Better Call Saul actor Michael Mando, who plays Nacho, calls his character’s change an antithesis to Scarface, which took him by surprise.
Better Call Saul‘s Nacho actor Michael Mando describes his character change as “beautiful” and says that the way Nacho develops as a character is the antithesis to Scarface. As Better Call Saul gears up for its final season, Nacho – a character many didn’t expect to make it this far – plays a key role as he continues to assist Gus in taking the Salamanca family down.
Nacho debuted in Better Call Saul season 1 but was initially mentioned in the show’s predecessor, Breaking Bad. From the start, he can be compared to Scarface aka Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in many ways. He is a smart and diligent member of a prominent drug family, which earned him the respect of the cartel leader. However, he also differs from Scarface. Unlike Scarface, Nacho is a high-ranking member of the Salamanca family with significant influence. A series of good luck and smart choices right from season 1 put him at a top position in the cartel. However, when Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) involves Nacho’s father in their business, he makes choices that jeopardize his position as cartel leader. Nacho is determined to leave the cartel even if it means taking down the entire drug syndicate in New Mexico. The final straw is when he participates in an assassination attempt on Lalo (Tony Dalton) who, unknown to Nacho, survives.
Mando spoke to Screen Rant revealing that Nacho’s character change took him by surprise. The actor described the depiction of Nacho in the Better Call Saul season 5 finale as a big contrast from his portrayal in season 1 as the big, bad wolf. While he played the devil’s advocate throughout the series, he also portrayed unexpected humanity. Mando stated:
I was surprised about how definitively Nacho’s archetype changed. It really is an unbelievable character, and I never thought in a million years that the character was going to have such a romance to him. it’s truly an iconic, classic character in the sense that it’s the antithesis to Scarface. He gets everything he wants at the beginning of the show. He gets a promotion, he becomes the most powerful cartel guy in New Mexico, and he becomes Hector Salamanca at the end of the season.
That’s the promotion – you’re going to run all of New Mexico, and you’re going to meet with Gus face to face as a jefe. And he turns all that down for the love of his father; for no money, for no fame, no power, nothing. Just love. And he doesn’t have to. He can stay in the cartel; there’s nothing stopping him from continuing. His life is not in danger if he stays; there’s nobody trying to assassinate him. He can easily say, “I’m going to stay here, and I’m going to rule the cartel and be a big boss,” and he decides to turn it all down.
Many fans have long expected Nacho would die during the course of Better Call Saul, considering his close brushes with death. It’s possible that Nacho’s fate was revealed in Breaking Bad, which may have eliminated the possibility of his death. Though his fate is still unclear, it’s unlike Scarface’s inevitable end. Nacho’s longevity in Better Call Saul can be attributed to the fact that he did everything Scarface didn’t. He spared the lawyer, he has powerful allies, and he doesn’t anger the wrong people.
The underdog who hits the jackpot then throws it all away for love is a story as old as time, but it almost never happens in drug cartels. Nacho became a sympathetic character and an unexpected hero in a series where good guys are a rare sight. Better Call Saul isn’t about heroes and saving the world, yet Nacho managed to emerge as one. Unlike Nacho, Tony Montana would have stopped at nothing to become the cartel leader. Though Nacho is no angel, he selflessly sacrificed power and money for the sake of love, making him the anti-Scarface.