Bob Odenkirk says he might not be alive today if not for the quick thinking of his colleagues at Better Call Saul — including his co-stars Rhea Seehorn and Patrick Fabian.
Odenkirk collapsed on-set in Albuquerque last July 27 while shooting the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul. He described the harrowing experience on a recent episode of The Al Franken Podcast, in which they also described meeting for the first time when both worked on Saturday Night Live in the 1980s.
Odenkirk told Franken that on the day he collapsed, much of the cast and crew were spread out due to COVID precautions.
“I was very lucky because we were in the studio…. COVID protocols kept everyone far from each other, which might have been dangerous, but it would have been far more dangerous if we’d been on location or if I’d gone to my trailer. I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be talking — there’d be no season — because I would have died.”
He said that Seehorn and Fabian were very close by and saw him fall.
“They ran right over to me,” Odenkirk said. “They started yelling, because Rhea said I turned blue right away, like within seconds I was turning blue and gray. They started screaming. People were very far away, because it’s a huge modern studio.”
At first there was some confusion about what was happening, and then, Odenkirk says, a medic appeared.
“I’ll just say it was his first day as a medic. And he lost his shit a little bit,” Odenkirk told Franken. “His jaw dropped and he kind of froze.”
Fortunately, others were able to help, including another medic named Rosa Estrada, Odenkirk said.
“Rhee and Patrick continued to yell and slap me and shit,” he told Franken. “And eventually, some of the crew wandered over — not too long — and they went and got Rosa Estrada, and Angie Meyer, who was the [assistant director], and Rosa Estrada was a medic. She’d served a tour with the Army and she ran out from her office and started CPR. Total pro, crazy pro — did it just right. She’s done it before.”
Estrada had an AED, or automated external defibrillator, in her car, and rushed to get it. In the meantime, he said, Meyer took over CPR.
When Estrada returned, she used the AED on Odenkirk. The device administers an electric shock to restore a normal heart rhythm, but the first two shocks didn’t work.
“It took me three shots to come back to steady rhythm, which is a lot, and if anything was the most scary point,” Odenkirk said. “After the second defibrillation that didn’t work, people were pretty sure it was over. So luckily the third one worked.”
The next morning, he underwent a surgery to inset two stents, via his wrist.
Odenkirk couldn’t resist a joke about the ordeal.
“I was told later the safest place to have a heart attack is a casino or airport because they have AEDs everywhere,” he said. “Plan your next heart attack at the Morongo Casino.”
Odenkirk said he rested for five weeks and that when he returned, the show committed to keeping his shoot days to no more than 12 hours. He said both Franken and another old SNL friend, Triumph the Insult Dog creator Robert Smigel, lectured him about the importance of slowing down and taking care of himself.
“You and Robert did me a great service by giving me the same lecture on two different phone calls with great emphasis and gussto uncertainty and it meant a lot to hear,” said Odenkirk, 59. “It helped me a lot.”
Better Call Saul, which just wrapped the first half of the final season, will return in July.
Main image: Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman and Rhee Seahorn as Kim Wexler on Better Call Saul.