Tony Dalton on Lalo Salamanca, ‘Better Call Saul,’ and the Importance of Epazote

There’s a terrifying ease about the decisions Lalo makes. He doesn’t seem to worry about much.

Of all the characters on Better Call Saul, his character is the one who cares the least. Not everybody has to care about what’s going on all the time. Lalo can not care. That was what I was looking for.

And on the other end is Gus [Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito], who is anxious about every decision in every scene. He’s got such a tight body language, and you’ve got a loose body language.

Correct. That’s another thing. When I was creating the character. I watched the whole series and was like, “OK, what’s missing here? What can I bring to the table that’s not here yet that would create a juxtaposition? A sort of new fresh air there.” That’s kind of how Lalo came about.

How important is the mustache to Lalo?

Apparently, a hell of a lot important [laughs]. I had a mustache [during the audition] because I was on some trip or something, and I did the callback for Lalo and I didn’t have the mustache. And they were like, “You got the part if you grow the mustache.” All right. I guess the mustache got the part, not me [laughs]. That’s why I’m keeping it, man.

How much were you told about the arc of the character when you were hired?

I knew nothing. I thought, this will be fun. Go on for a week or two. But then they called me back for season five. And then it was very serious. They were like, “We want you to be part of this whole thing.” That’s amazing.

At that point, how much did you know about the end game? How much did you know about where Lalo was going to go and when did you know it?

No idea. And I don’t even think they did. When we were on the set, I talked to Peter Gould, I think he was directing, and he said, “This is great because we were always wondering how Saul was going to end up in the world of danger and narcos. And you did it.” And I said, “What do you mean? You didn’t know?” And he said they didn’t know how they were going to do it. And that’s amazing to me that these guys really just kind of feel the episodes, feel how it’s going and work on that. I’ve worked on a lot of shows where they already know what’s going to happen to the end. It’s kind of like I got on the gravy train, man.

That’s surprising. There are stories of Breaking Bad being planned out from the beginning.

I kind of overheard this. I’m fascinated by this. I’ve written a couple of screenplays that have become movies. The whole writing part of it to me, especially these guys who are the best of the best, I was curious how these guys go about getting all of this done. Getting everything moved in a certain direction. And as far as Lalo was concerned, like I said, you didn’t know where he was going when you first saw them. And then he ended up being a key element to how everything unfolds. Even in that scene where he walks into Jimmy’s apartment and talks to him and Rhea and says, “tell me again.” [In episode 5.9, “Bad Choice Road,” Lalo interrogates Jimmy and Kim about an ambush in Mexico.] What happens in that scene unfolds everything that goes on in season six. One scene just exploded, and it was like now they’re in trouble, now he’s mad—it’s amazing how these guys do it.

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