We all know that Breaking Bad was an incredible show, and that had a lot to do with its impeccable cast. What you might not know is that one piece of that stellar ensemble was very close to not existing in that universe at all, and if it wasn’t for How I Met Your Mother, the world might have never known Mike Ehrmantraut.
Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk had a great interview with Rolling Stone recently, and when asked about how unlikely a Saul Goodman-inspired spinoff seemed to him, he shared this.
I promise you I thought I was up for three episodes of Breaking Bad — well, they wanted me for four, but I could only do three 'cause I was in How I Met Your Mother. They actually added the character of Mike because I couldn't make that fourth week, and they needed another character to get that information across, so that's amazing right there. Thank you, How I Met Your Mother.
That’s pretty crazy, all things considered. With a winning performance from Jonathan Banks, Mike became one of the most interesting and beloved characters in the series, with a hardened presence that makes him more stoic and intimidating than nearly anyone else in the show. To think about what Breaking Bad would have been like without him is almost impossible, as he was such a key point in Gus Fring’s criminal organization, as well as a perfect foil for Odenkirk’s Goodman to bounce his humor off of. How can this face ever not exist in Walter White’s life?
To the same end, Banks has already earned his own wonderful standalone Better Call Saul episode, “Five O,” and seeing the foundation of his storyline is one of the things that makes this spinoff as enjoyable as its predecessor. I mean, there’s always the chance that Vince Gilligan would have found another iconic character to introduce during Breaking Bad’s run had Mike not first shown up in the Season 2 episode “ABQ,” but I’m a much happier person not having to think about the domino effect that “No Mike” would have caused.
At that point in Breaking Bad’s run, Odenkirk wasn’t even sure if the show or his character was going to make it to Season 3, given its low ratings and the fact that it wasn't yet at the top of pop culture conversations. He might have even figured that a steady gig as Barney’s boss Arthur Hobbs on How I Met Your Mother seemed like the better option. Thankfully, fans can still watch Saul/Jimmy McGill and Mike doing their thing every Monday night on AMC.