Better Call Saul Star on Tonight’s Shocker: “Brace Yourself”

Last week’s episode of Rather call Saul began with a relic of a distant past: the top of the smart tequila bottle that Jimmy and Kim put into their very first Robin Hood scam. (Aw, how sweet!) This week’s episode begins with another mysterious object, one from the near future: a curved piece of glass on the desert floor that is being poured with a few rare drops of rain.

As we know now (and if you do not know yet, now is the time for it stop reading – spoiler alert!), this is the shard of shards of glass that Nacho will use to stab Juan Bolsa and steal his gun just before he takes his own life. Yes, after years of outwitting, outmaneuvering and outcompeting the law, the cartel, his sworn rivals and even his alleged friends, Ignacio “Nacho” Varga has finally come to the end of the series. And not for nothing, he has done it on his own terms.

It was Nacho who chose to sacrifice his own life to finally secure his father’s protection. (We know he will be safe because Mike says he will take care of it.) It was Nacho who told Gus and Mike that he would play along in the scenario they suggested. And it was inevitably Nacho who intimidated Gus instantly by flipping the script. He chose not to run, not to be shot in the back and instead grabbed Bolsa’s pistol and pulled himself into the trigger. Respect.

As soon as I finished watching the episode, I wanted nothing more than to hear from Michael Mando, who has portrayed Nacho for six seasons over seven years. In a phone call, he told me how he heard about Nacho’s fate, why he had to take time off from filming last season, and how he feels about playing a character who breaks down when everyone else goes in pieces.

Vanity Fair: Congratulations on a great race. When and how did you find out about Nacho’s death?

Michael Mando: I was called up the winter before we started shooting. I was in Montreal. [Executive producers] Peter [Gould]Vince [Gilligan], and Melissa [Bernstein] said: “Get ready for a tour de force show. We want to demand that you be physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. You get your own feature film inside this season.” And I was immediately grateful for the challenge.

It is fantastic. And it seems that it came true.

You know those guys are the best in the business and they always deliver. Playing a character that breaks down when the whole show seems to break down has really become my dream role.

When did you see the manuscript itself?

I discovered the manuscripts as we went. So I read 603 a few days before we started shooting.

How was the day when you recorded the last scene?

That whole episode was filled with symbolism in real life. I had cut my finger really deep. I was doing my own stunts and I had cut my thumb and I could not shoot for about a week and a half because I had lost the feeling in all the nerves in my left arm. And the day we filmed the last scene, just before we turned the cameras towards Nacho, a huge sandstorm hit and we literally had to run back to our cars and leave the desert before our cars would sink in. When I went home that day, lightning struck the tree in front of my house and it fell down in front of my driveway and I could not get in. There was all that symbolism where we giggled and said, “What’s going on?”

Did you cut your thumb in one of your scenes of the new season?

No not at all. I cut my thumb while doing the dishes! The porcelain plate broke; it was an old porcelain plate. It broke and cut my thumb. I couldn’t shoot because I was doing my own stunts and I couldn’t get a tight grip.

Now it’s related. I can imagine doing that. I can not imagine kicking an air conditioner out and jumping out of a hotel wall.

I did all my stunts except two. I have to give credit to Victor Lopez. He made the leap. And there was another stunt driver who made the car collision. Those were the only two moments where they switched me to a body double because the insurance would not cover it.

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