After His Own Health Scare, Bob Odenkirk Plays A Man Coming Back To Life In His Latest Series, ‘Lucky Hank’


Bob Odenkirk really wanted to be a novelist.

He was inspired by the legendary Jack Kerouac, having read all of his books, citing these as his ‘guiding light.’

“I’ve probably read On the Road three times or more,” explains Odenkirk. “Yeah, I was one of those kids at that age — in my first years of college and even just out of college.”

But then he discovered that sketch comedy was, “something that I’d been doing since I was 11 years old, and I thought, wow, you already do this all the time. Why don’t you try to make it a career?”

And so, he did.

Now he’s coming off years of playing Saul Goodman, first as a supporting character in Breaking Bad, and then as the lead in Better Call Saul.

His latest on-screen project is Lucky Hank, which is based on the novel Straight Man by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo.

In the series Odenkirk plays Hank Devereaux, a reluctant chairman of an English department at a badly-underfunded college in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt who does daily battle with the Millennials in his classrooms, as well as the eccentric co-workers on staff, all while navigating his own internal ambivalence about the state of his career.

The series was created by Paul Lieberstein and Aaron Zelman, working with Oscar-winning Director Peter Farrelly and Oscar and Emmy-winning producer, Mark Johnson to bring this series to life. Johnson serves as executive producer with Lieberstein and Zelman working as co-showrunners.

Zelman says that he was drawn to the material because its “smart people doing dumb things, which is just always funny to me.”

Lieberstein adds, “And the giant stakes of very small things, like, you know, who, who gets this office?”

“Or who gets the parking spot,” says Zelman.

Marielle Enos, who plays Hank’s wife Lily, adds, “It’s the thing that drew me to the show the most, as I was at this moment in my life where I’m like, ‘I want to tell a story about human beings, and the things that we worry about [in] the middle moments of our life, like what are we actually thinking about, worrying about?’ And the ridiculousness of actual life. Life is absurd, you know? It’s funny, and sad, and all smashed together. And this show captures exactly that; the ridiculousness of being human.”

Odenkirk says that his character, has ‘zombified himself.’ “He cast a spell on himself and shut himself down years ago. But he’s coming back to life, and that’s what the show’s about, from my point of view.”

This is an interesting analysis on Odenkirk’s part, given that he himself suffered a life-threatening heart attack in 2021 while working on Better Call Saul, obviously having recovered sufficiently to resume his work, and, more importantly, his life.

Comparing Hank Devereaux to Saul Bellows, Odenkirk says, “I also like that this character because he’s more my age and I would say I don’t align perfectly with him, but his POV fits mine more. Saul was tough because he was kind of a very younger guy than me. He just was mentally younger. He looked at the world in a — he was truly a more innocent guy, even though he’s a scammer. He had a hope and an innocence to him that I think I left behind a long time ago. And this guy is more like me. He’s more cynical. He’s also an idealist, but that’s what a real cynic is, I think, deep inside.”

He explains this thought a bit further, adding, “Those people we identify as cynics are idealists whose feelings are hurt every single day by the world being not what they hoped it would be. True cynics are the people who brazenly go about doing cruel things and awful things and don’t seem to really have any sadness, conscience, guilt. They don’t have that dimension of it at all. That’s a cynic.”

About the relatively quick turnaround from playing Saul to stepping in to take on the role of Hank, Odenkirk says, “It was long enough time to grow a beard. I grow a pretty good beard, I would say. If the beard grew in slower, that would have bought me maybe a week or two. But it really did happen very fast after Saul.”

However it was enough time for the actor to squeeze in, “this wonderful trip with my family, that I had been waiting for for years,” he says.

Odenkirk wants to be clear that on Lucky Hank, in his words, “We don’t got no zombies.Got no drugs, we got no guns, we got people. People, people on display, fighting, struggling, trying to establish their sense of themselves, trying to love each other.”

And will he ever write that novel?

“No,” he says empathetically, adding, “I am not a good enough writer in that way. If you read my memoir, you know what I mean. I could barely eke out a memoir, which doesn’t ask for much. Just tell us what happened to you.”

But, he says, “Here’s what I do have inside me — a kids’ book that’s coming out next year.”

‘Lucky Hank’ premieres Sunday, March 19th on AMC at 9e/p, and will be available for streaming on AMC+ after the premiere.

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