'Better Call Saul' star Patrick Fabian on the evolution of Howard, his soft spot for Rhea Seehorn and what to expect from season 5
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, 'Better Call Saul' actor Patrick Fabian divulges quite a few interesting tidbits about his character, his peers, and how season 5 may play out.
AMC's popular 'Breaking Bad' spinoff, 'Better Call Saul,' finished airing its fourth season this past month and, staying true to form, had all the makings of a classic season of crime drama. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have managed to do what few others before them achieved: they have kept up the consistently high standards that they set for themselves in 'Breaking Bad' and given BCS a prestige that spinoffs seldom claim. Of course, as it is in these cases, it's not just one particular reason why the series has proved to be so successful but a host of them, one of which is the stellar cast. While the likes of Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito, Mark Margolis and a few more reprised their roles from the original and brought an undeniable gravitas to their role, BCS also developed its own core cast comprising of the likes of Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, and Michael McKean who became indispensable in their own right.
Each has proven paramount to the development of Jimmy McGill (Odenkirk) in previous seasons and will undoubtedly continue to do so in future installments as well. And while Jimmy's metamorphosis into the sleazy, opportunistic, ethically-ambiguous version of himself is fascinating to see unfold, so are the developments of his on-screen peers.
We've followed the arc of Rhea Seehorn's Kim Wexler with a morbid fascination — everyone wants to know what happens to her that sees her presence missing in 'Breaking Bad' — but it was the doubt and the anxiety surrounding Patrick's normally self-assured, cocky and arrogant Howard Hamlin that captured my attention the most in the recently concluded season 4.
In an exclusive interview with Meaww, the 53-year-old Patrick and I got around to discussing Howard's portrayal on BCS, his character development, and what fans can expect from the upcoming season 5.
This previous season was the first time that Howard experiences these feelings of self-doubt, angst, and depression, and Patrick admits it's good to see this evolution of his character. "Well, I think it's great that the writers allowed Howard to show a more emotional side that was really fun to play, you know," he says. "The audience reaction in the very beginning of the show was that they were all very angry at me and called me 'Lord Vader' and that sort of thing. And now, people are saying, 'Oh, Howard needs a hug!"
While Howard did come across as a secondary antagonist in the earlier seasons, Patrick had insisted in the past too that the 'Lord Vader' tag may have been a little unfair. "You know, Jimmy called Howard 'Lord Vader' in the very first episode of Better Call Saul. And when the lead character calls your character Lord Vader, the audience goes, 'Wow, what a dick that guy's gonna be.' Then everybody starts looking at everything that falls out of my mouth as evidence backing that claim up," he had argued.
"And even when it goes in the opposite direction -- like at the end of Season 1, where it turns out I was sort of protecting Jimmy from Chuck, there is a bit of a hitch of 'Oh, maybe Howard's not so bad,' but as soon as I was quote-unquote being a dick to Kim in Season 2, they all got back on board and said, 'Yeah, he's Lord Vader.'"
It's fair to say that few will associate the 'Lord Vader' tag with Howard now, and his development in season 4 arguably has played a big part in the change in perception. "I think that's a pretty good evolution to have with the character, and you know, Howard did need a hug this year," he continues. "He was low, his tie bar was shuffled, his tie was undone, his hair was out of place, but by the end of the season, it looks like he's righted the ship. So, I'm very excited to see where he heads from here on out."
I can unabashedly say I'm one of the staunchest proponents of the 'Good Guy' theory which suggests Howard is merely a victim of circumstance and not someone who sets out to be malicious; there's plenty of evidence from the series to support the stance too. I brought up how, despite everyone making Howard out to be this villain, he was someone who often ended up frantically covering for Chuck's messes, and Patrick wholeheartedly agreed.
"You hit it right on the head," he says. "I'm just trying to run a business. These brothers McGill, they've been screwing up everything! Anytime there's a problem, it's Howard putting out one fire or the other. I'm just trying to run a decent law firm and along the way, I lose my best lawyer with Chuck (McKean) and then lose my best lawyer with Kim. So, you know, there's a strong argument to be made that Howard has only done good throughout these four seasons, and it's the other three who are the ones to blame."
But the sudden change in direction for Howard wouldn't be the first time that Gilligan and Gould have surprised Patrick. As one can attest from 'Breaking Bad,' and BCS to a lesser extent, the pair will not shy away from shaking things up if the situation calls for it. I asked the 53-year-old if there were points where he questioned everything he knew about his character and the actor replies in the affirmative.
"Well, I will say, you know, there's two scenes," he divulges. "One is the very first episode [of the fourth season] where Howard confesses to Jimmy and Kim and takes the blame for Chuck's death. I thought that was, that was very, very crazy."
"Then to watch the ramifications of that — that scene that I have in the bathroom with Jimmy where Howard's in the courthouse and he's completely disheveled and talking about therapy," he muses. "I thought that was, you know, at that point I thought, oh, the character could cut a number of ways — he can come back from this edge or maybe he's going to go over it, and temporarily, at least it seems like he's pulled himself back from the edge."
With a little nudging, the actor also revealed that, amongst his co-stars, he got along best with Seehorn. "I have a soft spot for Rhea Seehorn and I don't think that's a secret," he says. "I admire her. I think she's so good. We're good friends outside of the show and so that makes working with or when we're like yelling at one another or angry with one another even more special."
"That scene we had this year where Kim Wexler unloads on Howard in, I think, episode three or four is a favorite scene of mine not because I'm getting yelled at but because I had such a good time working with her," he adds. "It's not to the throw anybody else under the bus, but if you're going to make me pick a favorite, I pick Rhea."
And of course, I couldn't let Patrick go without giving us fans a hint at what we can expect from season 5, which, in the least, involves another excruciating 10-month wait. The actor concedes but ensures he doesn't let slip anything too revealing. "Well, what we saw was definitely, in this season and I don't know about you, was there's an awful lot of criminal activity starting to happen, which is rather alarming to me," he explains.
"So it'll be interesting to see if Howard is able to keep himself out of all that criminal activity or if somehow it begins to infect his world too. So here's the thing, the writers are busy right now churning out season five and they haven't disappointed us so far for four seasons. So I'm expecting great things come next spring."