start doing your work and script analysis, there’s seeds on the trail. There’s always a place for me to go, “Oh, yeah, I actually see why she’s behaving that way, and it’s troubling,” or, “It’s invigorating.”
I’ve always felt that the architecture of Kim was that she is the architect of her own life, and no one else was getting it, and this year, she started screaming it. So, there were things that have always been familiar to me, and then there were things that surprised me in ways that were troubling and dangerous. Her ability [to control her ego] has gone from being her biggest hero quality to being her own worst enemy. Did it surprise me? Yeah, as an actor when I read the script I was like, “Oh my God! Holy s**t!” But it’s funny, as soon as I shift my head into Kim and the types of thought processes she does, then it started to make sense.
Your character is original to this show. Would you say that makes your process easier than your costars who previously appeared on Breaking Bad and are trying to fit within previously established arcs?
I think my co-stars who had characters in Breaking Bad — and I’ve spoken to all of them about it — they’ve got their work set out for them in a really fun, challenging way, too. To try to do the backwards, deductive math and find out how this person came to be that, and not do it in just a straight, linear line presents its own challenges.
I wonder if the writers think it’s actually easier to write [for my character] because you’re not having to meet any mileposts with Kim, other than explaining where she is and why she’s not there during Breaking Bad, which I think they’ve had a lot of fun with answering that question. It wasn’t easier for me in the beginning because I just kept hoping that I wasn’t going to be dead in the next episode. It’s not easier, but it adds an element to me of constant expansion, because I don’t have to end up at any one particular place.
Viewers constantly have to readjust their expectations because of so many shocking twists and turns. Have you learned to go with the flow when it comes to surprises in Kim’s story?
The writers and creators of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul give this wonderful gift to their actors where they don’t just hang their hat on something that you do well, that the audience is liking, and be like, “Oh great. Kim will be a super conservative, quiet person in the corner or something like that.” They keep expanding, they keep revealing more layers of characters. Yes, sometimes they’re surprising, but like I said, [the writers are] so good at what they do. The second I get past my fan reaction when I’m reading the script — because I am a fan of his show — I go, “What?” The Lalo stuff, the marriage proposal to Jimmy, even the lighter moments, like doing an impression of Kevin Wachtell played by Rex Linn in one of these lovely, comedic, odd moments. I get surprised like a fan and I get excited.
One of the biggest moments for Kim this season has to be her showdown with Lalo. What went into creating that scene?
We all rehearse, but the scene that you’re talking about had technical [details] and we were running out of time. Tom Schnauz, who wrote and directed [the episode], knew he needed to find a way to carve out an hour when Tony Dalton’s not shooting, I’m not shooting, or Bob’s not shooting. It’s a lot. And then asking the DP, Marshall Adams, to also be there. Part of that was because you have the logistics of the monster coming into the house. This little condo has been this safe place where Kim and Jimmy don’t let the negative outside world really come in, and now the monster is visiting them. He’s in the house. That, on top of the fact that it has to be lined up with the sniper rifle of Mike, coming through a window.
They were going to shoot us separately and Mike on the balcony in some other locations. So, figuring out exactly when I go through his crosshairs and when Lalo goes through his crosshairs, where we’re standing, and how this triangle moves around the room. We rehearsed it beforehand, and we were thrilled to do so, to figure out what the dynamic is and when the shift happens.
I wanted to make sure that prior to Lalo getting there, I had kicked off my shoes, because in my head, the more physically small I look once I approached him, the better. The more vulnerable Kim looked, the more I find it believable and exciting that she had to go at it with just her rhetoric and her legal wit. There were no other options, and Tony’s so charismatic and wonderful. So, it was fun to be able to react to that. It was very clear how high the tension was going to be when we played the scene, so it was good that we got to work out all the camera stuff and the blocking before we did it on the day, because then you could just let it fly.
What can you tease about the progress on Season 6?
The writer’s room is assembled. I don’t know what episode they’re on. They’re using video conferencing to do this, and I feel like it was just last week that Peter was saying they’re still hoping with every fiber in their being that the world makes it possible for us to shoot in the fall. That is still what we’re trying to do. That being said, everybody on Better Call Saul and everybody at AMC and Sony is not going to do anything until it’s safe for all of us to work on the show. We would be shooting in New Mexico again. We have to fly places. You have to take in all of those factors.
We’re all hoping that there are treatments, if not vaccines, that make it possible for not just us to get back to work, but everybody as best as possible. I don’t know anything about the script, though. I don’t even ask at this point, and I’m glad I didn’t ask last season. I’m glad I had the pleasure of going on a journey that I knew felt like Kim was going down some kind of rabbit hole, but I really liked being able to play the present moment with just the information she has a day at a time. It was fun for me in the end, helped me find those incremental changes, but then also the surprises, the things that are erratic.
Better Call Saul, Season 6, TBA, AMC