David Costabile on his Surprise ‘Better Call Saul’ Appearance and His ‘Breaking Bad’ Audition


Actor David Costabile

“For me, I feel like my job is to transform, and to transform my person into something different. ” – David Costabile

Better Call Saul Season 4 Spoilers Ahead…

One of the most exciting things for Breaking Bad fans when it comes to the prequel series Better Call Saul is seeing the connections between the two series. In some cases those connections are minor, but in other cases a familiar face shows up — as in the Season 4, Episode 3 cameo of David Costabile portraying his Breaking Bad character Gale Boetticher opposite Giancarlo Esposito‘s Gus Fring. Boetticher spoke to IndieWire about the challenges of returning to play Gale and how sometimes characters are just “clear” to an actor.

Costabile was required to sing Tom Lehrer’s song “The Elements” in his re-introduction scene, and while on one hand he called it a “fucking miserable song,” he continued, “One of the things in the episode that makes it much easier is the song. Because what is required in actually singing that tune is really challenging.”

The challenge was that Costabile was given less than two weeks to learn the song. He reveals, “It was horrific. So I paced around, and I paced around, and then I walked the streets of New York singing the song. And people must have been like, ‘That crazy … The guy really has lost his nut now, what the hell’s wrong with him?’ I sang it everywhere. Everywhere. On the subway, on the bus, everywhere. Everywhere. But I learned it. I knew that song. I still know it, never going to go away.”

On the plus side, Costabile explains that learning the song helped him get back into the character’s head. He says it gave him, “a great long time to also meditate on this character, too. The song was, in a way, the transformative act of getting back to who that person was.”

Returning to one of his signature roles also led Costabile to reflect on playing the character on Breaking Bad. He recalls:

“When I auditioned for the role, I felt really deeply connected to that aspect of who he was. His innocence, his hopefulness, his deep-held beliefs about love, the universe, chemistry — it never felt like a stretch in order to find those things. And all of it was in the introductory scene where you first meet him, where they cook together for the first time. He gives him coffee, and they cook, and he recites the Whitman poem to him. It said it all, it was all there. It was all clear to me who that person was… sometimes that happens to an actor — you really feel deeply connected to who or what the role is, and you don’t get it. Somebody else gets it. And then sometimes you do, and you’re lucky enough to get it. And in this situation I felt really lucky, because I felt so strongly that the way I felt about it was who that person was.

For me, I feel like my job is to transform, and to transform my person into something different. There’s some characters that are difficult to transform into, and then there are others that you just get for free, that are just part of you. You just feel like you’ve got six different guys, and that guy was one of them. They wrote it and then he was inside of me, and I got to do it, and it was a match made in heaven, for me, certainly. Even as short and brief as it was. It’s cool when it happens, sad when it doesn’t. Super sad when it doesn’t.”

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