Last summer, Bob Odenkirk had a heart attack on the Better Call Saul set. After receiving an influx of hopeful memes and well wishes, national treasure Odenkirk assured fans he was feeling better. Now, in a New York Times profile, he is ready to talk in detail about the health scare.
“I’d known since 2018 that I had this plaque buildup in my heart,” says the actor. He explains that he went to two heart doctors at Cedars-Sinai, and after testing that included an MRI scan, the doctors couldn’t agree on a treatment. One doctor suggested he immediately start medication, but the other doctor told him to wait.
Odenkirk decided to listen to the second doctor and he remained fine until “one of those pieces of plaque broke up.”
“We were shooting a scene, we’d been shooting all day, and luckily I didn’t go back to my trailer,” he recalls, noting that he instead went to a resting space where his co-stars Rhea Seehorn and Patrick Fabian like to go to relax between filming. “Rhea said I started turning bluish-gray right away.”
Thankfully, Rosa Estrada, the show’s health safety supervisor, and assistant director Angie Meyer were able to provide medical help. Odenkirk received CPR and was hooked up to an automated defibrillator. The actor says that at the hospital, the doctors “blew up the little balloons and knocked out that plaque and left stents in two places.”
In addition to detailing his heart attack and vaguely teasing what’s to come in the final season of Better Call Saul, Odenkirk also addressed his meme-ified I Think You Should Leave sketch. In the sketch, he plays a lonely man who’s created a fantasy life—where he owns every kind of classic car and is married to a former model—while speaking to a dad (played by Tim Robinson) and his kid.
When asked by writer Jonah Weiner if he could’ve “mustered up” a performance that combines comedy with drama and melancholy before Better Call Saul, Odenkirk says he’s “gotten more capable of striking a tone of melancholy and making it honest in a comedy piece.”
He adds, ”I actually remember being onstage with Chris and Jill Talley once, doing an improv scene, and thinking to myself, If I was in the audience, I’d be watching them, not me. And I kept thinking, as we were doing the scene, If I was in a drama, I could be the funniest guy, and the way you’re watching Chris Farley in this scene, you’d be watching me.
“And there was a part of me that thought I could do it, maybe one day. But then I didn’t try. It was just a stray, existential thought that I noted and never acted on, because I love sketch comedy. I thought, It’s fine if you like Chris more than me. It’s fine if you like David Cross more than me. I like those guys more than me!,” he says, referencing his Mr. Show days alongside Cross.