SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “Fall,” the June 12 episode of “Better Call Saul.”
Sonia Saraiya writes: Michael Mando’s character Nacho Varga has had a slow burn to prominence. “He was a peripheral character in the first two seasons,” Mando says to Variety. “I remember Vince and Peter calling me halfway through seasons one and two and telling me, Don’t worry. We’ll, we’ll get there. We’ll get there.”
In the back half of this season, something’s been brewing in Nacho — a struggle between who he was raised to be and who he chose to be, which pits his own honest father (Juan Carlos Cantu) against one of the scariest characters in the “Breaking Bad” universe, Don Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). In “Slip,” Nacho took the first steps towards striking a killing blow against Don Hector — embarking on a dangerous mission where he was a breath away from awful death the whole time. In “Fall,” Nacho has to sit down across from his real father and explain that his criminal activity has now engulfed his father’s small business, too. His father, in return, throws him out of the house.
I sat down with Mando to talk about these two scenes and his character’s slow maturation. “You know, they say good things come to those who wait,” he jokes.
Tell me a little about Nacho’s arc this season. We’ve learned a lot about his father. And we always knew he had a conscience, but it’s expanded in a really interesting way this season.
Yes, it’s definitely very interesting. I feel in the first two seasons, Nacho is looking outside of himself to gain perspective into his own life. He was looking for an ally in either Tuco or Mike, and he was let down on both occasions. This year, it’s really the story about a man who takes matters into his own hands, and who is put in this situation where he has to make a very clear decision on what his priorities are.
I think there was always a curiosity with Mike. He felt that Mike could be potentially the perfect ally. He was highly intelligent, highly capable, and was by nature a moral character.
I think Nacho hasn’t … He’s always been sort of torn between two fathers. On one side, there’s this rich but vicious cartel father. Then the other side, there’s this God-loving, God-fearing but poor father, financially. There’s an inner battle inside of [Nacho], and he always thought that it would be resolved outside of him. In this season, he embraces the battle, and he makes it a part of who he is. What’s kind of tragic about the character in Season 3 is that he has to cross over to the very dark side in order to save the life of his father.
He’s seen his father struggle his whole life. He’s seen his father make, I would say, high moral choices but suffer in the physical world in terms of the amount of money he makes and the long hours that have taxed him physically. I think there’s a lot of pain inside of Nacho — seeing how much his father had to go through, and how sometimes in this life people who are always trying to do the right thing get hurt by other people who are trying to profit. I think there’s a similarity with Jimmy and his father — but I think the difference is that Nacho, I think, respects his father to the point that he wouldn’t let anybody or anything happen to him. I don’t want to say Jimmy wouldn’t. But the difference is that despite the fact that Nacho might think that there’s a better way, he still will never want to upset his father.
What was it like to film last week’s suspenseful scenes across Don Hector?
Working with Mark has always been a pleasure. He’s been alive twice as much as I have, and he’s been working for longer than I have been alive. What I love working about Mark other than, obviously, going at it onscreen, is the conversations and the stories that we have, that he shares with me offscreen. He’s one of those last generations that was in contact with the Marlon Brandos and the Al Pacinos and the Robert De Niros of the world, and to feel somehow connected to that through Mark is really something special.
That sounds very different from his character.
He’s a sweetheart who has a wonderful sense of humor … (read more)