Q&A with Michael Mando

The Better Call Saul actor on his breakout character and why he doesn’t listen to music at the gym.

One of the breakout characters on Better Call Saul (the spin-off of AMC’s Breaking Bad) is Nacho, a calculating and intelligent criminal played by Michael Mando. We haven’t seen Nacho for a few episodes, but he’s set to make an explosive return in the season one finale (airing Monday April 6). We had a chat with Mando (you might also recognize him from the BBC series Orphan Black), who maintains a pretty healthy lifestyle. Here's what we learned about the 33-year-old up-and-coming star:

What’s a typical workout for you?
I try to go to the gym and I walk everywhere. I like to do circuit training. So I’ll focus on major muscle groups on one day and try to keep my heart rate up and incorporate plyometrics in between. And lately, I’ve taken an interest in biking. I bought a really nice speed bike, so I clip myself in and take these long rides by the ocean. There’s an adrenaline rush and that really nice feeling of the wind hitting your face. It’s really meditative for me.

Favorite healthy meal?
Grilled salmon with quinoa and hot green tea.

Favorite unhealthy meal?
I would say thin crust vegetarian pizza.

That’s still pretty healthy.
It is. But I have to say that when I get that, it’s usually a night when I got out and maybe go to a movie and eat popcorn and chocolate. I’ll just go off the deep end. But as you get older, you have less cheat days. You can’t completely binge.

How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?
The gym, walking and biking are my main things. Eating healthy and clean is very important to me. The body, mind and soul are all related, so meditation and yoga is good for me. Disconnecting from technology is also very grounding for me. Hitting all those aspects helps me feel balanced.

Favorite song to work out to right now?
It’s funny, I’ve recently been going to the gym without music and I’ve been focusing on my breathing. It’s something I just started doing, leaving my iPod at home. I think because my schedule has been sort of crazy, I’ve been trying to use the gym as a place to get away from any mental distractions.

Has it made a difference?
Yeah, it’s turned the gym into a very focused, meditative experience for me. Right now, where I am in my life with the craziness of the show [Better Call Saul], I’ve found it to be very helpful. I now go to the gym to relax.

Speaking of the show, what’s it like playing a villain?
I think all actors would have the same response. We don’t like to think of our characters as good or bad. I think what’s interesting about Nacho is his level of ambition, his intelligence, patience and his courage. This is a guy who was told that he’d always be a peasant in life and he says, “No, I’m a king.”

You’re lucky that he has such a catchy name.
Nacho! Yeah, that’s a big thanks to Vince [Gilligan, the show’s creator]. These guys are really brilliant and they write these amazing three-dimensional characters, and I feel very lucky to be a part of their imagination.

And if the show is on the air long enough, I’m sure some restaurant will name a nacho dish after you.
[Laughs] That would be interesting. I would wonder what would be in it. Hopefully something healthy. It might be premature to make that dish now, though. Maybe by the end of season two, we’ll know more about this character.