TCA: Better Call Saul, the down & dirty

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We get it. Breaking Bad was a fantastic show. An epic, never-been-done, can never be replicated type of show that millions of viewers around the world fell in love with. So when AMC announced the Better Call Saul spinoff, there were just as many worried fans. No one wants this prequel to be the black spot on an otherwise legendary franchise.

Well everyone can put those worries aside. Promise. The first two episodes, which were released to press ahead of the Better Call Saul panel at the 2015 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif, will put everyone’s fears to bed. Permanently.

But we don’t want to spoil anything. Instead, we’re happy to bring you five things that we learned from the panel, from the co-creators and stars themselves.

1) This isn’t Breaking Bad

Nor is it trying to be. Co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould were upfront about the fact, revealing they gave the show a new energy. There’s less urgency, since when we meet the new leading man he’s not exactly dying of cancer (a la Walter White). The Saul Goodman we meet–known here as Jimmy McGill–is a very different man, as in he still kind of has some morals.

“Saul Goodman is not who he is, that’s a creation of his,” portrayer Bob Odenkirk said. “As he tells Walter White the first time he meets him, ‘That’s not my name, this is a presentation.'”

 2) But the Breaking Bad world exists

This IS a spinoff, after all. And while both Gilligan and Gould were clear that neither Bryan Cranston nor Aaron Paul would stop by this new world in Season 1, that doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing some familiar faces.

“I have to admit that a big part of the fun for us in setting the series as a prequel, six years earlier, is that it allows the sky to be the limit,” Gilligan revealed. “All the characters that have been deceased could show up.” That said, look for a familiar face right off the bat.

3. Ethics are still key

We’re not taking Mr. Chips and turning him into Scarface, but we’re looking at a man who is very much at the end of his rope in this prequel. If you thought you’d seen Saul Goodman have a bad day before, just wait until this project. Without giving anything away, the show opens with a black-and-white montage of present day Saul, after we left him in Breaking Bad, before flashing back to his shinier beginning. The tonal shift was a very conscious move by the producers.

“We see it as a movie. With these big screen TVs you can really start telling these stories visually,” Gould said. “A lot of it is thinking about the emotional state of the characters and how it relates to the rest of the episodes. We shot that sequence in colour, and then drained the colour out of it. It ultimately felt right (to have in black and white).”

4. Odenkirk is kinda, sorta ready to be the leading man

Obviously Odenkirk has some pretty big shoes to fill behind the scenes. There are myriad stories of how great Bryan Cranston was to work with on Breaking Bad. About what a great ship captain he made. Regarding his graciousness, kindness, and ability to make everyone feel comfortable and at home. So how does one top that as the new captain? With a joke, naturally.

“Bryan was a dad and I was a pissy teenager,” Odenkirk said.

5. Gilligan is super nervous for you to see this

In Hollywood, you can’t find a nicer, more soft-spoken, Southern gentleman than Vince Gilligan. But he believes in this show, and thinks it’s a damn good one. That doesn’t make him any less nervous to hear what the rest of the world thinks.

“I was scared the whole time. I’m still anxious about how it’s going to be received,” he said. “I had fun shooting the pilot from Day 1. I love working with these guys. I mean I had hopes and dreams. I feel so good about this show right now but I don’t think I did until the writing was over and we were in the editing room. It’s not until you see the actors embody these roles that you know if you have it or not. I don’t know if the world is going to like this thing, but I am really proud of it.”

Are you excited for the Better Call Saul premiere? Tell us your thoughts/expectations/hopes/blue sky dreams below.

Watch for the two-night event on Sunday, Feb. 8 and Monday, Feb. 9 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.

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