Bob Odenkirk really wanted to be a novelist.
He was inspired by the legendary Jack Kerouac, having read all of his books, citing them as his “guiding light”.
“I guess I’ve read On the road three or more times,” explains Odenkirk. “Yeah, I was one of those kids at that age – in my early years of college and even just out of college.”
But then she discovered sketch comedy was, “something I’ve been doing since I was 11, and I thought, wow, you already do this all the time. Why don’t you try to make it a career?’
And so, he did.
Now he comes after years of playing Saul Goodman, first as a supporting character Breaking Badand then as head Better Call Saul.
His last screen work is Lucky Hankwhich is based on the novel Straight Man by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo.
In the series, Odenkirk plays Hank Devereaux, a reluctant chair of an English department at an underfunded college in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt, who daily battles the Millennials in his classroom, as well as eccentric staff colleagues, while navigating his own internal ambivalence about his career status.
The series was created by Paul Lieberstein and Aaron Zelman, working with Academy Award-winning director Peter Farrelly and Academy Award- and Emmy-winning producer Mark Johnson to bring this series to life. Johnson is an executive producer with Lieberstein and Zelman serving as co-showrunners.
Zelman says he was drawn to the material because “smart people do dumb things, which is always funny to me.”
Lieberstein adds, “And the huge stakes of the very small things, like, you know, who, who gets that office?”
“Or who has the parking spot,” Zelman says.
Marielle Enos, who plays Hank’s wife Lily, adds, “It’s what drew me to the show the most, because I was at this point in my life where I’m like, ‘I want to tell a story about people. and the things we worry about [in] the middle moments of our lives, like what are we really thinking, what are we worrying about?’ And the ridiculousness of real life. Life is absurd, you know? It’s funny, and sad, and all broken together. And this show captures just that. the ridiculousness of being human.”
Odenkirk says his character has “zombified himself.” “He cast spells on himself and was shut down years ago. But it comes back to life, and that’s what the show is about, from my perspective.”
This is an interesting analysis on Odenkirk’s part, given that he himself suffered a life-threatening heart attack in 2021 while working on You better call Saul, apparently having recovered enough to resume his work and, more importantly, his life.
Comparing Hank Devereaux to Saul Bellows, Odenkirk says, “I also like that character because he’s more my age, and I’d say I don’t align perfectly with him, but his POV is more in line with mine. Saul was tough because he was much younger than me. He was just mentally younger. He looked at the world with a – he was really a more innocent guy, even though he was a fraud. It had a hope and an innocence that I think I left behind a long time ago. And this guy looks more like me. He is more cynical. He’s also an idealist, but that’s, I think, the real cynic deep down.”
He explains this thought a little further, adding: “Those people we recognize as cynics are idealists whose feelings are hurt every day by the world because they did not hope to be. True cynics are the people who brazenly do cruel things and awful things and seem to have no real sorrow, no conscience, no guilt. They don’t have that dimension at all. That’s cynical.”
Of the relatively quick transition from playing Saul to Hank, Odenkirk says, “It was just enough time to grow a beard. I grow a pretty good beard, I’d say. If the beard had grown slower it would have bought me maybe a week or two. But it really happened very quickly after Saul.”
Still, it was enough time for the actor to squeeze in, “this wonderful trip with my family, which I’ve been waiting for years,” he says.
Odenkirk wants to make it clear Lucky Hank, in his words, “We don’t have zombies. We don’t have drugs, we don’t have guns, we have people. People, people exposing themselves, struggling, struggling, trying to establish a sense of self, trying to love each other.”
And will he ever write that novel?
“No,” she says empathetically, adding, “I’m not a good enough writer that way. If you read my memoir, you know what I mean. I could barely get a memoir out, which isn’t asking for much. Just tell us what happened to you.”
But, she says, “Here’s what I have in me – a children’s book coming out next year.”
“Lucky Hank” premieres Sunday, March 19u on AMC at 9e/p and will be available to stream on AMC+ after the premiere.