NEW YORK — Albuquerque lawyer Saul Goodman isn't picky. Anyone with cash or a money order is fair game as a client. Any infraction, large or small, is ripe for a defense only Saul could whip up.
As he boasts in his commercials on local TV, “from parking tickets to mass murder, from slip-and-fall to bond fraud, Saul Goodman and Associates is your one-stop shop for all your legal needs.”
In the twisted world of AMC's program “Breaking Bad,” it was inevitable that schoolteacher-turned-drug-lord Walter White would cross paths with shady Saul. For several seasons of the drama (which concludes this summer's run at 10 p.m. Sunday), he has represented the depraved business interests of Walt (series star Bryan Cranford) and Walt's partner-in-crime Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).
Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul, makes him believable.
Odenkirk is a gifted actor, comedian and writer whose credits include “Saturday Night Live,” “The Ben Stiller Show,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and, paired with David Cross, HBO's legendary “Mr. Show” sketch-comedy series.
More recently, he has sparked the dark, disturbing “Breaking Bad” as its scene-stealing barrister.
Saul Goodman just can't help it: His glad-handing style is supplemented by needling, out-of-line wisecracks that amuse nobody but himself (and, of course, the TV audience).
Odenkirk had never tackled a dramatic role when he was summoned by “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan, who, with several fellow writers on the series, admired his work on “Mr. Show.”
Nor, truth be told, had Odenkirk ever watched “Breaking Bad,” then in its second season.
“I'd seen the billboards. They looked cool. And once I watched the show, I thought, 'Wow, this is different. This is very different for me!' When you're about to turn 50 years old” — which he will this October — “you don't get a lot of people offering you something new. I'm a lucky guy.”
Despite his skill at writing and improv, Odenkirk says he welcomes the “Breaking Bad” scripts as is.
“I had the vision for Saul's hair — the comb-over and the mullet in back,” he says. “But learning the lines was what taught me who he is.”
Initially, Goodman wasn't meant to last more than three or four episodes. But he caught on with viewers instantly.
“All the other characters are operating under the gun,” says Odenkirk. “For Saul, it's a game: 'I'll see if I can make some money here.'”