Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk: ‘Without CPR I’d have been dead in minutes’

Actor opens up about on-set heart attack and reunion with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul ahead of Breaking Bad prequel’s finale

The actor Bob Odenkirk has spoken about his collapse on the set of Better Call Saul, saying that if his colleagues had not performed CPR on him he would have been “dead in a few minutes”.

Odenkirk, 59, was shooting the final season of the Breaking Bad prequel in New Mexico when he collapsed due to a heart attack last year. Crew members called an ambulance, which took him to hospital for emergency surgery to clean out the artery that the actor called “the widowmaker”.

“I went down on one knee, and then I went all the way down. I guess I said, ‘I don’t feel very good,’” Odenkirk said in an interview with the Radio Times.

He said castmates Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler, and Patrick Fabian, who portrays Howard Hamlin, grabbed his head and hand and “started yelling at [him] to stay on Earth”. He added: “I wasn’t breathing. I mean, if nobody had been there, if they didn’t do that CPR, I’d have been dead in a few minutes.”

The cast and crew had been shooting all day and were changing shots when Odenkirk headed to the exercise bike he used between scenes. He started to watch a Chicago Cubs baseball game on TV and then collapsed.

The show’s health officer had a defibrillator in the boot of her car and, while she ran to retrieve it, trained crew administered CPR before three defibrillator shocks were given. Odenkirk said he had no memory of the immediate aftermath of his collapse.

Better Call Saul comes to a close next week after six seasons on Netflix. Odenkirk plays the titular character Saul Goodman, a dodgy Albuquerque lawyer who becomes increasingly corrupt.

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“I’ve been doing it for so long and it’s such a part of my life that I don’t think I’ve fully accepted that it’s over,” he said. “It’s been 12 years of my life. But when I finish watching this season with everyone else, that’s when it’ll hit me: that’s done.”

This season, Breaking Bad’s two main characters, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) made cameos after years of anticipation. In Breaking Bad, Odenkirk’s character became entangled with the high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine kingpin White and his hapless sidekick Pinkman.

Odenkirk said it was “the greatest joy ever” to reunite with his former castmates. “The first episode I did on Breaking Bad was a big scene with those guys in the desert, at 2am, in a sandstorm. So to revisit the relationship now … I can’t say more than that. Because it’s a mindblower, man!”

The actor, who has been nominated for five Emmys for his role in Better Call Saul, is now working on Straight Man, a comedy drama based on a novel in which he plays a small-town east coast university academic having a midlife crisis.


Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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