Jeremiah Bitsui Talks Shoe Shines, Ninjas, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Better Call Saul’
Jeremiah Bitsui (Navajo/Omaha) was one of the stars of the wildly successful television series, Breaking Bad, and appeared on Better Call Saul.
Jeremiah Bitsui (Navajo/Omaha) is one of the stars of the wildly successful television series, Breaking Bad, and later appeared on the successful offshoot, Better Call Saul. With an Instagram feed that displays photos from around the country and the world, Jeremiah Bitsui is a man who travels often for his career in film.
Bitsui could be having business meetings on Monday in Europe sipping a cappuccino, eating popcorn on a plane flight on Wednesday, and be eating a mutton sandwich on the Navajo reservation while wearing a hardhat on a jobsite on Friday.
All this while waiting for his call time for the upcoming season of Better Call Saul.
Jeremiah Bitsui is pleasant and polite Native man who exudes a quiet confidence to put anyone around him at ease. He calls nearly everyone brother.
He exchanges pleasantries at the coffeehouse store counter and begins telling stories before I even have a chance to turn on my audio recorder. I suggest moving to the back patio where I can hear him better.
“I grew up in a rodeo family, and my mom was a barrel racer, trick rider and Miss Teenage America. My dad was a bareback rider. They thought they were gonna have the badass quintessential cowboy.
Jeremiah Bitsui chuckles at the memory. “But I was allergic to pretty much everything: horses, hay; anything that had to do with rodeo. So that’s how I got into film.”
He told me he had a fondness for action and martial arts movies when he was a boy.
“We had a rent-a-flick back in Chinle. Rent-a-Flick was our little video store. I watched every movie in there. In the summers and spring, I couldn’t go out very much because of my allergies.”
“My favorite movies when I was five were ninja movies. A japanese film crew came into town looking for horses. I kept showing up doing karate kicks and dressing like a ninja, thinking they were doing a ninja movie. Mom was like, ‘no they are doing a movie on kids like you from the rez.’”
Jeremiah Bitsui says he learned the art of thriftiness and investing in business ventures at a young age too.
“I was always wanting the newest toy. One day mom said, I’m going to give you thirty dollars. You can either spend it or you can invest it in your own (shoe shine) kit at the rodeos.”
Bitsui started by shining his mother’s shoes for extra pocket money. From there Bitsui shined shoes traveling across the country with his parents on the rodeo circuit. “I wanted to go to rodeos because I was making money.”
Then he says he was bit by the rodeo bug in his pre-teen years..
“We went overseas to a rodeo in Europe and I started trick roping. We went to Helsinki, Finland, Paris. I opened up. I learned how to trick rope in Paris from a guy by the name of J.W. Stoker at the age of 12.”
“I took that money and rolled it into acting classes, When I was 13, I got my first audition and that was Natural Born Killers.”
At 19, in the midst of seeking his acting career, Bitsui wasn’t one to just sit and wait, he also started his first company, “Youth impacting Youth’, doing workshops for Native youth in need of guidance and direction. “That’s really what supported me through college.”
Bitsui moved to L.A. and attended Santa Monica College. While in college, he continued to work in film whenever possible. Smoke Signals director, Chris Eyre, gave him a call to star in a short film for the National Museum of the American Indian titled A Thousand Roads.
The short was an adaptation of Bitsui’s own life story so it made perfect sense to cast him. Bitsui went on to work in three more productions that year.
Playing the role of Victor in Breaking Bad and later on in Better Call Saul became a huge opportunity.
Bitsui loves the success of his role, but credits the professionalism of Breaking Bad writers.
“They take into detail everything. They know fans will screenshot everything. As a fan, I loved their writing.”
While Bitsui says he regularly attended the premieres, he’d never watched the complete shows until the final season. For his fan base, right before he participated in a Reddit, Ask Me Anything, he binge watched all of the seasons in two weeks so he could answer fan questions.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed with these opportunities. I just want to continue to make good work.” says Bitsui.
“There’s a sliver of glamour; the majority of it is not.”