Why Cliff From Better Call Saul Looks So Familiar

Clifford "Cliff" Main isn't one of the biggest recurring characters on the "Breaking Bad" spinoff "Better Call Saul," but fans will still recognize him as one of the many lawyers on the series who unwisely gives Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) a chance.

A partner in the prestigious Santa Fe law firm Davis & Main, in Season 2 of the series, Cliff hires Jimmy to work for him, even showing the untrustworthy lawyer the guitar he plays to "blow off steam." Jimmy, however, sours the opportunity: He produces a commercial to attract new clients, and though it succeeds, the partners are outraged. Finally, bored with his role, he deliberately provokes Cliff into firing him instead of quitting so he can keep a company bonus. Afterwards, Cliff appears only briefly on the show in Seasons 4 and 5.

Savvy viewers will likely know the actor who plays Cliff from his astounding 300-plus acting credits on IMDb, even if they can't recall his name. He's appeared in Seth Rogen action comedies, a famous medical drama, and famously in many Christopher Guest mockumentaries. Here are some of the highlights in the career of the great Ed Begley Jr.

Begley Jr. began largely as a guest star on network TV

The son of Oscar-winning actor Ed Begley (per Rolling Stone), Ed Begley Jr. partially grew up in the shadow of Hollywood. He grew up in Lewiston, New York before eventually moving to California with his family (via Eden Magazine).

Begley Jr. quickly got into the family business but later admitted to The A.V. Club: "I had no idea what was involved. I had all the wrong ideas about acting....I had no idea you had to train and work the way you do in any craft." He quickly learned though, and his first credit was a small role on "My Three Sons" in 1967. He also appeared in two Kurt Russell films for Disney, though he was only a featured extra. 

Over the years, he racked up credits in several hit '70s and '80s television series, including "Wonder Woman," "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," and "M*A*S*H," while appearing in eclectic films like "The In-Laws" and "Cockfighter" (via IMDb). Referring to this period in his career, Begley Jr. told The A.V. Club: "I did quite a few pilots. I kissed a lot of frogs over the years, but not many princes. Not until 1982."

In 1982, Begley Jr. was cast in the series which would change his career for good.

He got his big break on St. Elsewhere

After playing two different small speaking parts on the show, Ed Begley Jr. became a regular on the hit medical drama "St. Elsewhere" as the insolent, arrogant Dr. Victor Ehrlich. The self-declared Californian was disliked by his colleagues, but his character slowly matured over the course of six seasons, even getting married at the end of Season 5. Begley Jr. loved playing the Berkeley-educated doctor and called his time on the set "wonderful" (via The A.V. Club). 

Even when he was a regular cast member, Begley Jr. continued working outside the "St. Elsewhere" set until the controversial series finale aired in 1988. He made his first appearance in a Christopher Guest mockumentary when he played the unfortunate drummer "Stumpy" in 1984's "This Is Spinal Tap" while also racking up other film credits in "Streets of Fire," "Transylvania 6-5000," and "The Accidental Tourist" (per IMDb).

By 1988, Begley Jr. had become a great character actor of both television and film, even scoring several Emmy nominations for "St. Elsewhere" (per Emmys). As noted in The Eden Magazine, his environmental activism sometimes overshadowed his talent, but the next several decades proved his acting versatility.

Begley Jr. has a recurring role on Young Sheldon

Though Ed Begley Jr. has appeared in dramas since "St. Elsewhere," including the HBO cult classic "Six Feet Under," by the 2000s he had become better known as a comedic actor. Becoming part of a loose acting troupe for Christopher Guest's improvisational mockumentaries, over several years he appeared in the critically acclaimed "Best In Show," "A Mighty Wind," and "For Your Consideration" (per IMDb).

Younger viewers, however, may know him best from his role as the menacing Robert in the stoner action comedy "Pineapple Express," or from "Arrested Development," where he played Stan Sitwell, the hair-challenged Bluth competitor on both the original series and the Netflix revival. He's also currently a recurring character on the "Big Bang Theory" prequel sitcom "Young Sheldon" as Dr. Linkletter.

Begley Jr. is currently 72 and noted in a recent interview with Screen Binge that he has worked in his chosen field for 54 years now. Really though, he mostly feels lucky to "still be working ... at this point in my life and doing projects that I enjoy." Having enjoyed his roles for over half a century, film and television audiences couldn't agree more.