Bob Odenkirk’s long road to serious success

Odenkirk Shares a home in Albuquerque with Rhea Seehorn and fellow cast member Patrick Fabian (who plays manicured legal partner Howard Hamlin). I arrived the next morning and found Odenkirk in the kitchen, dressed in jeans and running sneakers, showing no sign of the all-nighter he’d had. The house was built in the 1940s, Odenkirk said, by a contractor specializing in office buildings, which explains its slight resemblance, from the exterior, to a dental clinic, to a ribbon of glass bricks. ornaments installed next to the front door.

Photographs of his wife, comedy director Naomi Odenkirk, and their two children hung on the walls alongside photos of his housemates’ families. (Seehorn got the master bedroom, downstairs, while Odenkirk and Fabian claimed upstairs bedrooms.) Odenkirk decided to live with other cast members a few years ago, to help mitigate the isolation he felt when “Better Call Saul” started. “It’s about solitude,” he said, when I asked if the roommate arrangement reflected method-style immersion. In the first season, Odenkirk lived alone in an apartment owned by “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, who left him when the show ended. Odenkirk likened the experience to life “on an oil rig”, with his mind gnawing at its own edges after draining shoots. “It gave me great sympathy for someone like James Gandolfini, who said how much he couldn’t wait to get this character over with, and I think Bryan said similar things: ‘I can’t wait to leave this guy behind.” I finally understood this attitude.

This surprised Odenkirk at first: “I always used to scoff and roll my eyes at actors who said, ‘This is so hard. Oh good? It is not possible. And yet, he found, “the truth is that you use your emotions, and you use your memories, you use your hurt feelings and your losses, and you manipulate them, dig into them, dwell on them. A normal adult don’t walk around doing this Go, ‘What’s been the worst feeling of abandonment I’ve had in my life? Just let me watch this for the next week and a half, because it’s gonna fuel me .

In Odenkirk’s case, that meant dwelling on painful childhood memories, “going back to when I was 9,” he said, “and my dad wakes me up at 2 a.m. to tell me he’s leaving and he’ll send me the money to pay the bills, and I think, I don’t know enough cursive writing to write the check, so how am I going to pay the bills? me to just be that kid again, because I’m gonna take that feeling of loss and fear and play it tomorrow!” He added, “If there was one thing that allowed me to do that, it was access that I had the emotional, even traumatic spaces inside of me that might not be the healthiest person there is.

Growing up outside of Chicago in the town of Naperville, Odenkirk was one of seven siblings. He readily discusses his father and his hatred for him, referring to him in his memoirs as a hot-tempered “hollow man”, who spent his days with drinking buddies when he was around and did an abysmal job of caring. for his children. “It’s not that I didn’t love my dad,” Odenkirk told me. “He just wasn’t there, and he was kind of an empty, closed guy, and he did things that were torturous to me and my older brother, because he was drunk. He always told us: ‘The family is broke, I don’t know what we’re going to do and where we’re going to live’. And we are little children! Like: ‘I’m 5 years old! I can’t help you with that!”

Odenkirk’s response was to dissociate himself, “reading” his father as if he were a literary grotesque of Dickens. In his memoir, he describes his father’s death – which occurred when Bob was 22, by which time the two men were completely separated – with remarkable composure: “Saying him goodbye was a matter of shrugging his shoulders. . When I asked if the wound had really cauterized so cleanly, Odenkirk said, “I’ve often felt like I must be hiding something, or not recognizing something, or not seeing something. There’s no doubt that I would love to have a father figure in life, especially when I was a kid, especially a good one. Wouldn’t that have been nice? There are certainly things that I had to deal with there, because I had nothing, an emptiness.

Odenkirk says the “tension and trauma” generated by his father is “one of the reasons my siblings and I are so close.” His younger brother Bill earned a doctorate. in chemistry before Bob helped him achieve his own dream of becoming a comedy writer, on shows like “The Simpsons” and “Mr. Show.” Their older brother, Steve, is a banker in Tucson, Arizona. Other siblings pursued various careers: groundwater tester, retail salesman, funeral director, and real estate agent. “Bob was born with a really independent streak,” Bill Odenkirk told me, “more than anyone in our family. He probably would say he had to figure out who he is, but I feel like “He was born with a very strong sense of what he didn’t want to do and what he wanted to do, which was to play and to be there. something other than conventional work. Which , added Bill, “was not the thought with us.”

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