From producer’s assistant to Emmy nominated writer. These are the kinds of stories we love:
“I Broke My Boy”
by Alan Sepinwall
In show business, it’s often better to be lucky than good. “Better Call Saul“ writer Gordon Smith has been both.
Vince Gilligan’s assistant for the latter half of “Breaking Bad” — a job he got in part because a friend of a friend was on the “BB” writing staff — Smith was promoted to full-time writer when Gilligan, Peter Gould and company moved on to “Saul,” then wound up with the best possible assignment for the prequel’s first season: “Five-O,” the episode that detailed the tragic story of how Mike Ehrmantraut came to leave his job as a Philly cop and move to Albuquerque. It got Smith the show’s lone Emmy nomination for writing for its first season, and could well getJonathan Banks the acting Emmy he never won on “Breaking Bad.”
I spoke with Smith a few minutes ago about the experience of being a first-time nominee, making the adjustment from writers assistant to writer, the origin of Mike’s memorable “I BROKE MY BOY!” exclamation, and a lot more.
Were you expecting this? “Five-O” was one of the most celebrated episodes of TV this season, but was a nomination even in your imagination before today?
Gordon Smith: Not really. People were saying, “No, no, maybe you will.” I was terrified at the prospect. I’m still a little terrified. It was kind of overwhelming, really. I was not expecting it. My reaction was kind of shock. Pretty much shock.
Vince is among the nicest and most magnanimous people in his position in the business, but you did get the show’s only writing nomination. Has there been any tension today at the office, or is everyone just happy for you?
Gordon Smith: Honestly, our assistants and our team here has decorated the office. If there’s tension, they’re hiding it from me. We often will say, “It’s a team sport.” Writing for TV is a team sport, so no, I think everyone has a good amount of ownership and pride in all of the episodes. I hope that they all feel that. I haven’t seen anyone coming for me with the knife yet. But you never see it coming.
How did you get the job at “Breaking Bad”?
Gordon Smith: I was very lucky. My friend from film school Nicole Phillips, who’s writing on “The Blacklist” now, was also friends with (“Breaking Bad” writer) Genni Hutchison, who helped get my name in front of people. I’d gotten out of film school about eight months beforehand, I was out of work. I loved the show, she put me forward, and I was able to bamboozle them into hiring me on. They said, “This guy’s not a horrible person to be around.” I was an office PA starting in season 3, with the idea that I would be filling in in the writers office. I became the writers PA and Vince’s assistant in season 4, and the writers assistant in season 5.