This article contains major Better Call Saul spoilers.
One of the first exciting turns to take place within Better Call Saul is when Tuco Salamanca’s familiar face from Breaking Bad showed up. Along with Tuco came an entourage of unseemly characters that are caught up in Albuquerque’s drug trade. By far the most interesting and complicated of these characters is Michael Mando’s Nacho.
Nacho has played a large presence on the drug side of the series, as well as being a character that’s important due to his relationship with both Mike and Jimmy. Nacho’s taken a bit of a back seat at the start of this season of Better Call Saul, but begins to return to the story in a very big way. Clearly this show is not done with Nacho, with it even looking like his situation is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better any time soon.
After the powder keg of an episode that last night’s “Off Brand” turned out to be, we spoke with Michael Mando about what’s next for Nacho, the noose that’s slowly tightening around his throat, and the importance of family for the complicated character.
This is a really big episode for Nacho and by the time it’s over it really feels like he’s beginning to be in over his head here and needing to get out this lifestyle. What do you think is going through his mind?
Well, in seasons one and two he’s been walking that cliff. He doesn’t want to dive into the dark side and commit to it. He kind of just goes in a little bit to get the gold that he wants, especially the gold coins that don’t have any blood on them, and then go back into the light. This episode sees Hector pushing him off of that cliff. He’s got no choice but to fall and he’s wondering if the landing is going to kill him. And if it doesn’t, will it swallow me up and transform me into a monster.
Nacho’s realized that for years he’s been able to restrain himself by focusing on an end goal that means the world to him. He’s gathering as much capital as he can so he can do this thing that he’s pursuing in his mind. He’s been very self-driven and for the first time, maybe in his entire life, he realizes what it would mean to lose his father. He flirts with death essentially by going after Hector. He asks himself if he’s willing to throw his life away for the man that he loves and raised him.
Well off of that, that scene where Nacho beats up on Krazy-8 for Hector’s approval is really telling towards where Nacho’s head is at currently. Do you like that matters are getting more stressed for people in Hector’s camp?
I think the very nature of Nacho challenges the Salamancas. He’s always reacting in a way that’s the complete opposite of how they operate. He’s patient and calculating when they’re off being impulsive. Hector also recognizes that Nacho is a prodigy. That there’s a part of him that doesn’t want him to survive because he’s not his own flesh and blood. I think on a subconscious level he’s even more frustrated because there are elements in Nacho that remind Hector of Gus.
I don’t think Nacho enjoys violence at all though. He came into this world because he wanted more for himself. He was born with a wooden spoon and he wanted to be a prince in shining armor. Where this gets really interesting is that he’s able to maintain intelligent thought through all of this and restrain himself, but he’s also capable of being very formidable and dangerous. So there’s a part of him that’s always resented that others can have it all, but he can’t. That’s what’s led him to this path that’s currently at a boiling point. There are two currents: morality and survival. There’s the way of the outlaw and the way of the higher man and he’s trying to reconcile these things. Essentially, it’s the war between two fathers—this rich, vicious cartel dad and this poor, loving biological father. Hector just pushes all of that off a cliff. “It’s do or die. Pick a side.”
On the topic of Nacho’s dad, Hector wanting to involve Nacho’s dad in distribution against Nacho’s wishes is really tough stuff. Talk on that a little bit.
Well you never really know who you are or what you’re made of until you’re put in moments of distress. What I find fascinating at that exact moment is that within a few seconds Nacho’s brain races so quickly that he realizes what he has to do. He starts flirting with the idea of ending Hector. That’s such a gigantic endeavor to take on obviously because we realized how connected to the cartel that Hector is. That’s the closest that you’ll get to sleeping with death. But Nacho still takes all of this on in a matter of seconds as soon as his father is put in jeopardy. That really tells you a lot about someone. Someone who’s still a criminal but is capable of unwavering loyalty and unconditional love.
That sewing accident in the cold open is crazy stuff! What’s going on with Nacho there?
I think he’s trying to numb a part of himself that’s still human. In that scene he realizes that he’s not feeling pain anymore! It’s a big moment of discovery for how far he’s gone.
Another big scene is that whole “taking six instead of five” moment at the drug trade. What do you think that represents, both for Nacho, and for his relationship with Gus and his side of the operation?
That scene’s really interesting because it shows to me that Nacho’s instinct is harmony in terms of the Salamancas. That’s more interesting to me because he has so many reasons to turn on them, but he’s really trying to find a way to cooperate with them. Then Hector goes and asks Nacho to ask for six instead of five. Nacho knows this is probably going to cost him his life, too. It’s such an ego-driven act that doesn’t put Hector’s life in any jeopardy, only Nacho’s. So Nacho knows that he’s putting an apple on his head and asking Gus to take a shot, hoping that he’ll miss. But he still does it so he can show Hector that he’s on his side and deserving of respect.
Hector takes even more from him after that though! Once Nacho proves himself, that’s when Hector goes and tries to get Nacho’s dad involved.
Exactly! It’s almost like sinking sand. Instead of getting Hector’s respect, Hector gets a finger from Nacho and now he wants his heart. It doesn’t even go to his arm next. He wants everything.
You’ve also got a short film, Gateway, that you’re performing live on Facebook and Instagram. That’s a crazy sort of idea. Talk about what brought all of that together?
It aired 8 p.m. Pacific Time after tonight’s Better Call Saul premiere. The reason why this is important though is that it’s very innovative. This has never been done before. I think nowadays we’ve all fallen victim to getting validation through social media, whether it’s more followers, more likes, more comments. I looked within myself and realized that I’ve got a certain platform, so how can I use that to give something back that’s different and provoking of the mind. So I thought, what if we just went live and performed a piece that was only available for the people watching at that given time? It’s like we’re going into someone’s living room and performing.
We put a lot of time and effort into this five-minute short that’s a first-person shooter. It’s all one take. It’s got great action, dialogue, and crazy costumes. It’s a sci-fi thriller about a man who hijacks this higher consciousness in order to break bad habits. It’s really just a gift for people and if people are into it, hopefully we can do more of this unique sort of thing.
Better Call Saul’s third season continues to air Mondays at 10pm on AMC