Shifty Lawyers Aren't Just for Albuquerque

'Better Call Saul' gets local

While real-life New Mexicans scramble to find jobs in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation, it appears that “Slippin” Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is headed to work at Davis and Mane—a fictional law firm in Santa Fe—for the second season of Better Call Saul.

Fans of the show got a hint about Santa Fe’s role in the AMC Network’s hit program last April when McGill decided to head back west for an interview with the firm’s power player Clifford Mane (Ed Begley Jr.), after a weeklong hustling bender in Cicero, Il., that left his former con partner Marco (Mel Rodriguez) dead.

But the City Different's real role in the series is dubious, as most of the scenes that take place in the city were actually filmed on an Albuquerque sound stage.

Show developers Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould tell SFR this season will be even darker and more convoluted than last year’s quest, but they admit neither of them have figured out how McGill will transform into shady lawyer Saul Goodman.

“We thought that Jimmy McGill would become Saul Goodman a lot faster than he actually has,” says Gould.

It’s taking longer because the show’s writers are still discovering things about McGill that they love and fans are still rooting for the underdog who knows how to talk his way out of a jam.

“We expected the journey to be a straight line, but it turns out to have a lot more twists and turns than we ever expected,” says Gould.

Odenkirk tells SFR the emergence of his titular character remains a mystery even to him.

“Jimmy’s feelings of isolation and loneliness will be a big part of his character’s mutation,” says Odenkirk. “Jimmy has gained confidence. He’s a lawyer now, not a criminal. He no longer needs the white-shoe law firm’s respect and realizes he’ll never get his brother’s respect. Jimmy will start to recognize the skills he has and how he can manipulate things to his own personal benefit.”

When Odenkirk isn’t rushing from scene to scene, he’s having fun helping two local actors with reoccurring speaking roles on the show.

Julian Bonfiglio, 22, who works as a waiter at Omira Grill when he’s not on set, almost missed his chance to appear on his first network program.

On the day Bonfiglio was scheduled to audition for a small speaking role, the former fashion model jumped on the wrong bus.

"It was the worst audition I ever had," Bonfiglio says. "I totally screwed it up." Fortunately, Bonfiglio had brought along his bike. He arrived for his audition just in time but completely drenched in sweat from the uphill pedal.

He called Jody Black, his A&M Talent House agent, and remembers telling her he didn’t think he’d get a callback to play Sound Guy.

When Bonfiglio learned he’d made the cut and was needed for a costume fitting, he was at work at Chez Mamou in Santa Fe and remembered having to decide whether to finish his shift at the French bakery and lose the part or walk away to pursue his childhood dream of acting. It didn’t take long before he removed his apron and headed out the door.

Now, when there is free time on the set, Bonfiglio says Odenkirk, a former Saturday Night Live writer and Second City improv performer, shows him comedic falling techniques.

The money Bonfiglio is earning, along with his first royalty checks, are helping to pay off his $1,000 Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists initiation fee and pay for Dustin Hoffman’s online acting course.

One of Bonfiglio’s acting mates, Santa Fe actor Brandon K Hampton, 25, is also counting his blessings after learning that his Season 1 character, Ernesto, is coming back for Season 2.

The Texas native was first bit by the acting bug as an elementary student, when he was selected to read a school lunch menu on the air for a Houston television station. It wasn’t long before he and several friends caught a bus to Austin and landed recurring roles on Friday Night Lights.

After the show ended, Hampton says he figured his odds of getting booked as an African-American male actor in New Mexico would be pretty good. His hunch proved to be right—within just a few months of relocating here, he landed a role as an FBI agent in USA Network's In Plain Sight with Mary McCormick, and he appeared in two episodes before the series wrapped.

When he’s not working on Better Call Saul or New Mexico independent films, Hampton has earned credits working on several big-budget films, including director Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence and in Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot with Tina Fey, which were both filmed in New Mexico last year.

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