Bob Odenkirk brings 'Lucky Hank' to ornery life in new AMC dramedy
Hank Devereaux Jr. is a man who is stuck.
As played by Naperville native Bob Odenkirk in the half-hour dramedy "Lucky Hank," premiering at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 19, on AMC and AMC+, he's the chairman of the English department at Railton College, a badly underfunded school in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt.
Like his employer, which he calls "mediocrity's capital," Hank is also struggling. He's not really happy with academia nor his department and his position in it, and his do-nothing approach seems to scream "fire me." But he has people who care about him, especially wife Lily (Mireille Enos), who truly loves this curmudgeon and is entertained by his antics. But that doesn't hold true for everyone.
We meet Hank as he's delivering a spirit-crushing critique to a spoiled student, which gets the attention of school administration. With his chairmanship and ultimately his job now in jeopardy, Hank appears outwardly happy about the prospect of being forced to move on. But is he?
The eight episode series was created by Paul Lieberstein ("The Office") and Aaron Zelman ("Silicon Valley") from the novel "Straight Man" by Richard Russo and features a tour-de-force performance by Odenkirk, who found the character to be a complete and welcome departure from his "Better Call Saul" role of shady lawyer Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman.
"While he's a curmudgeon," the actor explains, "he is like a lot of curmudgeons -- kind of beloved for the way he's a crab. Like his wife finds it funny, people find him funny. They don't take it seriously and they get a laugh out of it, and he knows they get a laugh out of it, so he knows he can kind of indulge this crabby side of himself and everyone will just go, 'Oh, that's Hank. That's funny. Just laugh at it.'
"And he has a daughter, they fight like crazy, but they love each other. And he has a wife, they've been together for like 25, 26 years and they love each other. So I loved playing a character who was funny, smart, good with language and had love around him and a life worth saving. So that really appealed to me an awful lot, and for me made the character so fundamentally different from Jimmy McGill."
But like Jimmy, Hank is a complicated guy with an estrangement in his life, in his case his much more successful father Hank Sr., a renowned film critic, which haunts him and is a relationship the series will explore.
"There's an emptiness inside him that he's very afraid of," Odenkirk says, "afraid of feeling it, afraid of thinking about it, but it's very present. It drives him in a lot of ways."