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‘Better Call Saul’ premieres tonight

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bob Odenkirk thinks Jimmy McGill has some good traits.

In fact, he has tons of good qualities, he says.

“Jimmy McGill is someone who likes people,” Odenkirk says. “He wants to do right in the world.”

Of course, there is always the flip side.

“(His) negative quality is that he gets blinded by his own inspiration,” Odenkirk says. “He has these schemes, and oftentimes with good intentions, but they have unintended consequences.”

The celebrated actor is reprising his role as Jimmy McGill for the third season of the AMC drama “Better Call Saul.” The season premiere is at 8 tonight.

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Bob Odenkirk, right, and “Better Call Saul” series co-creator Vince Gilligan chat in between scenes shot at the Cottonwood Mall. (Robert Trachtenberg/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

This season, viewers will get to see the transformation of Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman.

The series is a spinoff from the ratings juggernaut – and pop culture giant – “Breaking Bad.”

It is set in 2002 and follows Jimmy McGill, six years before his appearance on “Breaking Bad” as Saul Goodman, Walter White’s slimy lawyer.

The second season hovered around 2 million viewers per episode. During its two seasons, the series has become a critics’ darling and amassed 14 Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

And, of course, it still takes place in Albuquerque, where fans continue to stop by and photograph sites that appear in the series.

The season premiere is one of the most anticipated of the television season, and questions have arisen about how close this season will tie to “Breaking Bad.”

At this year’s South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, a pop-up version Los Pollos Hermanos, the fictional restaurant from the show, Odenkirk and crew showed up to meet fans.

Here’s what we know so far: Bad guy Gustavo Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito, is back this season and will cause trouble.

Odenkirk can’t give away too many details but is quick to say there is much more comedy.

“It’s a more dynamic show. Everyone from the actors to the producers are more sure of themselves of what this show could be,” he says. “When (creators) Vince (Gilligan) and Peter (Gould) wrote this, they were discovering as they wrote. It’s very smart of them. We’ve carved out our area and have a lot of fun. There’s more comedy and danger in this season. We sort of shift between these different tones. We take bigger swings because we can.”

Odenkirk says that during this season, McGill gets carried away.

And he loves that the show is nothing like “Breaking Bad,” despite sharing characters.

“We have Gus back, and that brings back a coterie of bad guys who interact with him,” Odenkirk says. “There are people that fans forgot about that return in this season. It’s a fun ride.”

After years of playing McGill/Goodman on the two shows, Odenkirk says, a role like this doesn’t come around often.

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Bob Odenkirk, right, on location with the other major cast members of “Better Call Saul,” filmed and set in Albuquerque.

“It’s really a unique journey and not something we see in today’s world,” he says. “Keep in mind, Saul Goodman was just his professional persona. It’s a put-on. It’s always a front. Saul is a shut-down version of Jimmy. He’s abandoned his frustrations, and he’s not able to get positive reinforcement. It it all begins with his brother, Chuck.”

Production for the third season began in October at Albuquerque Studios.

According to the New Mexico Film Office, “Better Call Saul” employed nearly 90 New Mexico crew members.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry has said the direct spend into the local economy is $1 million per episode. It takes about eight days to film an episode.

Production wrapped in late winter.

Odenkirk says there were some challenges because of wet weather.

“But we’re not afraid of New Mexico’s winter,” he says. “We’ve done it before, and production had to relearn what we did with ‘Breaking Bad.’ It added to the feel of this season.”

Odenkirk also enjoys his stay in the Duke City while filming for nearly six months.

“I think everybody feels a great love for the town,” he says. “If you spend any time there, you have to recognize that the people are great. They love the town, and they will show you the things to love about the town; the great outdoors to the sky and the beauty of that town. You mix that together with the people, and it’s an awesome place.”

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Arts Editor Adrian Gomez at agomez@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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