(Note: This story contains major spoilers for the Aug. 26 episode of “Breaking Bad.”)
“I knew about nine months ago. I knew before we even started shooting this season,” Banks tells Zap2it of Mike Ehrmantraut’s death at the end of Sunday’s (Aug. 26) episode after an enraged, then regretful, Walt (Bryan Cranston) shoots him. “We were at Aaron [Paul]‘s engagement party, and Sony still hadn’t made my deal. So I said to [creator Vince Gilligan] — he was talking to somebody about the caterer, and I said, ‘Can you quit talking about the hors d’oeuvres and let’s take care of my life here?’
“So I knew way in advance. I didn’t like it …” he adds with a laugh.
Banks says that at times it was tough knowing Mike’s fate, especially as he saw this season of “Breaking Bad” play out: “When you get there and get the first script, and then you get the second script, you see they’re being so good to my character as far as bringing it along. I’m going, ‘Oh man, this is painful. I don’t want to end this. And I love Mike. You know what? I love Mike.”
Mike came very close several times this season to ending a problem, but pulled back each time. Banks says the character’s atypical reluctance to pull the trigger (literally, in several cases) came from several places, including the fact that “Vince controls the pen.”
“The writers control the pen. If Jonathan controlled the pen, Lydia [Laura Fraser] would have been shot in the head,” Banks says. “It goes back to Season 3 and the ‘half measures’ speech. Anybody who’s been watching the show is going to look at that and go, ‘Uh, that’s a half measure’ — which indeed it was. Listen — the reality is these writers have given me one of the greatest characters ever. Bug you’re going to kill him, he’s gotta make some mistakes.”
Mike’s mistakes were rooted in concern for his granddaughter, Kaylee, and his currently imprisoned crew. “He’s loyal to his guys,” Banks says. “He’s true to his word.”
Banks can’t pick out a particular story or episode as a favorite for the character — “Mike had so many good moments” — but he does recall the filming of Season 4’s “Shotgun,” which features Mike and Jesse (Paul) driving all over New Mexico making dead drops. as especially enjoyable.
“I think probably as far as fun, Aaron and I riding around in the car — I don’t know if we could have laughed any harder. That was great.”
The 2012 finale of “Breaking Bad” airs Sunday (Sept. 2) on AMC.