Betsy Brandt on Her ‘Better Call Saul’ Cameo, Not Wearing Purple and How ‘Hank Was in My Heart’
Out of all the cameos in the “Better Call Saul” finale, the most surprising had to have been Betsy Brandt back as Marie, since fans haven’t seen her since the final episodes of “Breaking Bad” in 2013. Dean Norris had appeared as Hank Schrader, Marie’s husband and a DEA agent, in “Better Call Saul” Season 5, but having Marie cross over into Saul’s (Bob Odenkirk) story seemed almost too far-fetched. That is, until Saul was finally arrested, and Marie was there to watch his downfall.
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Brandt only appeared in a handful of scenes, but her appearance was cathartic for Marie, who finally got some justice for Hank’s death near the end of “Breaking Bad.” She even got to tell off Saul after his arrest: “No matter what they do with you now, no matter where they put you or for how long, it will never be enough.”
After Saul lands behind bars in the finale, Brandt said that his 86-year sentence was “perfect” for Marie. In an interview with Variety, the actor explained how she played this grief-stricken Marie, working with the show’s co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould on her return, why Marie didn’t wear any of her classic purple clothing and how she honored Hank with her scenes.
What was it like to put yourself back in Marie’s shoes?
Oh my God, it was an absolute pleasure. It wasn’t something that I thought I’d get to do. When you’re finished, you’re finished. That’s usually how it goes. I thought the last time I played her would be when I had to loop the “Breaking Bad” finale when I was in New York on the “Michael J. Fox Show.” I thought that’s how I’d finish, in a soundstage on the phone with the team back in L.A. But it was like putting on your favorite sweater that you forgot how much you loved. I’ve missed her. I know she can be a real pain in the ass, but I’ve missed her, that purple-wearing, obsessed person. The way they brought her back, she’s grown up a lot since we saw her. I love the dignity that they gave her. It was everything I wanted for my character as an actor.
How did you get into the mindset of playing this version of Marie after Hank’s death?
I still wanted her to be the same person; you have to recognize her. Marie’s so tightly wound, and she still is, but she’s determined and she wants to do right by Hank. I always had this feeling that — I get emotional talking about this and I know it’s pretend, believe me, I get it — what kept her going after Hank died is that she wanted to make him proud, even after he’s gone. Dean Norris wasn’t in this episode, but Hank was in my heart all the days we were shooting. That is what really guides her. Not “What would Hank do?” but “What would Hank think of what I’m doing?” Their love story in the show is really beautiful, and it was wonderful to get to honor that.
Another part I loved is that Marie is there with Gomez’s wife, and you’re both there supporting each other.
Stop it, you’re making me cry again! What Walt did to our family, my husband, my sister and I, to Walt Jr. — to Gomez’s family, she’s a widow and three kids lost their dad. I loved the gravity of having both of them together and holding each other up through that. I thought it was a really beautiful moment. Also to see Odenkirk say “I’m James McGill.” When we were shooting that scene, Bob gave me chills.
The scenes were in black-and-white, but were you wearing any purple while shooting?
No purple. I think it was green or gray, nothing even close to purple. That didn’t surprise me. I loved the last time we see Marie in “Breaking Bad.” She’s wearing all neutral tones, beige and white, after she experienced the trauma of losing Hank. She had to let go of a lot of her bullshit. It seems pointless after something like that. When I showed up for the costume fitting, our costume designer had the perfect clothes picked out. All the options were spot on, and I don’t think there was any purple in there.
Were there discussion to have Marie appear earlier in the series?
There was. Vince had an idea about possibly bringing Marie back in a certain moment pretty early on. I think it was Season 2. I think Peter said it wasn’t the moment. I was hopeful that I would come back at some point. As the seasons went on, I didn’t know, but I’m honored they had me back for the finale.
Where does Marie go from here?
She keeps going. I think she’s going to live the life she knows Hank would want her to. I think that’s exactly what guides her. I can’t imagine what dating would be like for her, because she’ll compare everyone to Hank, and she’ll do that for a while. But I think she’ll live a long, happy, full life. I hope she and Skyler have some connection. It’ll never be the same, but I love that relationship. I love that they had that war-buddy connection. That was such a loss for my character when she realizes Skyler was in on this. I think that would be hard to forgive, but I hope they have some connection. And I hope she sees Walt Jr. and little baby Holly.
Now that you’ve been on both shows, which one is better?
Oh, you can’t ask me that! I mean, “Breaking Bad” is my home. To be at the beginning of that franchise was one of the most special things I’ll ever experience in my life. The first season we did, I remember before we all went home, Bryan, Dean, his wife, my husband, our kids and I all had breakfast before we left town. We were talking about how great it was and how amazing Bryan’s work was. I remember Dean saying, “Thanks for the years of work I think we’re going to get out of this.” I remember looking at Bryan, I said “It’s your time. It’s amazing to watch you do this.” And it was. To be there and experience that, with that group of people, we had the time of our lives.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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