It’s lucky that Jim O’Heir is a Cinnabon fan — since his “Better Call Saul” guest-starring role required him to scarf down scads of the mega-sugary cinnamon rolls.
“They brought in 100 fresh [Cinnabons] each day,” O’Heir told The Post. “One day, after one of the takes, I went to my little break area and a medic comes up and says, ‘Hi, Jim, I’m going to check to make sure your blood-sugar levels aren’t getting out of hand.’ I did end up eating a lot of them … it was so important to the storyline that the director [Michelle MacLaren] got on the phone with me before I flew to Albuquerque [to shoot the episode] to talk about it. They wanted [my character] to be so meticulous about Cinnabons like, ‘You live every bite.’ They sent me a box of Cinnabons so I was rehearsing cutting them before I even left for New Mexico.”
The episode, “Nippy,” aired Monday night (in black-and-white) and flashed forward to Saul Goodman’s (Bob Odenkirk) post-“Breaking Bad” life as Gene Takavic, he of the bad mustache, who’s now managing a Cinnabon franchise in an Omaha shopping mall.
Gene, in typical Saul Goodman fashion, plans a mall robbery to short-circuit a potential blackmailing scheme by Jeff (Pat Healey), a local hard-luck cab driver who lives with his elderly mother, Marion (guest star Carol Burnett). Jeff knows Gene/Saul from Albuquerque and could blow the whistle on his past — so Gene gets him into “the game” to earn him some quick cash and throw him off the scent.
The biggest element of Gene’s plan: diverting the attention of the mall’s amiable night-security chief, Frank (O’Heir), through meaningless conversation — and winning his trust with daily deliveries of Cinnabon sweets.
“I had a spit bucket, but there were some takes where I was talking and eating and I couldn’t spit it out,” O’Heir said. “Bob [Odenkirk] … who I know a little from the old days in Chicago … was saying to me, ‘Dude, if you have to just stop and spit it out.’ There were a lot of Cinnabons consumed and they’re delicious, especially that creamy, whatever-the-hell thing is that goes on it.”
O’Heir and Odenkirk shot their scenes on a soundstage, where a set was built to replicate the mall’s security headquarters. That bank of television screens that Frank turns around to check — after finishing that night’s cinnamon roll in about three minutes, according to Gene’s wristwatch timer — was not always there during shooting.
“They mostly put them in afterward in post-production but sometimes we had them on the set,” O’Heir said. “In general they were still figuring out where things would be [and] where Bob would be looking. I thought it was very confusing and I was impressed by how they figured it all out.”
O’Heir said that, on the days the monitors were there, he got to watch as Jeff pulled off his mall heist and took a calamitous spill that knocked him out cold and threatened to derail the robbery — a scene shot over many takes, each time with Healey slipping and falling.
“When I first got there [to shoot the episode], I had drinks in a bar with Pat Healey, who directed me in a film a couple of years ago. I know him from Chicago,” he said. “He goes, ‘I’ve never been so tired’ and explained what he’d been doing all day.”
O’Heir said he didn’t know that Burnett was also in the episode (they don’t share any scenes) until he arrived for his first day of work.
“I got to the set to get hair, makeup and wardrobe … and I went over to meet [McLaren] and she said ‘Do you know who’s here today?’ I hadn’t seen the call sheet and there was no one else I knew besides Bob,” said O’Heir.
“So I look over and there, and on this little scooter for the scene, is Carol Burnett. I don’t even know how to describe it; according to others who were there, I got watery eyes and stepped away from what was happening. I kinda blacked out in disbelief, in a way. They introduced me and she was so gracious; she made sure I didn’t make a fool of myself, like I did when I met Mary Tyler Moore, and [Burnett] told me a Clark Gable story about a party. My brain was spinning.
“I’ve worked a lot and met a lot of amazing people but there are certain people who are above-and-beyond for me, and she’s at the top of the heap,” he said. “We kind of hit it off, and that makes me more excited than anything. It was personal and it touched my heart.”