Michael McKean has been in movies like “This Is Spinal Tap” and “Best In Show,” and right now, he’s acting on Broadway in a new production of the 1939 play “The Little Foxes.” But he doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how most people are seeing his work today: In the hit AMC TV series, “Better Call Saul,” a spinoff of “Breaking Bad.”
“I’m working on Chuck McGill, I’m not working on anybody else,” McKean said of his character on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “[Viewers] don’t even exist in Chuck McGill’s world.”
“It’s kind of not my department,” he added. “And listen, I’m running into people now who say they’ve just started watching the show. And they’re really digging it, and they’ll watch two or three at a time, and they’re enjoying it, and that’s fine with me. I kind of watched week to week. I’m a little bit behind now.”
The audience McKean does sometimes notice — the one at “The Little Foxes” — has been impressively well-behaved, he noted; they generally obey his rules for theater audiences: “Shut the hell up. Turn your phone off.”
“We do occasionally get a phone, but they’ve been really good,” he said. “The matinee audiences have been amazing. I don’t know whether it’s because they think the play is going to be an old-fashioned play, and it is, but it’s also red-hot emotionally. People are gripped by it. We haven’t had too many phones, and very few heart attacks.”
On the new podcast, McKean also talked about how the process of making a show like “Better Call Saul” differs from that of “This Is Spinal Tap,” in which he played the fictional band’s lead singer David St. Hubbins:
Most of the dialogue in “Spinal Tap” was improvised, although the actors knew before cameras started rolling where a scene would be headed. And that approach started with a 20-minute demo of the movie that the creative team made when they were looking for a producer and distributor.
“We didn’t want a screenplay,” McKean said. “Someone had given us some money, not a ton, but it was an experiment. We said, ‘Rather than write a screenplay, we want to show you what we want to do. So we made this 20-minute thing, all improvised, with five songs and a couple of big gags.”
The eventual film was a flop in theaters, but — way before shows like “Better Call Saul” could be easily discovered years into their life — “Spinal Tap” blew up later on, thanks to home video.
“It took on a second life, I think largely because a lot of rock and roll people starting talking about it,” McKean said. “A lot of music people had it on their buses and felt referenced by it.”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.