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Better Call Saul Star Michael Mando Dissects Emotional Ignacio Episode – The Hollywood Reporter


[The following story contains major spoilers for Better Call Saul episode, “Rock and Hard Place.”]

“No, it wasn’t me! It was Ignacio! He’s the one!”

Thirteen years in the past, Breaking Bad viewers first heard the title Ignacio as Saul Goodman blamed him for one thing he presumably did to Lalo. Well, on tonight’s tragic episode of Better Call Saul, followers lastly realized how Ignacio’s (Michael Mando) story ended.

In the closing moments of the Gordon Smith-helmed episode “Rock and Hard Place,” Ignacio “Nacho” Varga sacrificed his life for the lifetime of his father (Juan Carlos Cantu), and just like the episode’s title, Ignacio really discovered himself between a rock and a tough place.

If he was captured by the Salamancas, he’d be tortured till he gave up the intel that Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) was answerable for the assault at Lalo Salamanca’s (Tony Dalton) compound. In season 4, Gus strong-armed Ignacio into being a double agent, and ever since then, he’s been serving to him undermine the Salamancas’ drug trafficking operation and Don Eladio’s (Steven Bauer) cartel. So naturally, Gus additionally wished Ignacio useless to guard his personal long-running revenge plot towards the lads answerable for killing his beloved associate, Max (James Martinez), throughout a season 4 flashback on Breaking Bad.

Ultimately, Ignacio struck a cope with Gus that had him commerce his life for the safety of his father, nonetheless, as a substitute of being shot within the again by Gus’ henchman Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) throughout a parley with the Salamancas, Ignacio broke free lengthy sufficient to seize Juan Bolsa’s (Javier Grajeda) weapon, say his piece and take his personal life.

“In the iconography of the character, it is the most truthful thing to do. It’s incredibly tragic. It’s Shakespearean, but it’s what makes the character iconic. He lived and died for true love. It gives me shivers just thinking about it,” Mando tells The Hollywood Reporter.

During his closing days on set, Mando was additionally fairly moved by the Better Call Saul crew’s tributes to the character. “They surprised me by wearing Nacho shirts to set, and everybody had these tear tattoos. It was just so emotional for everybody. I knew the character meant so much to them, but I didn’t know how much he meant to them until that moment,” Mando shares.

In half two of a latest dialog with THR, Mando additionally recounts all of the “ominous” occurrences that seemingly wished to lengthen his tenure on the Breaking Bad AMC prequel/sequel.

Ignacio selected to exit on his phrases after being managed by a number of monsters for thus lengthy. What did you make of his choice and his final farewell?

In the iconography of the character, it’s the most truthful factor to do. It’s like Romeo and Juliet. It’s extremely tragic. It’s Shakespearean, however it’s what makes the character iconic. He lived and died for real love. It offers me shivers simply occupied with it. He believed in purity and advantage, and he sacrificed his life regardless of being supplied energy, cash and affect. To flip all of it down and do the best factor makes a very honorable character. And it’s executed in such an excruciating and truthful manner, so I believe the writers did a masterful job.

What stands out out of your closing days on set?

The episode is filled with these larger-than-life moments. Right earlier than my first day of taking pictures, I minimize my finger. (Mando holds up his scarred hand.) I couldn’t transfer my hand. I couldn’t really feel any nerves taking pictures up from my left hand, so I needed to wait every week earlier than I may shoot.

The day we shot the desert stuff, the cameras had been on Gus and the Salamancas first. And proper as we had been supposed to show the cameras on me, out of nowhere, this gigantic sandstorm hit us. So we needed to actually run again earlier than our automobiles sank into the sand. When I got here dwelling the following day, lightning had struck the tree in entrance of my home, and the fallen tree blocked my entry into the driveway. So many ominous and larger-than-life issues occurred that made it so particular to me and the crew.

They stunned me by carrying Nacho shirts to set, and all people had these tear tattoos. It was simply so emotional for everyone. I knew the character meant a lot to them, however I didn’t know the way a lot he meant to them till that second. So the crew was proper there with me, and it was a magical sendoff. 

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Michael Mando as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

After years of biting his tongue, Ignacio lastly informed the Salamancas, in addition to Gus, how he actually feels about them. Did you present quite a lot of totally different flavors on the day? Or was every take fairly constant?

When the cameras had been on them, the takes had been very totally different. But as a result of we had a day to consider it, I bought a word from [writer-director] Gordon [Smith], and he had me play it fully in a different way by the point the cameras rotated on me. At first I used to be a bit proof against the word, however then I lastly bought it. [Ignacio’s] coronary heart is being weighed in entrance of the viewers. It’s type of bizarre as a result of we all know how each single individual in that scene, with out exception, will get killed, and so they’re all there to witness [Ignacio’s] dying.

It’s very clear he’s strolling into his dying, and the viewers can be there to witness his dying. It felt like he was on trial, and to me, that trial was, “How deep is your father’s love?” That’s what I believe he was being tried for. “How pure is your heart in terms of wanting to do the right thing?” For the primary time, he has no worry of any of those individuals. He additionally places his ego apart and is totally prepared to inform the story that can save his father, no matter what anyone else thinks. And lastly, his gesture may be very courageous. There’s not an oz. of remorse or doubt or second-guessing. So he actually was wholeheartedly dedicated to sacrificing himself.

Did you count on an final result like this from the very starting?

When I first bought this half, I wished to honor the New Mexican tradition, and it was actually vital for me to play a personality that was not a stereotypical brown-skinned dangerous man. And I bear in mind desirous to go all the best way again to the histories of the Aztecs and the Mayans. And then I noticed a documentary that didn’t painting them in the most effective mild. They stated that they believed in human sacrifice. They would commit human sacrifice for the Gods to carry down the rain, and it sounded very barbaric. And then I heard a Latin American historian inform that very same story, however he overlooked a very vital element. The strongest males within the village competed in a sport that the entire group watched, and it was the winners who willingly sacrificed themselves for the Gods to carry down the rain.

So their relationship with life, dying and the afterlife was very, very totally different from our Western understanding and worry of dying. It wasn’t a lot about if you happen to die, it’s about if you die and what you die for. So I believed it was unbelievably stunning that the episode begins with the rain falling down on this purple flower that additionally symbolizes enlightenment. 

Some of my favourite Better Call Saul scenes contain Ignacio and Manuel Varga. Were you and Juan Carlos Cantu current for one another’s facet of that devastating closing cellphone name?

I requested that there be nobody there for my facet of the decision. I didn’t play that scene to Juan Carlos; Rich [Sickler], the AD, learn these traces off digicam to me. And he did the identical factor for Gus and Mike’s cellphone name. Juan Carlos wished me to be there for his protection, so I used to be comfortable to be there and assist him for that. I believed the character of Nacho had gone via a lot, and nobody actually understood the place he was at. He additionally by no means actually wished his father to see the truth of what he was going via, so in that second, I believed it might be very best if Juan Carlos wasn’t there.

Well, thanks for my favourite Saul character, Michael.

Honestly, your phrases have made my day, and greater than that, they’re making me very emotional. The character means a lot to me, and listening to you say that validates all of the sacrifice and energy and fills me up with gratitude.

The interview has been edited for size and readability. 

Better Call Saul airs Mondays on AMC.




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