Rhea Seehorn Talks ‘Linoleum’ and Reuniting with ‘Better Call Saul’ Boss Vince Gilligan
Knowing she had another Gilligan project in the works helped soften the end of 'Saul' for the actor behind Kim Wexler: "I literally cried."
Two-time Emmy nominee Rhea Seehorn clearly has a knack for bringing out the dramatic side of renowned comedians.
For six seasons on the Breaking Bad prequel/sequel, Better Call Saul, Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk elevated each other en route to becoming two of the finest dramatic actors on television, and that's quite a feat considering Odenkirk was already a distinguished figure in the world of comedy. The same goes for Seehorn who was mostly known for her sitcom work prior to joining Vince Gillgan and Peter Gould's spinoff about the rise and fall of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman and Kim Wexler.
Bob Odenkirk Is Having a Midlife Crisis in &'Lucky Hank&' Trailer
Golden Globes: &'Babylon,&' &'Wednesday,&' &'The Crown,&' &'Avatar&' Sequel Among Noteworthy Snubs
And now, in Colin West's quietly ambitious drama Linoleum, Seehorn is supporting yet another career-long comedian in Jim Gaffigan, as he delivers a superlative dramatic turn as TV science guy, Cam Edwin. Seehorn, in her first released work since Saul concluded in August 2022, plays Erin Edwin, who's on the verge of divorcing her husband Cam until a rocket crashes into their backyard a la Wayfarer 515 and changes everything.
Seehorn is well aware of the pattern that's emerged involving her and time-honored comedic performers, but she isn't all that surprised by Gaffigan and Odenkirk's dramatic chops.
"A lot of people think that a comedian is just going to be a cutup who makes jokes the whole time, and while Jim is quite funny and dry-witted, as is Bob, they are both really intellectual and deep thinkers when it comes to breaking down scenes and doing scene work," Seehorn tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Five weeks after Saul ended, Seehorn and Gilligan announced they were reuniting for a new series on Apple TV+, as the streamer ordered two seasons and outbid at least a half-dozen other networks and platforms in the process. Little is known about their new drama, except that it veers away from the antihero, a staple of Gilligan's work the last 15 years.
As expected, Seehorn was beside herself when Gilligan first informed her during the final days of Saul that he'd conceived a series with her in mind as the lead.
"I literally cried. I just started bawling," Seehorn recalls with a laugh. "He said that there is this thing that's been brewing and stewing in his head for a while. There were these different elements of the story, but it wasn't quite working. And then it started to work, which is how he explained it. I'm sweating saying it because it's a flattery and a compliment that is almost hard to accept."
Below, during a recent conversation with THR, Seehorn also discusses the significant challenge of her Better Call Saul scene with Aaron Paul in the series' penultimate episode, "Waterworks."
Well, congrats on a really lovely film. It's going to be difficult to talk about it without giving anything away.
It's definitely hard to talk about prior to anyone seeing it, but you definitely want to talk about it after you see it.
As you know, I see the world through Better Call Saul-colored glasses, so where did Linoleum fall on that timeline?
(Laughs.) That's funny. Linoleum was between season five and season six.
Between Jim Gaffigan and Bob Odenkirk, you seem to be the person to call when a comedian wants to do drama. I presume this wasn't lost on you?
It was not. People have been asking, "Are you only going to work with celebrated comedic actors?" That would actually be a fine position to have; I'll take that position. Jim and Bob are quite different, but there are also some similarities, such as their intense work ethics. A lot of people think that a comedian is just going to be a cutup who makes jokes the whole time, and while Jim is quite funny and dry-witted, as is Bob, they are both really intellectual and deep thinkers when it comes to breaking down scenes and doing scene work. Jim also has this Jack Lemmon quality to him, and he's really able to sit in those scenes and inspire such empathy and pathos with what his character is going through.
So what pulled you in the direction of Erin Edwin?
Colin West sent me the script through my reps, and the script has things in it that let you know some of the twists and magical realism stuff much sooner than if you were watching the movie. So I found all of that very interesting and playful. I really liked the dialogue and the different characters. I loved this unconditional love story that's at the center, but it was more Colin's letter about what inspired him to do this film. It was going through his grandfather's dementia and passing.
So, after speaking to Colin West on the phone, that's when I went from super interested to "I have to do this." And I loved talking to him about Erin, particularly the woman's plight of being assigned the role of the practical, pragmatic person, while someone else gets to be the dreamer. And I think the frustration of that resonates with a lot of people. We also talked about the love and the burden that goes into being assigned a caretaker role, which I think also resonates with a lot of people.
One reading of Linoleum is that it's never too late to reach your full potential, and when one looks back at the last eight years of your career, it seems like you've already done that and then some.
Well, thank you.
So have you in fact met the ambitions that you had for yourself at a young age?
That's quite the dreamy question. Have I achieved what I thought I would achieve? I just wanted to tell the best stories with the best people in the business, and while that is a lofty goal, I'm doing it. So I am aware of that. Getting to do what I love for a living is never lost on me. It's never lost on me when a gate goes up at a studio because I have a pass and I'm there to do my job for the day. What a gift that is. When you start talking to me about the quality of scripts, of writing, and people that I have gotten to work with in my career, I'm blown away and humbled by it. I'm a better actor because of all of these people.
Another message of the movie is that it's important to be a dreamer and to keep going for things, but it's also very important to take a moment to realize that you have done something fantastic already. And that might be the project you're on currently, but it also might be that you created a loving family. Or it might be that you are a good person, or it's just doing the best you can to put one foot in front of the other on hard days. Being human can be hard sometimes, and I love the message of the film that doing something fantastic can be just being here and sitting with your own thoughts.
Speaking of dreamy questions, I have another one that is inspired by one of Linoleum's most powerful scenes in a car. People are often asked about the advice they would give their younger selves, but I'm more curious about the inverse. What reminder could your younger self offer you today?
That it's okay to take risks and fail. The world and my career is not going to stop if I fail. I used to think that all I was doing was making a mess, and the stakes weren't that high. So you can be a bit wilder with your choices, and that was one of the joys of Better Call Saul. I got put in a position where there was such a safety net that I could try things that were risky. You wouldn't think it's risky, but it is very risky to play a character like Kim Wexler who is so enigmatic and hard to pin down. I chose not to telegraph what she was thinking and not answer all the questions, and just not burden myself with making sure she's likable or palatable. Those are risky things as a woman in this business.
And so I'm thrilled that I'm getting back on that path. A big gift that that show gave me was trusting myself, and that's what I'm talking about when I say take risks. I trusted myself more when I was younger than I do now, and part of that is as we grow up, we start to second guess ourselves. It's strange because I should have been second guessing my younger self. (Laughs.) There's definitely some behavior and some things that I did that I'm like, "What were you thinking?" But, yeah, I would tell myself to trust myself more, and I am trusting myself more these days.
So have you visited the new version of your old writers' room yet?
(Laughs.) I have.
Vince Gilligan has been writing this mysterious new show for a number of years now, and I first remember hearing about it when Better Call Saul season five premiered in February 2020. So when did he first gauge your interest?
We were wrapping up Saul and I got to say goodbye to some people in person, but I needed to call some other people, like a writer or a director who had already moved on. And so I was basically letting that group of writers, producers and directors know that wherever they went, I'll be there. "Just tell me what time to be there." Getting to do the quality of work that all those people were doing was just an experience like none other, and I just said, "I suppose it goes without saying, but I don't want it to go without saying. I wanted to let you guys know that it would be my greatest pleasure to continue to work with you guys wherever you go and in whatever capacity it's in."
And when I said that to Vince, he said, "Well, I actually wrote something for you if you're interested." (Seehorn mimics Gilligan's Southern drawl.) And then I literally cried. I just started bawling. (Laughs.) He said that there is this thing that's been brewing and stewing in his head for a while. There were these different elements of the story, but it wasn't quite working. So you'd have to ask him, but he said at some point along the way of doing Better Call Saul, he was watching me, getting to know me, getting to know the way I work and realized that he should write it for me. And then it started to work, which is how he explained it. I'm sweating saying it because it's a flattery and a compliment that is almost hard to accept.
Has the foreknowledge of a new show helped cushion the loss of Kim and the entire Better Call Saul enterprise from your life?
Yes, it absolutely helps cushion it. Vince also likes to work with the same crews, writers and directors, so it will afford me the ability to see those people that I personally love so much. So there's that, and then there's texting most of my castmates weekly and insisting that they stay friends with me. (Laughs.)
I was surprised to hear that you'll be shooting the new show in Albuquerque. I know Vince is incredibly loyal, but part of me thought that he'd want to avoid any visual reminders of the Breaking Bad universe. Did that choice surprise you as well?
Did he announce that he's going to go back there?
Well, Bob and Banks kinda spilled the beans in your recent SAG-AFTRA cast interview.
Great. Thanks, [Bob and Banks]! As far as I know, it has not been nailed down where we're filming, but I am never surprised. Vince is very loyal and likes the family of people that he has worked with and prefers to hire the same people over and over. So I could see lots of reasons why he would want it to be Albuquerque, but I can tell you that it doesn't have anything to do with Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul.
Oh, of course!
But there definitely are fans that are not going to believe it's not a Kim Wexler spinoff till it literally airs. (Laughs.) But it's not [a Kim Wexler spinoff].
Saying goodbye is hard.
Yeah, it is.
You had to shoot your scene with Aaron Paul in Better Call Saul 612 much earlier in production due to his availability. [Writer's Note: It was shot between 602 and 603.] Was it difficult to jump ahead in Kim's arc, post-breakup, before you'd even shot the actual breakup scene in 609?
Yes, the scene said that she's holding these divorce papers and is barely holding it together. And when I got the scene, I called [co-creator] Peter [Gould] and said, "I don't often beg you to tell me stuff that my character doesn't need to know yet or anything that's coming down the pike, but I have to know enough to do my job here." And he said, "I know, I know," and he apologized profusely. He was like, "This is not how I wanted you to have to jigsaw this chapter of their relationship," but he informed me. So, Peter and Vince, who directed 612, did a great job of giving me enough specifics about the scene that happens right before [the Kim and Jesse scene]. That was of the utmost concern to me because the interior of [Saul Goodman's office], when she's there to get him to sign the divorce papers, had not been filmed yet. I didn't have that script either, so knowing about that scene was imperative to me.
I needed to know the moment, and any actor will tell you that you need to understand the moment before the moment we're watching. Sometimes, that's fabricated in your head. There's lots of different language for it, given circumstances or whatever, but you need to know where you were coming from, psychologically and physically. So they told me what that scene was and that made it possible to play the scene with Aaron, which was thrilling. I knew that [Paul and Bryan Cranston] were coming back, but I did not know I would have a scene with either of them. So that was exciting.
Lastly, how far do you hope to take directing? I still marvel over the Crossroads Motel quarter shot with your directing credit in Better Call Saul 604.
I would definitely like to direct again. I had a really great time doing it, and I've also directed two shorts and two episodes of Cooper's Bar. And we're doing a season two of Cooper's Bar that I'll direct on, so I definitely want to direct again. Whether or not I would want to direct myself in something again, I'm not sure. I was able to take one hat off and put another one on when we did 604, but it wasn't like I chose that. A lot of people were like, "Wow, you really wanted to direct yourself a lot because 604 is a very Kim-heavy episode," but it wasn't that. It was simply calendar slots and all the other directors and when many of our executive-producing writers could leave the writers' room in order to direct the episodes they were supposed to direct. It was just luck of the draw that that's the episode I got. So I definitely want to keep directing, but I definitely prioritize my performing now. That's where I look for work first, and it takes a lot of my RAM space to perform. (Laughs.)
Rhea Seehorn, congratulations on doing something fantastic, and please give my best to Kim. Hopefully, she's staying far away from Miracle Whip.
(Laughs.) Those were some tricky scenes! Thank you.
Linoleum is now playing in select theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.