Spoilers for the final season of Better Call Saul follow!
Tony Dalton has made quite the name for himself over the past few years. With a diverse filmography of Spanish dramas and television, Dalton has become an even more prominent figure thanks to his dominating screen presence as Lalo Salamanca on Better Call Saul. The character crept his way up the ranks as one of the more sinister antagonists in the shared universe of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Lalo’s popularity is in no small part thanks to this latest and final season, airing its last episodes this August. We had the chance to sit down with Tony Dalton for an exclusive interview to reflect on Better Call Saul and his final go as the twisted Lalo Salamanca.
When discussing joining Better Call Saul halfway through its run, Dalton had nothing but praise for its creators. “I mean, they’ve done the whole Breaking Bad world, which was probably some of the best TV ever made,” Dalton says. Breaking Bad is largely considered one of the very best shows of our time, so when a spin-off was first announced, there was an air of uncertainty. Would the spin-off be able to live up to the incredible run of Breaking Bad? The short answer is yes, as Better Call Saul would develop an identity of its own, using the backdrop of a pre-Heisenberg Albuquerque to retell the tragic fall of Jimmy McGill, providing entirely new characters that were never present in the original series.
Enter: Lalo. A Salamanca that was never present in Breaking Bad, only ever mentioned in passing in Saul Goodman’s debut on that show. From one line spawned one of the most stellar villains to grace audiences’ TV screens, and Tony Dalton couldn’t have been more thrilled to join the project, saying: “I mean, this is exactly what I was looking for, something that is going to be done by people who have a different point of view, very precise and artistic, and it was perfect for me.”
Despite joining it later in life, Tony Dalton has had so much time to shine in Better Call Saul. As Lalo Salamanca, Dalton plays a character who manages to be simultaneously intimidating and charming as he attempts to investigate and put an end to Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). While Lalo’s mission may be doomed to fail because of the events of Breaking Bad, that doesn’t stop the character from being compelling nor stop Dalton from enjoying the spotlight. Dalton has had so many fond memories on set, not being able to nab a particular scene as his favorite because “that’s like saying what your favorite movie is. It’s different moments.” Dalton further reveals that the Better Call Saul moments that will stick with him the most are those “where you’re just quiet, chewing, looking at somebody. Also, when you’re pissed off because they killed your cook, and when you’re smiling… it’s all part of the same job.”
If Dalton really had to choose one scene, though, it would have to come from Episode 9 of Season 5, titled Bad Choice Road, which sees Saul officially become a cartel friend, running bail bonds across the desert and nearly getting killed in the process. “The part where I’m with Saul and I ask him to tell me again that whole story. That was fun because it was this sort of mind fuck, where you’re telling this guy (Bob Odenkirk) who’s the lead, just to repeat his story over and over, see if you can find any kind of differences. There’s a lot of different things that you can play with as far as an actor in that scene.”
Lalo’s interrogation of Saul is one of the tensest moments of the entire series. It’s a scene played brilliantly by Bob Odenkirk and Tony Dalton, making you worry for a character who you know makes it out alive because of Saul’s presence in Breaking Bad. Dalton never felt the pressure of audience reactions during his time on Better Call Saul; instead, he was fueled by them, as he explains, “It’s always super exciting to do your job and then to have people look at it. It’s kind of the way it works. It’s always sort of like I wonder what they’re going to think?”
Although Dalton’s time as Lalo may have just come to its devastating end, the seasoned actor still expressed nothing but a lot of love for the crew behind Better Call Saul, giving the series nothing but praise. “I think that just the writers, the team, the DP’s, the directors, the other actors are at the top of their game, so you’re kind of playing in the big leagues. That’s how you get better [as an actor].”
One of Dalton’s last big moments came at the end of the first half of the final season when his character met Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) for the first time. Lalo and Howard are at two opposite ends of the show’s spectrum, with Howard on the legal side of things and Lalo representative of the seedy underworld. It should be no surprise that when Howard meets Lalo and is just a slight inconvenience to him in a stressful time, Lalo shoots Howard in the head without a second thought. Howard’s untimely end from a character he never once interacted with before was a shock to everyone, Tony Dalton especially: “Yeah, that was pretty surprising when I read it, too. The same surprise that people saw when they watched it; I read it when I got the script. I was like, ‘Oh man, I didn’t see this one coming.’ It was exciting.”
However, Tony Dalton isn’t just widely known for portraying Lalo in Better Call Saul anymore. Dalton recently joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Jack Duquesne in the Disney+ limited series Hawkeye, where he was allowed to stretch his comedic muscles and play more of a good guy. Dalton thinks that it’s his vast catalog of villains that helped throw viewers for a loop in regards to his role as Duquesne, more famously known as Swordsman in Marvel comics.
“I would think my history with Lalo and with a whole bunch of other characters, I’ve been doing this for a while… four years playing a hitman so that doesn’t help to have a good image of your characters,” Dalton disclosed. But this came around in his favor as Dalton compares his role in Hawkeye to the Robert Zemeckis film What Lies Beneath starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. “Harrison Ford is always the good guy. But in that one, he’s the bad guy and you just don’t see that coming… I think they did the same thing in reverse [with Jack Duquesne].”
Dalton doesn’t hesitate to reply when asked if he would like to return to the role of Jack Duquesne in the MCU. “Of course, I would do that role again. It was fun. It’s nice to be the good guy for a change.” When describing his range, Dalton states that Duquesne is “a completely different character than Lalo and it’s a whole different direction.” Time will only tell what role Dalton will tackle next now that Lalo has met his fate on Better Call Saul, whether that be something completely new or a return to the MCU in a more comic-accurate depiction of Swordsman.