Higher Name Saul‘s ultimate season marks the conclusion of government producer Melissa Bernstein’s 15-year journey that started with Breaking Dangerous‘s pilot shoot in 2007. The celebrated AMC drama concerning the rise and fall of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) paved the way in which for the Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman-led (Bob Odenkirk) prequel-sequel collection Higher Name Saul and the Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)-centric sequel film El Camino: A Breaking Dangerous Film (2019).
Contemplating that Breaking Dangerous narrowly survived the 2007-08 WGA strike with perennial low scores till a late collection Netflix bump, Bernstein stays astonished that Vince Gilligan’s mayhem-filled present went on to spawn what might be probably the most well-crafted shared universe up to now. “It simply looks like lightning in a bottle that lasted a very very long time,” says Bernstein. “We’ve all pinched ourselves into bruising.”
Whether or not by Gilligan on Breaking Dangerous or Peter Gould on Higher Name Saul, Bernstein has usually been described because the de facto showrunner on set every time both creator was unable to depart the writers room. She grew to become their eyes and ears, and her on-set prowess even landed her within the director’s chair for 2 episodes on Higher Name Saul‘s fifth and sixth seasons. Nonetheless, she is fast to chalk up her success to Gilligan’s and Gould’s writing employees. “With a blueprint like theirs, it’s onerous to lose,” says Bernstein.
Now a yr faraway from Higher Name Saul‘s critically acclaimed collection finale, “Saul Gone,” Bernstein is raring to have fun the collection’ final Emmy run, particularly after the present almost misplaced its main man to a coronary heart incident within the second half of the ultimate season. In July 2021, Odenkirk collapsed on set and his coronary heart stopped for 18 minutes till he was heroically revived by well being and security supervisor Rosa Estrada and first AD Angie Meyer. “There’s simply nothing fairly that profound that I’ve skilled,” she says.
Bernstein spoke to THR about creating a derivative that’s on par with its extremely embellished predecessor.
You and your Breaking Dangerous collaborators set the bar very excessive for yourselves forward of Higher Name Saul. Are you shocked that there’s now official debate as to which collection is superior?
I really like that. It’s the dream, actually, and I’m thrilled by it. I feel they’re very distinct from each other, despite the fact that they mine among the identical territory. They had been each made with plenty of element and extremely considerate craftsmanship. Some folks like oranges and a few folks like apples. I’ve talked to individuals who couldn’t get previous the physique melting within the bathtub on Breaking Dangerous, however a few of them fell in love with Jimmy and Kim, fully separated from Breaking Dangerous.
Between the pandemic and Bob Odenkirk’s cardiac incident in the course of Higher Name Saul‘s “Level and Shoot” episode, was season six probably the most difficult season of both present?
The challenges had been simply so unexpected, and so they had been so excessive stakes. We had been actually coping with life and dying, from not understanding COVID firstly of it and attempting to maintain everyone secure, to fairly actually seeing Bob having departed. He was gone. There have been moments the place he was not with us, and there’s simply nothing fairly that profound that I’ve skilled.
Nevertheless it’s a part of what our enterprise is. You problem-solve and you work one thing out, and you then get a complete new drawback that you just couldn’t probably have imagined. And so the ultimate season positively provided these up, however we had been very well geared up to deal with them as a result of we had such a finely tuned machine and a lot love and belief amongst colleagues and collaborators.
To a a lot lesser diploma, you had the Saul Goodman workplace exterior just for a quick window within the early a part of the season, and that occurred to be the one time interval wherein Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul may make their late-season returns. Did that schedule put you thru your paces?
We had been so fortunate that Bryan and Aaron had been prepared to come back again. They’ve at all times been our greatest cheerleaders, and people guys can simply shift gears and grow to be Walt and Jesse. Even getting their costume photographs was déjà vu in the absolute best manner, and it was magic having them again collectively amongst so most of the identical crew and castmembers that they already knew and cherished. We had a restricted window, and with Jesse concerned in our exterior Saul workplace, we needed to shoot their items out of order and really early in our season as a result of that’s after they had been accessible. So we had been capturing scenes out of episodes that weren’t written but, which isn’t how our present works. It’s very a lot a brick-by-brick writers room; it’s index card after index card. So we needed to say to the writers, “All proper, we will get them, however you should end these scenes months and months earlier than you’ve completed breaking the ultimate season of the present,” and that was counter to our complete strategy to storytelling.
When did you first really feel the present gravitating away from Jimmy and Chuck McGill’s (Michael McKean) fraternal feud and extra towards Jimmy and Kim’s doomed love story?
I cherished seeing the present as a love story as a result of it felt so counterintuitive to Breaking Dangerous and the complicated character of Saul Goodman. As quickly as we met Kim, it simply felt like this girl was going to be critically necessary. Rhea Seehorn’s portrayal of the character simply instantly felt so lived-in and human, and all of us fell in love along with her. It was solely a matter of time till we noticed how that shook out. We all know it took a really poisonous flip, but it surely offered itself — a minimum of to me — within the early days.
There was a standard false impression that Higher Name Saul characters needed to die to elucidate their absence on Breaking Dangerous, and so many viewers anticipated Kim to be ill-fated. Have been you ever actually anxious about her?
It actually wasn’t off the desk, but it surely actually would’ve shocked me. It simply didn’t really feel just like the place the place Peter and Vince would take that story, and it could’ve been too straightforward for the writers. So I by no means actually thought that was the highway that they had been going to go down.
In Breaking Dangerous‘s “Granite State” episode, Saul Goodman urged Walter White to show himself in and grow to be the “John Dillinger” of the native jail. In a roundabout manner, Jimmy took his personal recommendation. Are you glad he was accountable?
Sure, it was actually necessary as a result of his humanity began to run so skinny the additional and additional he bought away from his true north, Kim. Perhaps some portion of that was his brother, and his personal talent as a lawyer. All of us take plenty of self-worth from how we contribute, and as Jimmy bought up to now afield of his finest self, that was the one technique to redeem the character and to really feel a way of satisfaction with the journey and to really feel like he deserved Kim, even when their relationship was now not a romantic one.
There was inside back-and-forth about the place to finish the collection finale, be it within the jail yard or within the interview room. Do you recall your vote?
I did argue for a shorter model of the outside jail scene, and Peter did make trims, just like the finger weapons that Kim by no means gave. So I feel that was positively the best transfer. I really like what Peter selected, and it actually was about him discovering the precise proper spot to finish. He allowed himself to really feel his manner by means of it in actual time, which was really fairly thrilling. However I feel we may have ended it inside, too. I feel Peter’s standpoint is that it could’ve been a little bit bit too upbeat, and possibly I used to be wanting that in the way in which that I so love seeing the present as a love story.
You’re at present producing season two of the Recreation of Thrones prequel, Home of the Dragon. What lesson from the Breaking Dangerous universe have you ever utilized?
Some of the essential classes is rarely forgetting the writers’ room philosophy of, “What’s happening within the character’s head?” and actually pondering by means of moments, scenes, episodes and seasons with that in thoughts. One other factor I positively realized from Vince on Breaking Dangerous is assessing how actual people behave, even when it’s a background artist. It’s attempting to remain inside regular human reactions and being rooted in these particulars. So, even when there are dragons, you must take a look at tales that manner. It retains folks tethered to the humanity and the emotional stakes of a narrative, it doesn’t matter what world it’s.
Interview edited for size and readability.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone subject of The Hollywood Reporter journal. To obtain the journal, click on right here to subscribe.