An interview with Better Call Saul writer MARION DAYRE

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Hi, Marion, let’s start with a brief background and how you got into writing. From LA? Move to LA? Did you study writing? Did you always want to be a writer? Etc.

I'm from Superior, Nebraska. It's little. We got a stoplight when I was a Sophomore but it only lasted a couple years, now it's a stop sign again. I studied biochemistry and thought I would be a mortician like my dad, uncle, and grandpa -- or a pediatric orthopedic surgeon like the one who helped my brother. I didn't think writing was a real job. I read everything I could get my hands on, and wrote from the time I learned how. I always thought it would be a hobby, like handstands or something. When I realized I wanted to be a writer, I got the only writing job in Nebraska I could find -- a journalist for the railroad. I did that for a few years and it was rad. I wanted to move into scripting and knew I needed to be better and I needed to move to do it. I moved to LA, got work, and got my MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA.

How long were you writing before you got your first staff writing gig? How many TV Pilots and Spec Scripts have you written and did you apply for any networking programs or screenwriting contests in that time?

Years. Years and years. I started writing as a teen and got my first staff job in 2015. I've written two specs, mostly pilots and features. I've been rejected from lots of fellowships and labs. I was accepted into the inaugural Sundance Episodic Writers Lab in 2014 with an original pilot I first wrote in grad school.

You worked as a writer’s assistant on shows like the United States of Tara, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Goldbergs. How did those gigs come about? How long did you work as a writer’s assistant before getting staffed? What was the most valuable lesson you learned as a writers’ assistant?

First I interned, and I became the best intern in the office. Then I became an assistant, and became the best assistant that boss had ever had. I didn't ask for favors, I didn't complain, and I owned my mistakes when I made them. I was WA on Better Call Saul for two seasons. The second season I co-wrote the finale with Vince Gilligan. The most valuable lesson I learned as WA was to be the absolute best WA I could be (look for opportunities to make the writers' jobs easier), and I was generous with the opportunities I shared with other assistants. If you don't treat the people AT YOUR LEVEL well, you will not go far.

You’ve been involved with Better Call Saul since its inception, working originally as a writer’s assistant and script coordinator, then as a writer, story editor and executive story editor on 2020’s Season. Can you talk about climbing the ladder in the TV world? What’s the process of going from writer’s assistant to newbie staff writer to producer level?

A lot of hard work, and generous people like Genny Hutchison and Gordon Smith who had done my job before me, taught me, and were kind and talented people for me to look up to. That, and asking for help when I fell into the dark hole of Imposter Syndrome. It took me too long to believe that I deserved to be there.

How was it for you to go from the writer’s room of half-hour comedy like Curb Your Enthusiasm to hour-long drama series like Better Call Saul? Is the writing process very different?

Curb is written VERY differently from BCS. Every show is, not just genre to genre but show to show within dramatic or comedic series. It all depends on what works best for that show, for that group, for that showrunner.

Is there a fun or interesting anecdote that happened in any of the writers’ rooms you would love to share?

From riding around in Vince's helicopter to sharing a day with Bill Hader to breaking story with Jeff Garlin, Larry David, and Charlie Hunnam... plus getting pickles from Patrick Fabian every year -- writers' rooms are chock full of anecdotes but also protected by cones of silences. They have to be the safest places on earth so we can all get vulnerable and real. I'll tell you more over coffee!

Have you met any actors or actresses from the shows you worked on? For example Larry David or Bob Odenkirk? Who was your favorite? Did you learn anything from them?

All of them! I learned so much from every one. I tell them each why they're my favorite, and I mean it!

How has your writing process evolved over time?

With more reading, more training, more education, and more work on different shows, I've been able to find my voice, lean into my vulnerabilities, find real, layered, compassionate characters, trust them to make their own decisions (rather than me making their decisions for them), learn what to do (and NOT do as a leader), and most importantly, I've learned how to trust myself (most of the time). I used to think my ideas needed to be perfect before sharing them. Now I can say "Hey here's the w