Better Call Saul will be Bob Odenkirk’s first lead drama role, but he says he played the sleazy-lawyer character in Breaking Bad as if it had been the star.

Odenkirk is about to start work on Better Call Saul, the spin-off series featuring the eccentric criminal lawyer Saul Goodman, who was a supporting character in Breaking Bad.

“I play every character as though it’s the lead,” says Odenkiri, “as far as I am concerned, Breaking Bad IS about the sleazy lawyer.”

Breaking Bad, which ran for five seasons until 2013, turned Odenkirk’s career on its head.

From being a comic writer and producer who could act, Odenkirk is now viewed as an actor who can write and produce.

“People (in the industry) knew me before, but the one thing Breaking Bad has done is that it made me grow as an actor,” Odenkirk says.

“I got better working in that environment and working with those scripts and it gave me the confidence and it’s proof to the people in the front office that I can act.”

The 51-year-old says he rarely gets time to throw himself into writing these days, because so many roles keep coming his way.

In the past two years Odenkirk has appeared in more than a dozen movies or TV series, and will start filming soon on Better Call Saul.

He recently finished shooting the Coen Brother’s black comedy TV series Fargo, which is based on the 1996 movie of the same name. It will screen here on SBS.

Odenkirk says some people know him only as an actor, but writing and producing were his bread-and-butter for more than two decades.

He thinks being in the shadows for so long worked in his favour, by allowing him to develop his acting skills without too much expectation or pressure.

“I’ve been allowed, because of my lack of success as actor, to build this career kind of slowly and it’s allowed me to do different things and take on different roles and not be typecast.”

Odenkirk’s writing credits include The Birthday Boys, a comedy series which has yet to be released here, Saturday Night Live and The Ben Stiller Show.

He has written comedy for TV since 1992. In October he will release A Load Of Hooey, a book of comic short stories that he penned during his downtime on Breaking Bad.

Odenkirk expects there will be little opportunity to moonlight when shooting for Better Call Saul begins in May.

“That’s going to be a lot of work,” he says.

“I’ve been able to mix it up – act, write, produce and direct – but I am going to have to focus on acting for the entire five months of filming.”

Fargo launches on Thursday, May 1 at 9.30pm on SBS One.