‘Better Call Saul’ Star Tony Dalton Breaks Down Midseason Premiere’s Climactic Ending

Lazy loaded image

[The following story contains major spoilers for Better Call Saul’s “Point and Shoot.”]

After 13 years, the story of Lalo is now complete. 

During “Better Call Saul,” Saul Goodman’s (Bob Odenkirk) debut episode on Breaking Bad, the criminal lawyer yelled the name “Lalo” in sheer terror, and ever since then, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans have wondered who Lalo is, what happened to him and why Saul blamed Ignacio (Michael Mando) for something the latter seemingly did to Lalo. Eventually, on Better Call Saul season four’s “Coushatta,” writer Gordon Smith finally introduced Tony Dalton as Lalo, and the charismatic nephew of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) was instantly a force to be reckoned with, especially for fellow drug lord Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and his long-running blood feud with the Salamanca family.

On Monday’s “Point and Shoot,” Smith’s final Saul script, the writer, along with director Vince Gilligan, answered all of the remaining Lalo questions that have been asked since 2009. Naturally, Saul was already terrified of Lalo because he witnessed him murder Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) without batting an eyelash, but he also blamed Ignacio for the massacre at Lalo’s compound because he truly had nothing to do with Gus, Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Ignacio’s attempt on Lalo’s life. Ultimately, the episode concludes with the answer surrounding Lalo’s fate, and it took a lucky shot in the dark for Gus to defeat his biggest threat until Walter White (Bryan Cranston) steps inside his fast food restaurant three-plus years from now.

For Dalton, he’s more than pleased to go out under such fluky circumstances, as opposed to losing by way of fisticuffs.

“If Gus beat Lalo at an arm-wrestling thing, I would’ve been like, ‘Damnit!’ But the lights were off and we just shot guns. Yeah, he got [Lalo], but that was just sheer luck. After Lalo dies, even Gus seems to think, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I got away with that. This guy had a gun to my face,’” Dalton tells The Hollywood Reporter.

In a recent spoiler conversation with THR, Dalton also reveals what Lalo was thinking as he smiled and laughed for the last time, and then he looks back at his emotional last day on set.

So your castmates have all received a phone call from Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould and Melissa Bernstein when it was their time to go. What were the circumstances of your call?

I appreciated that they did it. I was like, “You guys are killing me in 608?” and they all started laughing. I was like, “I thought I was going to go all the way till the end,” and they were like, “Nope! Still 608.” And I was like, “608? That’s it? That’s all you’re giving me?” So they started laughing again, and then I finally said, “I’m kidding!” I’m just thankful for the job, and I appreciate that they created this character and that I was a part of this thing, no matter how long it was. I also like having a worthy death. I’d rather have a worthy death than to have the show end without the guy dying. It’s like, “C’mon, man! Kill your villain!” 

Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca in Better Call Saul.
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

But the call was well before production started, right?

Yeah, it was before we started shooting. They called and said, “Hey listen, this is what happens, but first of all, you’re going to shit your pants over what happens before,” which ended up being Lalo killing Howard. They were really excited about it, and I was like, “Oh OK!” They were like, “Oh my god, you won’t believe what’s going to happen, and then you’re going to die.” (Laughs.) But I wanted to know how I was going to die, and they were like, “We can’t tell you.” And I was like, “C’mon, Vince! Tell me something. Anything.” And he was like, “Alright, you take a lot of motherfuckers down before you die.” And I was like, “Alright, I’ll take it! That’s good enough for me.”

Lalo had a charming smile on his face until his last breath, and I think he’s feeling triumphant since he was right about Gus in every way. So what do you think was on Lalo’s mind as he smiled and laughed for the last time?

Funnily enough, it wasn’t written that way. It was written differently. The smile part wasn’t written. [Writer] Gordon [Smith] wrote, “Lalo had his last ugly breath,” and I had a little thing about that. I was like, “What do you mean ugly breath? What are you talking about?” I was joking around, but when we were shooting, I threw out a smile in one of the shots. And then Vince went, “That’s it!” He said, “Not like that, but look at him, thinking, ‘You lucky bastard. You got away with this. I’ll see you in hell.’” Then Vince said, “The lights were off, you guys shot it out and he got you in the neck. And now you’re just smiling because [Gus] got lucky.” And I said, “Alright!” So that’s what we did, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. And then Vince went, “That’s it. Let’s do it again. Just look at him and think, ‘I’ll see you in hell, motherfucker.’” So that’s what I did! (Laughs.) 

Lalo outwitted and outsmarted Gus at every turn, but Gus prevailed with a lucky shot in the dark. Did you take comfort in the fact that Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) needed the Devil’s luck to take down Lalo?

Of course! If Gus beat Lalo at an arm-wrestling thing, I would’ve been like, “Damnit!” But the lights were off and we just shot guns. Yeah, he got me, but that was just sheer luck. After Lalo dies, even Gus seems to think, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I got away with that. This guy had a gun to my face.”

How many times did they reset your final closeup with blood spilling everywhere?

Way too many times, man. There was so much blood. I remember Vince kept saying on the speaker, “More blood! More blood!” And finally, I turned around and said, “Vince Gilligan, you are a sick man.” (Laughs.) I was like, “This is TV, man! Are you kidding me? There’s so much blood!” I was covered in it, and the dirt on the ground of the lab was completely a puddle of mud. There were hoses that kept squirting and squirting blood. I’m sure somebody has a picture of that, but I wouldn’t even get up between takes. I was like, “I’m just going to stay here. You guys do the reset and just squirt some more blood.” So we just kept going and going, and we did four or five different takes of that.

Lazy loaded image

Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin, Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca in Better Call Saul.
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

So no one in their right mind could’ve ever imagined that Lalo Salamanca and Howard Hamlin would end up sharing a grave. Did you and Patrick Fabian enjoy playing gravemates as you were lying dead next to each other?

Yeah, man. Patrick is a wonderful human being, and I never had the chance to work with him until the end. We hung out a lot because we’re all in Albuquerque, and you don’t know anybody else. So we’d go out to dinner and stuff, but I worked with everybody else except for him. So to end up with him forever is kind of romantic. (Laughs.)

Did the cast and crew give you a nice sendoff? Were there speeches and t-shirts?

There were speeches, t-shirts and tears. It really got to me. I tried to say a couple words and I broke down. Everybody was saying such nice things, and everybody showed up. Vince said some things that made me say, “Oh my god!” And Peter [Gould]. Everybody was just so nice about the whole thing. In this career, you get gigs, and some are good and some are bad. To this day, this is, for sure, the best gig I’ve ever gotten. It just had so much heart. Everybody was so kind, and I was like, “I want to work like this all the time. It’s not like this all the time.” So being able to work with these guys and hear everybody say all these nice things, it was just beautiful. It really was. 

It’s not addressed on the show, but did you assume that Lalo somehow heard about Ignacio’s death?

I don’t think so. He couldn’t care less. If he wouldn’t have died, Lalo would’ve killed Gus, and then he would’ve gone for Ignacio. He would’ve said, “Okay, now where’s this guy?” He just wanted to get the big fish first before he got back at [Ignacio]. So I don’t think he was ever really aware of Ignacio’s death.

In the earlier apartment scene, Lalo kicks Howard’s lifeless leg out of the way. Was that your choice on the day?

No, that was Vince. Vince said, “Okay, turn around and kick his leg. Give him a little kick.” And once again, I was like, “You’re a sick man, Vince Gilligan.” He’s such a sweetheart, but he’s got this evil side to him. (Laughs.) I was like, “Really? Kick his leg?” And he was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And I said, “Alright, let’s do it!”

I last spoke to you for Hawkeye, and I’ve been wondering ever since if both shows’ schedules collided. Did you have to go back and forth between Lalo and Jack?

Oh yeah! Absolutely. On Hawkeye, I had a long mustache, but then I’d show up to [Better Call Saul’s] set and be like, “I can’t cut it that much because I have to go back to the other set.” So we’d still cut it, but then again, it probably would’ve been okay because Lalo was in a sewer. So after three weeks, the mustache would grow and it ended up working perfectly [for when I’d go back to Hawkeye]. On Hawkeye, they were ready to add more mustache just in case, but it would always be two or three weeks in between the two. And whenever I’d go back to Better Call Saul, they would cut it again, and it’d grow for two or three weeks until I returned to Hawkeye. So it ended up working perfectly, and it usually doesn’t work that way. The stars aligned. 

So when Lalo called Hector (Mark Margolis) in 607, the characters didn’t know it’d be their last interaction, but you certainly knew. Thus, were you tempted to add a little something extra to Lalo’s final “love you, Tio”?

I just played it like the characters didn’t know, but I did go to the [Casa Tranquila] set to do the scene. So I was there, behind the scenes, just so Mark could hear my voice. Mark is amazing, man. We hit it off from day one, and he was one of the first guys I worked with. He was in Scarface! He once asked me, “How old are you?” And at the time, I was like, “44.” And then he went, “I was 44 when I did Scarface.” So we became good friends, and I went to the set to say goodbye to [Hector]. So the character doesn’t know it’s going to be the last goodbye, but the only heart you see from Lalo is through Hector. So I wanted to show that Lalo really, really loves this guy. For a charming, villainous character, it’s a little more profound if you can see some heart, too.

Lazy loaded image

Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca in Better Call Saul.
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Once Bob recovered from his cardiac event, you returned to set and finished up your scenes together in Kim’s apartment. Did the two of you slip back into things with ease?

Yeah! As a matter of fact, I had a couple weeks to sharpen my lines because they’d already done his side before all that happened. So I hung in there and kept doing my lines on hikes in Albuquerque. And when we came back, I was at the top of my game.

Well, Tony, I’ve been dreaming about the Lalo and Ignacio storyline for 13 years, and you brought it to life in a way that far exceeds what I imagined. Congratulations on a wonderful run and thanks for everything.

Oh man, thank you so much for saying that. That’s so sweet, man. I really appreciate it.

Better Call Saul is now airing on AMC. This interview was edited for length and clarity.