'Better Call Saul' star Julie Ann Emery stresses why Vince Gilligan's ‘slow burn character building' stands out

·4 min read

As we all said goodbye to Saul Goodman in the Better Call Saul finale on Monday night (available to watch on AMC+ in Canada), one of the show's stars, Julie Ann Emery who played Betsy Kettleman, stressed that Vince Gilligan's popular work exemplifies that studios need to be branching away from superhero stories and get back to character building.

“We're living in a world where our movie going experience is very fantastical, the studios are really zeroed in on superhero movies and you don't get the kind of slow burn character building like you do on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul,” Emery told Yahoo Canada. “When you slow that character building down, you really get to dive into the characters with the eyes of the viewer so I think that's really the appeal.”

“[In] Breaking Bad we really saw even the show itself change tone, season to season, it got darker as Walter White got darker, as he went down this rabbit hole and we got to go with him, and I don't think that's something we see in our movies anymore. I think that's something that is attractive to television right now, as opposed to a feature [film]. I hope we'll see our features turn back toward more character building but the writers for both shows took such great care in crafting the characters and what they were going through psychologically, and think that's extraordinary.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Jonathan Banks and Julie Ann Emery attend the premiere of the sixth and final season of AMC's
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Jonathan Banks and Julie Ann Emery attend the premiere of the sixth and final season of AMC's "Better Call Saul" at Hollywood Legion Theater on April 07, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

'I couldn't possibly have asked for anything more'

As Betsy Kettleman, Julie Ann Emery played someone who is essentially a "Karen" at her core, paired with Betsy's husband Craig, played Jeremy Shamos, they were a highlight as humorous white-collar crooks, which made for lots of fan excitement when they returned in Season 6 of Better Call Saul.

“Betsy Kettleman was, in Season 1 especially, was a bit of a dive off a cliff for me, the pocket on her is very narrow and anything outside of that is just bad acting,” Emery said. “So Jeremy Shamos and I worked incredibly closely together, Vince [Gilligan] directed our first episode and Peter [Gould] wrote it, it was one of the most collaborative processes for building a character I've ever been part of on screen.”

“It really did evolve as we even shot that first episode and then they took the really extraordinary step on TV to sort of rewrite where the characters were heading in Season 1... It was such a thrill to come back in Season 6, and [Thomas Schnauz] and Ariel Levine wrote our script, and they really wrote such a beautiful Kettleman return, I couldn't possibly have asked for anything more.”

As Emery remembers her time on Better Call Saul, she praised what Vince Gilligan created, and the show's star Bob Odenkirk as a collaborator.

“Bob [Odenkirk] and I had done, prior to the first season, we had done Season 1 of Fargo together and I don't know if somehow sitting across from him in those scenes gave me more courage to jump off that cliff, and Vince is so generous of spirit, and so curious, and such a brilliant artist that when he looks at you and he says ‘yes, do that, go that direction,’ you say ‘yes sir,'" Emery said. “You do everything you can to live up to both his artistic vision and his generosity of spirit.”

The actor also filmed the AppleTV+ series Five Days at Memorial in Toronto (playing hospital worker Diane Robichaux), around the same time, which made for "the luckiest year" in Emery's career.

“These two characters…are as far apart as you can be and that's incredibly satisfying as an actress,” Emery said. “I really love versatility and climbing inside different types of minds and different people's shoes, and I went from shooting Season 6 of Better Call Saul, within a week I turned around and travelled to Toronto to start Five Days at Memorial.”

“So I had just the luckiest year, both artistically and personally, because those are my two favourite sets I've ever been on in my life. Both sets are completely filled with wonderful, kind, generous human beings who just happen to be wildly talented.”