As "Better Call Saul" concludes, Emmy-nominated actress Rhea Seehorn talks about her career and role.
For her role as the ethically flexible attorney Kim Wexler in “Better Call Saul,” Rhea Seehorn is nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series. She joins “The Envelope” host Yvonne Villarreal to delve into the show’s last twists and turns and talk about the scariest day on the set. Seehorn also discusses her efforts to balance gratitude with confidence and shares stories about how her father’s alcoholism shaped her. Read the full transcript here.
Host: Yvonne Villarreal
Guests: Rhea Seehorn
Rhea Seehorn knows her ‘Better Call Saul’ character is toast. And she’s loving every minute
A couple that schemes together, dreams together
Rhea Seehorn on reading a ‘Better Call Saul’ script: ‘I’m not dead yet. Are you dead?’
Gustavo: Hey, what’s up? It’s Gustavo Arellano, and you’re listening to The Times, essential news from the L.A. Times.
It’s Thursday, August 18, 2022.
It’s Emmys season, and for the next couple of weeks, we’re featuring interviews with nominees from our sister podcast, The Envelope. Today, we’re sharing a conversation with Ray Seehorn of “Better Call Saul.”
OK, I’ll admit I only saw the first two episodes of the show, even though I was a huge “Breaking Bad” fan. I obviously made a mistake of ignoring the series, which has gotten all sorts of acclaim and just finished — OOPS.
For her role as the ethically flexible attorney Kim Wexler in “Better Call Saul,” Seehorn is nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series.
She joins The Envelope’s host Yvonne Villarreal to delve into the show’s last twists and turns and the scariest day on the set. Rhea also discusses her efforts to balance gratitude with confidence in her skills and how her father’s alcoholism shaped her as an actor.
Enjoy, and next time your wife says to watch a show…maybe you should watch it. Sorry honey!
Intro mux out
Yvonne Villarreal: Rhea. Thanks so much for joining me.
Rhea Seehorn: Thanks for having me.
Yvonne Villarreal: Well, before we dive really deep into the finale, I want to talk about Kim’s new life in south Florida as seen in the penultimate episode. After leaving Jimmy, Kim moves there. She becomes a brunette. And we see that she's working at a sprinkler manufacturer. You know, she didn't die, as some feared might happen, but she ended up leading, you know, a pretty mundane life.
KIM: Did you get the mayonnaise?
GLENN: Well, here’s the thing….
Yvonne Villarreal: What did you think of that fate for Kim? Like what did it reveal to you about her?
Rhea Seehorn: Well, a part of her has died. She is a shell of a person, in my opinion. And, um, we were very particular in our discussions, both with Peter Gould as the showrunner and Vince Gilligan as the director and writer of that episode. Um, we got very specific, uh, and very nuanced in our conversations about, um, there is nothing wrong with her life quote, this is not some horrible fate that she's got to, uh, live through.
It is only because we know what she could have been and her potential and what she wanted, that it is so tragic, um, to have her not practicing law, to have her not be using her brain to her full potential or her skill set. Um, it's perfectly fine as far as contentment. But everything is without passion.
Yvonne Villarreal: It was also such a pivotal episode because, you know, we learned what was said in that call that she had with Jimmy.
Jimmy: You have no idea what I did or didn't do, OK? And why don't you turn yourself in? Seeing as you are the one with the guilty conscience, huh? What is stopping you?
Yvonne Villarreal: And it was obviously a very jarring call for her because it sort of crystallized like how deeply Jimmy has gotten into this life of deception, like enough to finally make her feel ready to tell all, and, you know, she flies back to Albuquerque and signs an affidavit about what really happened to Howard Hamlin. What did you think about that turning point for her?
Rhea Seehorn: Um, it is, it is pivotal. Um, and when Vince and I were doing the scenes that lead up to that phone call happening, um, we talked about: // Can you see Kim there prior to that birthday song moment and the phone call, um, when you can tell that there is Kim in there somewhere, um, the Kim that we know, uh, and we said like, it's possible that it was performative when she first got there, but this has been years. It's all of the “Breaking Bad” years.
Um, and I think she has become content, not deliriously happy, but, um, content with deciding. , this is all I deserve and I'm gonna make the best of it. Um, but that's not going to ever extinguish the fact that she had and has a passion for the law.
Um, I think she still maintains a love for Jimmy. And, um, within that phone call, there is. Yes. She's telling him to turn herself in and we can only assume she's caught wind in newspaper articles of not everything he's done specifically, but he's on the run from the feds. He was aiding and abetting, um, someone who assassinated people, um, and killed other people by just collateral damage.
Um, and I think it is out of love that she's saying, “You can't have this. Can't be much of a life, like, turn, turn yourself in.”
And when Jimmy says, “Well, what about you?” Uh, Kim's smart enough to know that part of that is just defensive, reactive talk, but, uh, I found it to be both.
Yes, he has dared her and challenged her and spurred her on to take on her unconscious.
But that there, there the, I guess the positive side of it, the little hopeful spark is it's maybe the first time she thought about, “Maybe I don't have to live a life of, of this, this hairshirt and this penance.” Of not that she'll come back joyously happy and we see that she doesn't, but, um, it's, it, it is a moment for her to think like maybe there is a way to alleviate my conscience and be back to living some kind of life that is more truthful, cuz there's the seed of her that knows that the life she's living right now is not truthful either, um, is there. And that's what I think he sparks.
Yvonne Villarreal: Well, I want to let, I want to talk about the finale. I mean, Jimmy is caught thanks to Marion and, you know, we're reminded again of his mastery of the law and manipulation and his desire to protect him. I mean, just as he manages to negotiate a good deal for him. Including, you know, this amazing stipulation for one pint of chocolate chip ice cream.
Um, he winds up throwing that all away when he learns that Kim has confessed to Howard's death. And, you know, at his sentencing hearing, he implicates himself to save Kim, you know, saying that he played, you know, a pivotal role in Walter White's operation and the web of lies and crime that came from that. Like, how did you feel about that sort of turn when you first read the script?
Rhea Seehorn: I think that a lot of things about the finale are very purposefully open for interpretation. I personally think that he was saving himself, the him that Kim always saw that is possibly a truer, self free of what other people tell you you are. Um, cuz I also think that Kim, even when she comes completely clean in the penultimate episode, there's one lie she still tells, even though she doesn't wanna be a liar anymore. And that is, she says, if he is in fact still alive about Saul, she knows he's alive. She could totally tell the feds to go ahead and tap her phone, cuz he'll probably call again. She doesn't, she stops short of making his life worse.
So when ADA Ericsen played by the wonderful Julie Pearl, uh, calls and says that Jimmy plans on implicating her in things that she did not do that are gonna actually be, there will be legal ramifications for, I think it hurts Kim and infuriates Kim, that he would cross that line because I did, I think that her not crossing that line herself was the love that's still there.
Um, so then what happens in the courtroom, I just think, is a journey for Kim going from fury and, just, absolute shock that he would do this to realizing, “Oh, you just did this to get me here. You're not going to implicate me in anything.” And then realizing likely he's going to confess, not just to crimes, but to these very real feelings that he's had about Chuck and finally sort of letting his profound grief come to the surface.
Um, she knows it’s the real him. I, I think she's horribly sad that it's resulting in an even larger prison sentence than it might have been before. I don't think she wishes him to be in prison for that long at, at all. Uh,
but I don't think Kim could live with herself if she thought this was a gift for her. I, I don't, I personally don't think what he's doing is to save her from being implicated. She has already confessed to exactly what she did. There's nothing Jimmy can save her from with that.
But I do think that those last moments in the courtroom are the two of them seeing each other without masks. Like they used to.
Yvonne Villarreal: Yeah. Well, the closing moments of the finale show Kim visiting Jimmy in prison. What do you think happens when Kim leaves that prison? Do you think she visits? Do you think she visits him often? Does she rebuild her life as a lawyer in Florida or somewhere else? Does the ponytail ever come back? What do you think happens?
Rhea Seehorn: um, I mean, Peter said he hopes that people, that the finale actually causes you to continue to hypothesize and think about the next day, the next two weeks, the next six months, the rest of their lives. What that means and, and what it means to go in any of those directions.
And there was a reason that she didn't have blonde hair when she came back or a po–, or even her dark hair and a ponytail.
Those things were very specific. I do not think it's a reset and now everything's fine and Kim's just gonna become Kim again. Um, I personally think there's a rebuilding of sorts and an attempt to relish any kind of second chance at life, um, that is more truthful.
And for Kim, I think the more truthful part does involve practicing law, um, and trying again to go about actually helping people. Uh, I'm a hopeless romantic.
So I can't help thinking that she's gonna try to figure out how to decrease his sentence while still being on the up and up. You know, like in some way that doesn't involve a scam.
Um, I don't think it's the end of their relationship, but I also think there's plenty of people that will think that she's never going back there and that is the end of the tale. Um, but that just makes me cry too hard. So I can't.
Yvonne Villarreal: Mmm. Well, I mean, a running theme of the finale is this idea of the choices we make, the turning points that sort of alter everything. And Jimmy keeps mentioning building a time machine, obviously referencing the HG Wells book, um, and like what day he would go back to. And obviously we don't get Kim's perspective on this, but what do you think Kim would say is the turning-point moment that maybe she would go back to?
Rhea Seehorn: There's quite a few, but when I look back on them, um,
I guess maybe the mailroom and it would just be Jimmy and Kim, and they would like go out with each other, fall in love and then get really, really great therapists.
Yvonne Villarreal: I would actually watch that show too. Um,
Rhea Seehorn: Jimmy and Kim in the mailroom go to therapy. That's the full title.
Yvonne Villarreal: Was the, the prison moment, the final shot that you did?
Rhea Seehorn: Yes, that is the last scene we shot.
Rhea Seehorn: Well, inside the prison smoking. The walk away from prison was shot on location and had to be done, um, earlier. But the very last thing he was shot was us sharing a cigarette in the jail cell.
Kim: You had them down to seven years.
Jimmy: Yeah, I did.
Yvonne Villarreal: I know this is the longest char like longest time you've been with a character. Was there any, like, did you, how did you say goodbye to her?
Rhea Seehorn: I don't think I have, I don't know that I will. I think I, Bob. He's not sure it will hit us that we're not going back to film more for the next couple of months, because we're used to the show airing and talking about the airing. And then it's a couple of months while they're, um, outlining the new scripts.
And then we're all putting our stuff in U-Hauls and going back to Albuquerque and the fact that we're not, and that that's the end of the story. I don't think that has fully hit me yet. Um even if I hadn't the great pleasure of playing the character. I love that that character was on television.
I absolutely love the Kim Wexler character. Um, and I will miss getting to perform her scenes. And I will also miss doing the work on those scripts for the way she thinks, which was a very peculiar way. Problem solving, um, and suppression and constant subtext that she didn't let other [00:12:00] people know about.
Um, which was fun. Like blissfully challenging.
GUSTAVO: More with Ray Seehorn on “The Envelope,” after this break.
GUSTAVO: Ok…. back to Ray Seehorn’s interview on “The Envelope” podcast. Here’s host Yvonne VIllareal.
Yvonne Villarreal: Welcome back to The Envelope and my conversation with Rhea Seehorn, who is nominated for not one but two Emmys this year. Let's hear more.
Yvonne Villarreal: You've had another big career moment this summer. You were nominated for your first Emmy and it was actually, yeah, a double nomination, one for supporting actress in a drama series for your performance as Kim and one for your role in the short form series Cooper's bar. And I know you were in London when you got the news, like how did it, how did it change the vibe of the trip? Like I've never been nominated for an Emmy, but I imagine the glow lasts a while.
Rhea Seehorn: Um, yeah, the glow is still on I'm. Uh, , I'm still enjoying this, um, uh, plus the show, getting nominated and being able to, you know, get invited to the prom again, like, um, and Bob and Tom and, um, my sound people it's, it's, it's great. Uh, that, that day finding out in London, listen, I, I, I set myself up to be able to, uh, if I hadn't got it, be three drinks in pretty quickly.
Um so we had, we had backup plans we were already in a bar. Um,
um, I'm with my family now at a lake house camp that has lots of rustic cabins and extended family are everywhere.
And, um, the little kids here that are all my little nieces and nephews and cousins. . Um, and even my son's like, just introducing me as like Emmy nominated when we're just literally on a dock fishing and, um, you know, or at like a party where everybody has red solo cups and I just, I turn bright red, but I just, I am, I am proud.
I'm proud of the work I put into this. Um, for sure.
Yvonne Villarreal: Do you feel better equipped to take in and process the success of the show and your Emmy nominations at this stage in your life, versus, say, if it had happened in your 20s?
Rhea Seehorn: it's hard to break down the word deserving of anything, right? Because lots of us have work that was deserving that nobody put a sash on them. but, um, I'm very proud of the work that I did. I took none of it for granted.
There's not a word that I phoned in. I worked very, very hard on the character and, um, I've gotten to a place in my career where I'm not running around anymore thinking like it's a giant fluke and I just won the lottery, I somehow got here by no doing of my own. I don't think that's that healthy. I spent a lot of years acting like I'd won a contest. Um, and I think it's important to find that place.
My age and the number of years I've been in the business has finally helped me get to a place of figuring out. And I think this is especially true of women, of what's a positive way to feel proud of yourself and ambitious that that is not some of the uglier behavior we've seen or uglier behavior that people call out.
And like, you know, we're taught to be more palatable often. Um, if you're women and, uh, not brag and, um, not be too full of yourself and this kind of stuff. And I have incredible humility and incredible gratitude for the career I have and the life I have. Um, but that doesn't need to eclipse feeling like I'm value added when I walk onto a stage. And I think I spent a lot of years thinking you get to be one or the other, you get to either think you have any idea what you're doing, or you get to live in gratitude, not both. And I was so desperate to not ever appear that I'm not grateful
but at the same time, like I'm there to do my job. And if people as smart as Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan — or Bob Odenkirk or Tom Schnauz or Gennifer Hutchison, Alison Tatlock, Gordon Smith — I mean the whole lot of them. Sure. Cause if they're saying “We did our very best, please arrive at the sandbox and contribute,”
Yvonne Villarreal: mm-hmm
Rhea Seehorn: then that's not a fluke and you owe them to be walking in there with your head up and to have some ideas, and to be value added. And I have found that that has only started happening in the last seven to eight years coinciding with Saul. really? Yeah. So that part, I'm thankful for that part. When something as beautiful icing on the cake, like getting nominated for an Emmy comes, um, cuz I'm like, okay, I know I'm still blushing when somebody's saying Emmy nominated Rhea Seehorn, but it's also gonna be okay to be proud of it.
Yvonne Villarreal: the listeners can't see me, but I've been nodding my head, like a bobble head. Please give a Ted talk on this topic, Rhea. A lot of women could use it, but, as you've said, you've put a lot of work into this character and we've seen such an evolution with Kim through these seasons.
I'm curious, which era of Kim was your favorite to play? Like was it the straight arrow at the start of the series or this late stage Kim who's sort of off the rails or, or the one who was in between? Like what, what did you find most interesting or satisfying to play?
Rhea Seehorn: What's most satisfying is that I got to play somebody that did evolve.
but never these dramatic shifts that felt, um, just for whatever rating stunts or to be strange. Um, even when they were like, I can't believe she's doing that. It's like, oh, but can't you? When you started to add up pieces. Um, and this real thing that happened with Kim were one of the questions, uh, became like, did she change or was she like this and she was suppressing it? like, it really added to the subtlety of what I got to play. The fact that Peter was not interested and, and Vince when he was Kosho running for the first couple of seasons, they were not interested in spoon feeding the audience or telling you it's a, or it's B uh, nature versus nurture, who's affecting whom. Are any of us innately who we are, or are you only a summary of your experiences in your relationships? Like these are questions that. keep me, I keep me up at night philosophically. So the satisfaction came from getting to play all of them. I would've been thrilled to play just one of those incarnations.
Um, but I loved doing all of them because I, they always felt like very human, organic shifts when something would come up when you're like, oh, oh, she's good at scamming. It's like, well, I secretly always thought that she came from some kind of chaos and I specifically thought she was raised by an addict. Um
We did that a lot on the show where I'm making up backstory and subtext. They don't know about, I would always tell them if I ever do behavior that you know, is going to ruin something you're planning, then just come over and swat me and I'll do something else.
But, um, but that never happened. And they were writing things that I would send like, oh, that matches. I mean, when we did the flashback and my mom was an alcoholic, I was like, mm, I think I thought it was my dad, but still I had been constructing. Things around that. So it was a nice little, yeah, nice little dance.
I've enjoyed playing all of them. And all of them have been challenging, which is also Like when you tell somebody something was challenging, often what you're saying is, somebody gave me a chance to get better. and I liked it. I like like going that scene.
I am not sure if I can pull that one off. Um, but you're gonna have to, you're gonna have to figure it out.
Yvonne Villarreal: Well, cuz I was gonna say, I mean, it became increasingly stressful to watch Kim's character. Like the stakes got higher and higher. Like was there any particular scenes that stood out where the stress was really felt for you as, as the performer?
Rhea Seehorn: Hmm. Yeah. I mean, there was quite, there was quite a few of them and, and, um, my breakup scene with Jimmy was extraordinarily difficult.
SCENE CLIP: BREAKUP
K: You asked if you were bad for me, that's not it. We are bad for each other,
J: Kim. Don't do this, Kim, please.
K: Jimmy. I have had the time of my life with you,
Rhea Seehorn: and my scene where we almost break up, but instead she says, or maybe we get married very technically challenging scene.
[CLIP: season 5 ep 6]
Kim: This has to end, I cannot keep living like this…
Jimmy: oh noo no, kim we can fix this…
Kim: Shut up, Jimmy, Jimmy you know this has to change. if you don’t see it I don’t know what to say because we are at a breaking point
Kim: Either we end this now, either we end this now and enjoy the time we had and go our separate ways or or
Jimmy: or what?
Kim: or or… maybe… maybe we get married
Rhea Seehorn: Kim became increasingly impulsive and it bit her in the ass. But at that time in the show, she was rarely impulsive. Everything needed to be methodically thought out. And if anything, that was her response to Jimmy's impulsiveness was cuz you know, she started in this place when they're sitting on the bed, eating pie, saying like, oh, you fabricated evidence. I love you. And I'm in this enough that I'm not gonna walk away. And I'm also attracted to that rebellion. So I'm not walking away, but here's the solution. Just don't tell me about anything you do, you know, cut to. The marriage and, uh, what happens after that? She was like, here's the only way I can control it.
Oh, I know. Tell me everything. Tell me every single thing, because I will be the person that can, um, make sure no bombs go off. And this was also the increasing level of her ego, which I found that, you know, people were like seeing that as heroic and the I savee me, you don't save me. Um, became a character at flaw, in my opinion, she refused to accept help, and you go all the way on the end of that spectrum to, oh, Lalo's alive.
And he might be coming for us. I'm just not gonna tell Jimmy , . She's like, I don't want him to get PTSD, so I won't tell him. Okay, well he might show up and blow your heads up.
That's the only downside of that. Um but she thinks she thinks he's got it all under control clearly does not. Um, but,
I was totally unaware of what six, 12, and six 13 had in them. But I know I finished that scene thinking I don't think she thinks she deserves anything that has any illumination to it anymore.
it just has to be gray. That's all she deserves. And she shouldn't come anywhere near decision making or. Being the person that's in charge of something. Um, and it's just, it's, it's tragic. I had said for years, like, yeah, she might die. I don't know the ending of the show. Um, but I also said there are things more tragic.
Yvonne Villarreal: there are truly, there are,
Rhea Seehorn: um, if we're talking, you know
Yvonne Villarreal: yeah.
Rhea Seehorn: plot line figurative, figuratively, um, I guess what I would say is it's not the only tragedy. Dying is not the only tragedy for a character like Kim, because now we've seen what she could be. We've seen what she could have been and it's, it's awful.
And I do think that they have a real love story. I have always thought that their love for each other is sincere, however convoluted at times. And even though they clearly get off on, you know, scamming and stuff together, I cherished all the smaller scenes where they're just eating Chinese food together or brushing their teeth.
So, um, those things to me are the weave of the fabric that makes the explosive things matter. It's why people give a crap when we break up
Yvonne Villarreal: right.
Rhea Seehorn: is because he always, you know, holds my briefcase while I'm going out the door. It's because we brush our teeth and, um, make jokes, um, and all the way through it.
We ha our characters support each other.
[Clip s5 ep 10]
Jimmy: It’s an old gag but sneak into his country club, and put nair into his shampoo bottle then he takes a shower and
Kim: his hair falls out
Kim: nice! OR we pour a barrel of chlorine into his swimming pool so that
Jimmy: bleaches his hair, and eyebrows
Kimmy: yes and the eyebrows [laughs]
Rhea Seehorn: even when Kim wanted him to not do bad things, there was also, there was always this constant reminder of you said you wanted XYZ. You said you wanted a seat at the big kids’ table. You said you wanted to be seen. Why can't you be seen as.
Just as deserving as the HHM people and this, that, and the other. So if you sell burner phones in a parking lot, that is not going to help you with the goal, you said you had, you know, less, which is very different than like, what's wrong with you. You're a piece of crap. Um, which other people do to him.
You'll never be anything. And hers is more like, Hey man, I'll help you get wherever you wanna go.
Yvonne Villarreal: something that I found interesting during Breaking Bad's run was, you know, many predominantly male fans came to see Skyler White as a villain standing in Walter White's way and, you know, subjected the character and the actress Anna Gunn to a lot of vitriol as a result. What was your reaction to that sort of discourse, whether as a viewer or as you prepared to take on the role in better call saw, like, were you worried that as the woman who was sort of like the moral center initially, that you were gonna sort of come under the fire in that way?
Rhea Seehorn: Well, all of that is a lot to unpack. I have to say first and foremost, what she got thrown at her is so far beyond undeserved and unfounded and has no ground. It doesn't hold any, like if you actually look at the storyline and, and the authentic choices she made for her character. It's it's, it's ludicrous and horrible and no one should be attacking an actress for a character they're playing. Even if you feel that way about the char, it's like, it's so stupid. Um, and I hate that she had to go through that. Uh, people do often love to hate the obstacle and the way of your protagonist.
And that happens. Um, she wrote that lovely New York times article that I think speaks to all of this far better than I can about why it became so personalized and being a woman, um, and the connection of those two. So my concerns really rested in the fact that unfortunately, if social media decides to hate you and they go on a rampage there's very little you can do about it.
And I knew I wasn't a character from breaking bad. I knew that some people are just gonna want this show to be breaking bad. Some people are only gonna want cartel stuff. Some people are gonna want Jimmy to hurry up and become Saul Goodman. And why is this dinky blonde ponytail in our way? Um, I'm sure those people exist.
I think television audiences have evolved a little bit. and part of it is because if you build it, they will come. There are so many more enriched, complex female characters that are allowed to disagree with their partner and still be fascinating. Interesting. and you wanna follow them.
And I think there are tons of men out there that wanna see characters, female characters be just as interesting as the male characters. I think probably the majority of them. So I do think we've helped our audiences. See the brilliance of performances, like, um, Anna Gunn’s. And so I, I, I step into a world that's already built a little better for it. but yeah, I knew like if they decide like, why is she in the way, get her out of here? I'm, I'm kind of screwed.
GUSTAVO: We’ll be back in a minute.
GUSTAVO: Welcome back to our rerun of Rhea Seehorn’s conversation with Yvonne VIllareal on the Envelope. Let’s get back to it.
Yvonne Villarreal: Well, I'm gonna take a little bit of a turn here, but I have to say so many people, my, myself included were really bereft when Bob had the heart attack while filming, I imagine it was a scary thing to experience. It happened while you guys were shooting a scene together or rehearsing, or do I have that right?
Rhea Seehorn: Shooting. Yeah.
Yvonne Villarreal: How was it to come back to set after that?
Rhea Seehorn: Well, the alternative of ever coming back to set without him is not something I can even allow myself to fathom, but I got forced to fathom it for a couple of hours and I don't ever want to, again, um, he was with Patrick and I shooting. Um, and and they were turning the cameras around. I think we'd been shooting for 10 or 11 hours and it was a big turnaround instead of a small, which for anybody listening, it doesn't know. That's just like we're gonna move cameras and lights and everything significantly to another area in the room or person.
So it's a large. Change instead of a small change. And when you have those people often go back to their trailers instead of hanging out on set. Cause it's gonna be a while and thank God Bob likes Patrick. And I enough, he chose to hang out with us. So we were just, we were just hanging together and he was watching the Cubs game. And, um, and we thought he was fainting, but we quickly realized something very dire was happening and then, uh, screamed for help. It was very hard for people to hear us because these airplane hangar size stages there's work going on there's machinery. And then there's massive echoes. Uh, I was told later that some people thought we were laughing-yelling at first, cuz it's very hard and we kind of figured that out. So we started to yell Patrick and I started to yell emergency, 911, it's Bob so that people could try to make out words and then they came and then we had the great fortune of. Angie Myers, our new first ad had been an EMT responder in Texas for years. Rosa Estrada, our head COVID officer who has been our set medic prior, has been like a wartime, medic in the field, like fast responses, emergency responses, um, another set medic person who it was his first day, uh, knew CPR.
So he got oxygen sent to his brain. almost immediately the second, it, he flat-lined, as he said, like died for a second. Um, so there was no brain damage. He also was in the best shape of his life. People are like, I thought he was healthy. He was, and that's how he survived this well. With no physical damage and with no brain damage, cuz he had been training for his action film for nobody for three years, best shape of his life.
Um, it's also just crazy that like one of the worst days of your life becomes one of the most miraculously best days of your life in a 24-hour period. he was in ICU and you know, you're not really supposed to see anybody cuz we don't even know like how, how he's gonna recover or whatever.
And his amazing wife and children knew what Patrick and I saw. So they wanted us to see him alive and laughing
Yvonne Villarreal: Yeah.
Rhea Seehorn: and they allowed that and I was forever grateful for that.
Yvonne Villarreal: That's powerful. Especially because, you know, This seems to be the longest job you've had, like working on Better Call Saul. Like, you know, actors can only be so lucky to get multiple seasons like this, and you really formed a family. And you know, something I didn't know about you is like your father and your mother had careers in the Navy, which required, you know, the family to move around a little bit. how did that sort of impermanence growing up shape how you navigated the world at a young age and, how do you think it helped you in a career in acting
Rhea Seehorn: Um, I'm sure it affects kids that move around. My, my mom worked on bases, but it was my dad being, um, NIS is why you'd have to be stationed somewhere. And then that impermanence location wise slowed down. I think, fourth grade. So it wasn't throughout grade school, but definitely my youngest years.
um, yeah, I think bloom where you planted became a skill set. Like you gotta figure, you gotta figure it out there. Wasn't like, sure. I missed people when we moved, but you, you have to figure it out.
but, um, probably even more influential to me was, being a latchkey kid and being a kid that really, really, really liked telling stories and being, having stories told to them, which eventually became an obsession that I was grounded for quite often with, watching TV and sneaking TV and movies.
And just from a really young age, just really obsessed with the power of. why can some people make you forget everything that's bothering you
Yvonne Villarreal: Mm.
Rhea Seehorn: and take you on a journey from a to B. Um, anyway. Yeah, I, I think that. I had my own reasons for wanting to escape and I really, really liked stories.
Yvonne Villarreal: well, I wanna go deeper on that. If you don't mind, like in reading about your background, I found myself connecting to a part of your story and I hope you're okay with me going here, but my dad was also a high functioning alcoholic until he very much wasn't. and he too died from, complications from the disease a few years ago.
Rhea Seehorn: oh, I'm so sorry.
Yvonne Villarreal: thank you. But I had wondered how that shaped the path you took because I found myself leaning into. Wanting to write about TV, because it was my connection to him that had the good memories, like watching reruns of Mary Tyler Moore or the Bob Newhart show and laughing like, and I know you had a, you had been on a trajectory of pursuing the fine arts in school and your dad liked dabbling in painting as a hobby if I read that right?
And so I know you still paint, but like you ultimately became an actress and what do you think acting offered you in the time following your dad's death?
Rhea Seehorn: you know, it's easy for the timeline to look like he died. And then I just, I
Yvonne Villarreal: Uh huh.
Rhea Seehorn: felt free enough to go become an actor. And there, there were definitely things going on there that are complex. And while painting is not a, lucrative backup career um, um, I had plans to like go into exhibition design and, and I wanted to be a curator and I was hoping to get an internship at the Corcoran or the Smithsonian or the national gallery, blah, blah, blah.
And, um, when I look back on it, I know I wanted to be in entertainment, but I was, uh, chubby at the time. And I didn't know anybody in entertainment and I didn't understand that acting was a craft and there's tons of brilliant chubby actors. I'm just saying at the time, when you're watching 1980s American television, it doesn't look like there's a big open lane for people that don't look a certain way.
um, and, um, then I started watching theater and I was like, oh, they seemed to have some parts for me. Um, and, uh, there, it was, it was a confluence of a lot of events. My dad did paint my sister paints and draws. We definitely shared that with my dad. It seemed to be the way he could process emotions until the alcohol became the bigger crutch, unfortunately, and even all the way back to he was in the Vietnam war.
And he has sketches charcoal sketches. From that time that clearly are a person trying to sort out, you know, back when men of a certain generation were not at all saying they needed therapy or anyone helping them get it. Um, so I have a lot of sympathy for that. I also didn't have then, but do now. And in my early years of acting developed a lot of sympathy and empathy for what my mom went through, uh, being the wife of an alcoholic, um, and trying to hide things from people.
I have sympathy and empathy for what my sister went through when my parents got divorced and we had to decide where to live. And I couldn't stand the thought of breaking either of their hearts. So I made her choose so that I could say, I just wanna do what my sister's doing. And I've spent so many late nights apologizing to her for that. Like, what I'm saying about this experience is it fed into and magnified the fact that it's not binary, it's not, addicts are monsters and horrible parents. Some of them are pretty good parents, often great doing the best they can. Making some really poor decisions on occasion, but so are a lot of non-addict parents and the, the whys of why people behave, they behave pre me understanding why my dad's behavior changes at certain hours of the day and post my understanding. And even the latter latter years, where you are asking them to quit, begging them to quit
Yvonne Villarreal: Mm-hmm
Rhea Seehorn: and understanding my mom's decisions and the decision to divorce somebody, especially if the person, if the alcoholic is acting like a victim and you wanna rally around them and the decisions his family made,
Yvonne Villarreal: Oh, you’re speaking my language, Rhea.
Rhea Seehorn: I mean, the decisions people make when a funeral happens, the decisions people make when they don't like.
The real reason this person died. So some of us are going to pretend he died of something else, insanity, and I'm 18. And I'm like, what are we doing?
Yvonne Villarreal: I mean, I'm not an actor, but I feel like, you know, I would imagine acting came somewhat naturally for you, because I feel like as children of alcoholics, we're like the best actors, because we're always having to // pretend everything is okay. Like, would you yeah.
You agree with that? Um,
Rhea Seehorn: 100% Yvonne, but additionally, tell me if you add this, additionally, you develop a, a really great skill set for observing behavior and trying to figure out the why behind it. And that's a third of script analysis right there. What was the objective with this line?
What was the tactic you used at that time? And did you get it? You didn't get the objective. So that's why you then said this. Otherwise it would've said exit stage left. So your objective has not been met or you shifted tactics or something. And like, I was just fascinated by behavior and what probably was a coping mechanism for you and I, when we were younger to observe rather than be in it, but also like you said, I mean, believe me, I am somebody that needs to make sure everyone's okay in the room because something might blow up at any moment.
Yvonne Villarreal: yes, yes.
Rhea Seehorn: And if you've spent any time in Alanon, which I have, you know, these, these wonderful survival skills when we were growing up have become obstacles as an adult, because not everyone in the room wants me to fix them. Thank you very much. Um, yeah, there's a lot of it, but I don't want that to sound like acting came from an unhealthy place.
Instead I celebrate that, that kind of, and look what you're doing with it. It's it isn't about prostituting, our pain of like, uh, you know, great. I'm gonna go up there and purge all my emotions because I'm so, uh, damaged. I don't feel that way at all.
Yvonne Villarreal: Yes.
Rhea Seehorn: I feel like, man, I wish he could have beaten the disease because he was such a great person and I wish he was around, but I think that. being an observant kid and watching life and watching the decisions my mom had to make, my sister had to make, I had to make, the people around us make. watching that interior versus exterior of what people think about what's privately going on in your house versus what's going on outside versus what, how we're gonna behave when we get to school, um, being popular one year and then being bullied another year and then back to popular.
And it was like, was it my pants? Like I wa like everything about growing up to me, felt safer if I was allowed to think about the whys of human behavior. And I think I probably would've gone into psychiatry if I , if I didn't find acting.
Yvonne Villarreal: Oh, I tried. I tried.
Rhea Seehorn: Did you?
Yvonne Villarreal: Yes . I loved a good psych class in college. It was just, yeah, yeah,
Rhea Seehorn: God. We leave parties all the time and. My husband, my poor fiance. Like he he's fascinated by behavior, but the level to which I am like, I need to talk about the dude that was at the, on the bench, by the front door for like seriously two hours. And yeah. And the woman that kept asking me to taste the almond milk to tell her if there was sugar in it, when I, she could taste it herself.
And I'm like, why would somebody, like, why wouldn't you just taste it? He's like, I don't know, but I'm always like, oh, I'm gonna put this in a scene. I'm gonna put this in a scene somewhere. Um, which again, people like it's, it's not a crutch though. It's like, it's a fascinating way to go through life and the, and to you get to make a living at it.
Come on, doesn't get better. Plus I'm part of storytelling. It’s the best.
Yvonne Villarreal: After you wrap a long successful series, like better call Saul, it could either be scary or exciting, you know, scary to end something that has been such a stable part of your life for the past few years or exciting to be starting something new and fresh again, like how are you feeling right now?
Rhea Seehorn: I don't think it felt real until the finale came out. Um, I'm in some deep denial, also a skill set, children of addicts learn. Um, but, uh, I, um,
Yvonne Villarreal: I'm bum
Rhea Seehorn: right. I, uh, I'm, I'm scared, I'm sad leaving that kind of writing. Ugh. But I also realize like another chapter will unfold, but the writing and better call saw. The style of portraiture and character storytelling that they do and do so well, and that kind of work with this crew, this set of writers and directors, this set of scene partners. I mean, it doesn't get better than Bob. I adore him and we ad we adore each other's work ethic and we adore the characters each other made. So we get to put all of that together when we, when we act, um, and truly just trust.
Uh, I'm gonna miss all of that.
Yvonne Villarreal: Any parting words for Kim?
Rhea Seehorn: well, listen, there's gonna be open interpretation about this finale but, um, I, and I think all our valid, but suffice it to say, in real life, I am a hopeless romantic. My parting words for Kim are, please, please, please, please, please follow your heart because I want you to
Yvonne Villarreal: Well, Rhea, it was such we'll see it, it was such a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you for giving us your time. Um, and congratulations on a great run on a great series.
Rhea Seehorn: Oh, thank you. It's been a pleasure.
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Gustavo: Gustavo: And that’s it for this episode of THE TIMES, essential news from the LA Times. …if you liked this episode, you should find and follow “The Envelope” on Spotify…Apple…wherever you listen.
The Envelope is a Los Angeles Times production in association with Neon Hum Media. It is hosted by Mark Olsen and Yvonne Villarreal; produced by Navani Otero and Chloe Chaobal [CHO-bull]; edited by Heba Elorbany and Lauren Raab; sound design and mixing by Scott Somerville.
Neon Hum’s production manager is Samantha Allison, and its executive producer is Shara Morris.
The Times is produced by Shannon Lin, Denise Guerra, Kasia Brousalian, David Toledo and Ashlea Brown. Our editorial assistant is Madalyn Amato. Our engineers are Mario Diaz, Mark Nieto and Mike Heflin. Our editor is Kinsee Morlan. Our executive producers are Jazmin Aguilera, Heba Elorbany, and Shani Hilton. And our theme music is by Andrew Eapen.
I'm Gustavo Arellano. We'll be back tomorrow with all the news and desmadre. Gracias
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