'Better Call Saul': New photos, details from 'Breaking Bad' spin-off

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The producers of Better Call Saul are answering some questions about the hotly anticipated Breaking Bad spin-off prequel, and AMC is releasing some new photos. Writer-producers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould took questions from reporters at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills on Friday.  Here’s what we learned:

1. The series regulars and their confirmed character names joining star Bob Odenkirk: Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad) as “fixer” Mike Erhmantraut, Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap) as Chuck, Rhea Seehorn (Franklin & Bash) as Kim, Patrick Fabian (Grey’s Anatomy) as Hamlin and Michael Mando (Orphan Black) as Nacho.

2. Better Call Saul is set in 2002 — six years before Saul (Odenkirk) meets Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad. Funny enough, that the events in Breaking Bad starting in 2008 is also new information, Gilligan said, noting that the original show never specified what year it took place. “I hesitate to say it, but it is indeed a period piece,” Gilligan said.

3. Yet the show will definitely jump around in time, as has been widely reported. “I think the best way to answer this and not get yelled at is you saw from Breaking Bad that we like non-linear storytelling and jumping around in time,” Gilligan said. “I would point you in the that direction, that anything that’s possible in Breaking Bad is possible in Better Call Saul.”

4. Saul Goodman’s name in Better Call Saul is not yet Saul Goodman. When we meet Odenkirk’s character, he’s actually known as Jimmy McGill, a small-time lawyer hustling to make ends meet and working with Mike. The series will track Jimmy’s transformation into Saul Goodman.

5. McKean (photo below) plays Goodman’s brother. “So we have these two comedy legends working together,” Gould noted.

6. The show will not copy Breaking Bad’s neo-Western visual style. “Peter came with an idea book of frame grabs from classic movies, like The Conformist, we talked a lot about Kubrick,” Gilligan said. “We’re doing our damndest to make it as different as possible. It’s important that this not look like a carbon copy of Breaking Bad.”

7. Walter White will only show up if it makes sense: “If it makes sense we’ll do it, if it doesn’t make sense we won’t,” Gilligan said. “I’d love to have him as a director … character wise, who knows? Maybe there’s a way to do it.”

8. There’s a chance fan-favorite villain Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) could return: “There’s always a chance, yeah,” Gilligan said. Added Gould: “These are all characters we love and with Gus there is so much more to say about that character, and we certainly love Giancarlo. Having said that, we’re trying to make something that stands on its own that has an entertainment value that’s not just seeing a series of old favorites. It’s not the series equivalent of a clip show. So we try to balance these things out. But I agree there’s so much to be said about Gus — although in the series it always seemed to me that Saul didn’t know Gus directly. He knew a guy who knew a guy.”

9. The reason Better Call Saul was pushed from fall to early 2015: “I am slow as mud as a TV writer,” Gilligan said. “We had a pace on Breaking Bad thanks to AMC that was deliciously stately … we have a way of doing things that’s slower than most tv shows … because we want to think everything through and we think that pays dividends.”

10. Some Breaking Bad directors are returning: After Gilligan’s premiere, Michelle MacLaren (Game of Thrones) will direct episode 2, Terry McDonough (who directed the first Saul episode) directs episode 3 and Colin Bucksey (four episodes of Breaking Bad) helms episode four and Adam Bernstein (Fargo) has episode 5.

Better Call Saul is set to premiere in early 2015. As previously announced, Gilligan directed the first episode of the first season, which will consist of 10 epiosdes. The second season will consist of 13 episodes.

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