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- American actor
Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Amarillo” episode of Better Call Saul.
Just like we know where Jimmy McGill ends up in Breaking Bad, we know the end state for Mike Ehrmantraut, too… in Mike’s case, the end. There’s also still so much more we don’t know about primetime’s all-time most beloved hitman, though “Amarillo” suggested his commitment to granddaughter Kaylee and widowed daughter-in-law Stacey is behind Mike’s turn to the darker side.
Yahoo TV talked to Emmy-nominated Mike portrayer Jonathan Banks about Mike’s Season 2 entanglements with Nacho and Pryce, his enduring guilt about the death of his son, what’s ahead for him the rest of the season, and whether or not he thinks Stacey is playing Mike.
A lot of things are happening with Mike this season. What’s motivating Mike at this point? Is it really just being there for his granddaughter and Stacey?
Absolutely. Listen, as far as Mike’s concerned, [with] his son’s death, he took away her husband and Kaylee’s daddy, and Mike will never be able to repay that.
Does Mike think Stacey is being honest about being worried about how safe her neighborhood is, hearing gunshots? And if she doesn’t have good motivations, is he going to go along with it because of his guilt about his son’s death?
I don’t think she’s trying to play him at all. Not at all. It’s a fear. She’s gone through a great trauma, and it’s affected her, which makes Mike feel not only worse, but makes him feel helpless in many ways.
He tells her earlier in the episode that he’s not the worrying kind, but that’s not really true is it?
Not at all. Not at all. There’s some things he doesn’t worry about. But where his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter are concerned, he worries all the time.
Mike has spent more time with Nacho this season, and Nacho certainly seems to have a new respect for Mike. Do you think Mike has respect for Nacho at this point, too?
No. I think Mike thinks he’s a loose cannon. I think Mike is very wary of who Nacho is and what he does. It’s not something Mike wants to be involved with.
Did it change his mind at all when he saw Nacho with his father?
Only in the sense that Mike… you know Mike has a soft spot, obviously. The audience has known that for a long time. He’s not out to hurt the family of anybody, no matter how bad the guy is. No matter what he may feel about the individual. He’s not out to hurt their family.
Do you think there’s a possibility that Mike will develop the kind of relationship with Nacho that he had with Jesse Pinkman, become sort of a fatherly figure for Nacho?
I don’t know. I haven’t seen those scripts.
What are some of the biggest challenges of playing Mike at this point? Because you know the character’s ending, you know a very key part of his backstory, but we don’t know a lot of the middle.
They’re kind of wonderful challenges in that you constantly… the writers have their backstory for Mike. Jonathan has his backstory for Mike. In many ways, they’re very similar. People ask me, “Well, you know you’re dead [in Breaking Bad], what’s the challenge to that?“ My answer always is, we’re all going to die. It’s not even a consideration for Jonathan Banks today. I’m know I’m going out of here at some time, but I’m going to live my life the best that I can. I think Mike lives for his granddaughter and daughter-in-law. I think Mike’s carrying way too much pain. You can’t be responsible for the death of your own child and then go, “Oh yeah, everything’s fine.” It’s not. It’s not. And it’s not like it was an accident. Mike, by design, was doing things that he shouldn’t have, and it caused this boy’s death.
We see him meeting with Nacho at the end of “Amarillo.” It seems like this could be a major turn for Mike, what happens, or what is decided, in this meeting.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of those things where, you know, Mike’s been [hardened], Mike’s been hard a long, long, long time. It just depends on what degree he’ll go to. So yeah, it is a turn.
For a lot of characters it wouldn’t be that interesting to think about what they’re doing when we’re not seeing them, when they’re not at work. But Mike is such an interesting character that you sort of wonder about him. What does he do when he’s not spending time with Kaylee and Stacey, working at the parking lot, or doing the side jobs?
We haven’t seen that. I’ve said to both Vince [Gilligan] and Peter [Gould], I said, “I think it would be great if at one point Pryce, the pill pusher in the Humvee… there was a reference to fishing, the cops [taking Pryce on a fishing trip for information]. I thought one of the funniest scenes, it would be great if [Pryce] called Mike on the phone and said, "Well, what are you doing? Do you want to go fishing?” and to see the two of them sitting in a boat, maybe even throw in the veterinarian. That would be a trial that would just be so much fun to see.
But my real answer is, what does Mike do? Mike watches old movies. Mike is a loner. Mike reads the newspaper. Mike’s probably pretty well-read, is my guess. I don’t ever want Mike dumbed down. There’s correct grammar in the way that he speaks. If Jonathan Banks knows [something], then Mike knows it, because as far as I’m concerned, Mike is a lot smarter than Jonathan Banks.
You mentioned the character Pryce. Those have been some of the best scenes this season, between him and Mike. Does Mike have any sympathy for him? He figured out very quickly this is someone who could get him in a lot of trouble just by his ignorance, but does he also have a little bit of sympathy about just how clueless Pryce is?
My opinion is no. He doesn’t want to see any harm come to him, but here’s a guy that is arrogant, stealing and selling drugs. Mike sees that for what it is. There’s no sympathy in that. I think he sees him as a thief. I think he sees him as an arrogant thief, and a putz, for sure. There’s not a lot of sympathy for him, but yeah, Mike doesn’t want to see Pryce come to any harm either.
What can you tell us about the rest of the season? What can you say about Mike’s path for the rest of the season?
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on AMC.