Here Are the Best Answers From Vince Gilligan’s Reddit AMA

speaks onstage at the
Vince Gilligan. Photo: Frederick M. Brown/2014 Getty Images

Vince Gilligan’s super busy in the writers’ room for Better Call Saul, but not so super busy he can’t take an hour out of his day to hop on Reddit. He briefly turned into an internet Santa on Thursday and gave people gifts in the form of very thoughtful, detailed answers to BCS–1 and Breaking Bad–related questions. And, as if that weren’t enough, he announced he’s giving one lucky human the chance to fly out to L.A. and have lunch with him. (Enter, what are you waiting for? He’d probably let you get dessert, too!) Anyway, here are Gilligan’s best responses from the Q&A session. (Maybe this is obvious, but if you haven’t watched BB or BCS: First of all, do that, you turkey; second, beware of spoilers for both.)

Has he ever thought of opening a Los Pollos Hermanos?

Believe it or not… there is talk of a Pollos Hermanos becoming a real restaurant. This is not an idea that I generated personally. But it’s one that’s been presented to me, through the good folks at Sony, and the idea came to them from a businessman who has an interest in doing just that.
Speaking for myself, I’d love to see that happen!

George R.R. Martin apparently thinks “Walter White is a bigger monster than anyone in Westeros.” Here’s what Gilligan thinks about that:

I take George RR Martin’s comment as high praise indeed. I suppose the grass is always greener, because I would put young King Joffrey up against Walter White as far as pure unadulterated evil goes, because he was pretty intense – but I’m glad a writer as talented as George RR Martin is thinking about Breaking Bad in any shape or form!

Which BB death affected him the most?

I have to say the death of Walter White affected me the most, because what it represented was the end of the story and the completion of this seven year journey we had taken together – the cast, crew, writers and directors of Breaking Bad. That was the most affecting death to write. I actually teared up when I wrote it. I think a close second was the death of Mike Ehrmantraut.

How well did Aaron Paul fit Gilligan’s initial vision of Jesse?

Aaron Paul very much fit the bill of my interpretation of Jesse Pinkman from the get-go. Otherwise we wouldn’t have hired him. But having said that, a great deal of Aaron’s personality and goodness then became a part of the character of Jesse Pinkman as the show progressed. In other words - we the writers were inspired by Aaron’s specific qualities as a human being, and we incorporated many of those qualities into the character of Jesse Pinkman. And we did this with all of the other actors as well - from Bryan Cranston on down. It’s a wonderful thing about television - that you can do that. You’re telling one story for so long that you have the time to adjust the story, over many episodes and many seasons, as you learn more about your actors. No other medium allows for that. For instance, when you’re writing a movie, the script has to be completely finished before production starts, and there’s no chance to make those changes as the shooting continues.

About that over-interpreting…

I view people interpreting Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul very closely as the highest form of flattery. However, I will admit that a great many of the interpretations that people have of both shows involve details and conclusions which – frankly – I never had in mind. But my opinion is that these shows, once on the air, belong to you the fans as much as they belong to me and those who act and work on the shows, so your reactions are just as valid as mine.

Why was Nacho used so sparingly?

We thought Nacho would be more present in Season 1 as well. We did not shy away from using Nacho as a character – and we love Michael Mando, who plays him. This is a great example of how – like it or not – a television story takes on a life of its own. As a writer, you have to follow the thread of the story you’re writing, even if that means spending less time with certain characters. In other words – to put it succinctly – there was so much more story to tell relating to Jimmy and his brother Chuck that we writers found it hard to fit in more great moments from Nacho – but don’t despair, you’ll be seeing much more of Nacho in Season 2. You heard it here first!

Greatest fear? (Get ready for some inspiration.)

Without a doubt, my greatest fear was abject failure – and that is still my greatest fear. Seriously: I was afraid that the show would go on the air and people wouldn’t like it, and – worse than that – people would say it sullied their memory of Breaking Bad. But fear is never a reason not to try something. That’s what I told myself throughout the months of production and pre-production on Season 1, and that’s what I tell myself now. Fear is a good thing – it’s the fire in the boiler that drives your locomotive, so to speak. I try to temper the fear with hopefulness, and I try to use it to keep me going, but it’s always there no matter how much success I experience. I always feel like the next time around – for instance the next season of Better Call Saul – could be the one when people finally say “This guy sucks.” Here’s hoping that won’t happen. I can tell you for a fact that that fear drives me and Peter Gould to make sure that Season 2 will be every bit as good as Season 1.

On pizza-throwing:

I never anticipated that the pizza-throwing scene would be one of the “non-submergible” moments of Breaking Bad. None of us did. It seemed like a fun thing to include in the episode at the time, but none of the writers of the series thought it would take on a life of its own. Thank you for asking that question, because it once again gives me the opportunity to say: for any of the folks who wanted to throw pizza on the roof of the White house, it’s very unfair to the sweet lady that lives there. Please, please do NOT do it. If you want the photo of a pizza on the White house roof: Photoshop it!!! That’s the way to do it in this day in age. You can have any size pizza, and it won’t risk this very sweet lady breaking her back getting her ladder out and climbing up to clean pizza off her roof.

Career alternatives?

I think I’d like to be a helicopter pilot. I think I’d enjoy that. I don’t know how good I’d be at it, in terms of having it as a career, but I think flying around in a helicopter all day would be pretty satisfying to me.

How important are cars?

A lot of thought went into choosing the automobiles for Breaking Bad and for Better Call Saul. We writers have a lot of help from our transportation captain, Dennis Milliken. As our head teamster, Dennis takes great pride in finding us interesting vehicles for use in both shows. As writers, we spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of car best represents a particular character.

Why did BB connect so well with viewers?

I wish I knew! Although, I’m certainly glad viewers did connect with Walter White. In the early days of the series – when I was at my most foolish – I deliberately tried to make Walter White so unlikeable that his behavior would shed viewers. In hindsight, I think that was extraordinarily dumb of me, but I have to admit that by the end of the series, I myself did not have a whole lot of sympathy for Walter White. For me, he had gotten too dark to empathize with, which is not to say viewers should all feel the same way I do. I’m glad viewers still rooted for him up till the end and wanted him to live. Hell, even my mom did! And if you knew her, you’d be pretty shocked she would root for a guy like that. I think Walter White was smart, active, willful – and that’s what we look for in our heroes. The fact that he was engaged in some pretty heinous criminal behavior might have been a bit beside the point. He nonetheless had many other qualities that we deem heroic in fiction. Maybe that’s why people stuck with him. Certainly people stuck with Walter White because he was played by the astoundingly talented Bryan Cranston, who remains constantly watchable no matter what character he is playing.

How did Gilligan push forward with his show(s)? (Get ready for more inspiration.)

A great question – and always a tough one to answer – but you were right, Geoff, in realizing that it’s necessary to press on. I find that anything in life that’s worth pursuing comes with a lot of rejection along the way. The TV business is full of emotional ups and downs, to be sure. I’m not a big sports guy, but I always think about the fact that in the MLB you can make $20 million for only hitting the ball once out of every three at-bats. I think of the TV business that way. Most shows and movie scripts that you pitch will be rejected, it’s just the nature of the business – and it’s not fun at all, let me tell you – but you just have to stick with it, and you have to believe in yourself and you have to keep reminding yourself that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. It takes talent and luck and equal measure, but most of all: it takes persistence. As Winston Churchill once said, “Never, never, never, give up” - Good luck.

Who else will show up in BCS?

Anybody and everybody. The sky’s the limit! That’s the beauty of this format. The story takes place six years in the past, where all the Breaking Bad characters are alive and well, but that’s not to promise that you’ll see every character that we introduced in Breaking Bad. We’re still feeling our way through Jimmy McGill’s format, discovering how and why he becomes Saul Goodman – and in the process, there’s any number of directions our story can take. So I couldn’t really tell you even if I wanted to who will show up, or when. Better Call Saul is still very much a work in progress.

Best fan story? Easy:

Someone told me – this was probably about four years ago – that he and his wife (who was pregnant) had been binge-watching Breaking Bad. His wife went into labor, but none-the-less sat there until they got to the end of the episode. That was a pretty unbelievable story.

Biggest on-set BB prankster?

Probably Bryan Cranston. He loved to tease Aaron Paul mercilessly. This came about after I told Aaron Paul early in the series that I had planned to kill off his character. From then on, every time a new script came out, Bryan would hurry to read it first so he could put on a sorrowful face and say to Aaron, “Gee buddy, I’m so sorry. You’re going out with a bang, at least.” And Aaron, God bless him, seemed to fall for it every time.

Where did BB come from?

I was on a phone call with my best friend, Tom Schnauz, whose name you may recognize as a producer, writer and director on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. This was about 10 years ago – he and I had been writers on The X-Files and we were both looking for writing jobs that were as good as that job, as we were both out of work at the time. He made the joke that we should put a meth lab in the back of an RV and travel America – he was making a joke, but that really stuck with me. The idea of doing a show about a character that would do that seemed fun to explore – and that was the inspiration, as it were.

Favorite X-Files episode?

I had so many favorite X-Files episodes, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one.

If you held my feet to the fire, I’d probably say “Bad Blood.” But really, as an experience, my favorite writing moment on The X-Files was probably writing “Je Souhaite” episode. That’s the one with the genie.

That’s because that’s the first episode I got to direct as well as write. And it was really a wonderful turning point in my career and it was a great deal of fun to boot.

Unfortunately I won’t be writing for the reboot, because my work on Better Call Saul will keep me from doing that. I’m very sad to miss out, because I would love to have a hand in The X-Files reboot. The X-Files was my second favorite job ever, a close second to Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and I’d love to be a part of it. Rest assured, I will be watching it as a fan. I can’t wait to see it.

The Best Answers From Vince Gilligan’s AMA