Actor Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman. Photo credit: AMC.

“Better Call Saul”

February 27, 2015

Valli Herman

We’ve missed Saul Goodman, the sleazy lawyer who kept Walter White just this side of the law in the television series “Breaking Bad.”

Now he’s back. Bob Odenkirk, the actor who played Saul, has returned to the AMC network in “Better Call Saul,” the prequel that explains how a desperately broke lawyer named Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman, the shadiest of shady lawyers in Albuquerque, N.M.

For his new series, “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan hired Jennifer Bryan, the Costume Designer who worked on the last season of his hit show.

“His character on ‘Breaking Bad’ was a big component of his character here,” Bryan said. “He was such a dandy. So where do you go when you go in reverse and you know where he is going to end up?”

In Bryan’s case, you start with an open mind and turn back the clock to 2002, when “Better Call Saul” begins.

Bryan, who also designed the television series “Las Vegas,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals,” decided that a suit would be an essential storytelling device.

“He is a lawyer and wants to be recognized as that, even though he is a bus bench lawyer. He wants to identify with the white shoe law firms. So we have to keep him in suits,” she said. “I don’t want him to look too prosperous, and we know how he obviously ends up.

“We came on idea of using color. We settled on brown — it is that indeterminate basic color. It’s like beige, the color people who are afraid of color wear,” she said.

Italian tailors made a set of brown suits in a narrow palette of chocolate brown, each similar enough to seem as if they’re the one and only suit he has.

“He’ll have only, like, six ties,” she said, each a cheap polyester that makes a bulky knot and bunches up in too-shallow shirt collars.

A close inspection of Jimmy’s shoes shows he’s wearing snaffle-bit loafers, a signature of Gucci.

“They aren’t Gucci–by far they’re not. They are made to look like they are, but they are so, so off brand,” she said. And they’re pleather.

To give Odenkirk a real feel for the desperation of the character, Bryan added some down-on-his-luck realism. “I took one of the bridle bits off his shoes, snapped it and wired it back together with a paper clip.” She also purposely placed the ticket pocket on a suit coat on the wrong side.

“It looks like he is well dressed, but he is really not. The suits run big on him deliberately. I did double-breasted because it is such a dated style, but it’s the kind of suit that guys who want to have self-importance wear,” she said.

“It was something to convince the tailors that I wanted the buttons on the double-breasted jacket set high,” she said. “The tops ones are so high, that Vince calls them the ‘nipple buttons.”

But they serve a purpose: With his chest buttoned high and tight, Jimmy McGill looks armored, ready to wrangle with his usual motley crew of bad guys.

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