Bryan Cranston on season 3 of 'Breaking Bad'
by Fred Topel - March 23, 2010 - craveonline.com
The Paley Center for Media included a panel on AMC’s Breaking Bad as part of their PaleyFest2010 series of events. They screened the first episode of season three, which premieres March 21. You can also get the DVD and Blu Ray of Season Two to catch up. We caught a few quotes from series star Bryan Cranston first on the red carpet, and then in the panel discussion.
Q: What should we expect coming up this season?
Bryan Cranston: What I think is very courageous of what he’s done is that the conceit was that Walt knew that if this news ever got out of what he was doing, if his wife ever found out, game over. He would lose everything. That’s what he’s trying to keep and maintain, the core of his family together. In the first episode of the third season, she finds out through and educated guess. From that point on, it spins even further out of control.
Q: How far removed are we not from where you originally thought you’d be in season three?
Bryan Cranston: It feels like we’re a little bit past where I thought we were. When I knew that this was going to change from the very beginning to the end, I knew we were going to change characters from a nice guy, sweet guy to becoming a drug kingpin. I don't know, where is that center? How quickly does he change? It’s a little quicker than I thought it was going to change and at first I started resisting it, but then just trusting him [Vince Gilligan], you let it go and let him take you away. It’s a big trust exercise.
Q: Have you been able to adapt easily along the way?
Bryan Cranston: I suppose so because initially, your own personality steps in and when you read something that’s not very favorable that someone does, you go, “Oh, God, he’s very selfish” or “God, he’s mean to her.” Then you go [inhales] take it back, go with it and allow yourself to be those things. Allow, and that’s what Walt is going through now. He’s starting to go through a period where he needs to accept himself for who he really is and who he’s becoming.
Q: Where did you find those two actors who play the hitmen in the first episode back?
Bryan Cranston: They came through casting in Los Angeles, Daniel and Luis [Moncada], they’re brothers. One had never acted before in his life, which is Danny. Luis has but not as much. He didn’t have as much experience but these guys are the real guys. They have had an opportunity to turn their lives around. We had to cover up some tattoos. Any gang related things we have to cover up, but the tattoos are phenomenal to look at. They’re very visual. On Luis’s eyelids are two words, f*** you. I said to him, “Wow, did that hurt getting that on there?” He said, “No, what hurt was the spoon they had to put underneath the eyelid in order to engrave the tattoo on.”
If you can go through that, I know you’re not going to flinch when I blow up this truck. But they’re great, sweet guys. They have found a new purpose in life and they found a home. When a guest cast member leaves or it’s their last shot of the series, there’s an announcement made by one of the Ads and a round of applause, appreciation for their talents and efforts on the show. Of course we did that for both of them separately, and both of them cried. I called them p*ssies. No, they’re absolutely very sweet guys and they play a very, very important role coming up.
Q: And they really didn’t flinch when you blew up the truck.
Bryan Cranston: Because I threatened them. I did, I told them not to. I said, “We can only explode one truck. If you flinch, it screws me completely. You cannot flinch.”
So we did a test of it in a drum, a steel drum and I put them, I think they had to be 60 feet away from it. Although, on this shot we used a long lens which compresses the distance so it looks like they were closer. The order to blow up the truck was really given to the special effects guy. We put a line in the sand and he was watching when Luis was out on the far left of the screen. When Luis got to that point, he was able to blow it. I told the guy, “When you see that line and you pass it, it’s going to go. No flinching.” I can’t imagine reshooting that. That would’ve been terrible. So they did it and I told Danny too, I said, “Danny, when you’re walking away, if you think of it and you’re calm, just pull that cigarette back up. Just a nice casual drag as if you’re walking through the park.” This was the guy who’d never acted before. He did a wonderful job. He did it.
Q: Will we see Bob Odenkirk again?
Bryan Cranston: What I love about his character is he’s justifiably nonchalant. He’s laissez faire. Walt and Jesse come in and were angst ridden, tight and he’s like, “Ha ha, drug dealer getting shot, been known to happen.” It’s important for his character because his stakes are not the same as my character or Jesse. You have a wonderful juxtaposition between the energies playing really, really well. We’ve got some fun stuff coming up with Bob.
Q: Was it fun directing an episode again?
Bryan Cranston: Fun in retrospect. There are fun moments but it’s almost like you don’t have time to think of how fun this is, for me anyway. I think really seasoned directors can just sit back and know what they want. I’m constantly thinking, “Am I going to forget something?”
For some reason, it always feels like your AD comes up and whispers in your ear, “We’re behind, we’ve got to move it.” I just started. Are you kidding me? It’s a time crunch and you’re hitting 14 hours a day. You want to shoot for 12 hours a day but you’re probably there for 14. I go home and then I do homework for the next day, so I’m up for 18 hours working.
Q: You’re shooting John Carter of Mars. Even though you don’t get to go to Mars, is that an important part of the story?
Bryan Cranston: It’s fantastic. Andrew Stanton is terrific. Taylor Kitsch is a great young actor and I’m having a great time doing it.
Q: When you read the Breaking Bad scripts, what shocks you?
Bryan Cranston: For me, when I first read the first page of the pilot script. It read just like you saw. Opened up on a beautiful setting, red mountains, trousers are falling from the sky. They hit the ground, an RV rolls over them. Insider there’s a middle aged man only wearing tidy whities and he wears a respirator, driving madly. Act 2, dead bodies sliding up and back in a sea of fluid and glass, another man passed out with a respirator. I’m thinking, “What the f*** is going on?” That was page one. It took off from there so it was one of those rare moments when you respond to a piece of material so strongly that I knew I had to get in as fast as I could to try to get this role, because the longer I waited, I knew that every actor in Hollywood would want this part. Fortunately, I was the one to get it.
Q: Do you think Walt could ever talk Skyler into accepting his new lifestyle?
Bryan Cranston: Well, there certainly is an allure to forbidden fruit. I think that’s what, in general, Walt is discovering about himself, certainly through this third season. He has to embrace who he’s becoming in order to survive. He has to start thinking like a dealer and acknowledge the true darkness that lies within him, which I think is allegorical to what lies in every human being, that we don’t want to face sometimes but it’s possible. I don't know. I thought it was very courageous that the writers threw out the conceit of Walt needing to keep the secret and now we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t press it. We don’t really want to know what’s going on. It’s like our own little present as well, so we discover maybe a week before we shoot it what’s going to happen next. So Anna and I just kind of go in, all of us when we read the next script, we start reading in varying degrees. “Did you get to the part- -?” “No, no, don’t tell me, don’t tell me.” It’s fun to figure out what’s going to happen and try to guess. You’re usually wrong. He throws curveballs quite often but it’s like one big trust exercise. Beginning actors, there’s a lot of that fall back and your partner will catch you. For most of it, it’s really like that with Vince because we just fall back and we know that he’ll take care of the characters and nurture them in a strange, odd, unpredictable way but he’s going to go there. So it’s possible that it could go that way, that she would come around but I don't know. I really don’t know. I like that about it.
Q: Are you worried at some point the show might get too dark?
Bryan Cranston: The very first time I met with Vince about this was about three years ago. The thing that struck me was he told me he wanted to do something, and I realized after he told me that what he just said has never been done on television, in the history of television. To put on a series where your main character changes from one person to another by the end, he said he wants to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface. So that’s what is going to happen. We are in a transformation. My character is metamorphosizing from one kind of person to another. This has never happened before and that fascinated me. I’m on this journey that you think, I would think going in that I would know where I’m going and I have no idea where I’m going. It’s frightening and exciting at the same time. So we are changing this person. By the end of this season, I imagine if you take him to where you want to take him, that he is going to be a bloodthirsty killer. We’re not playing a game here. I really don’t know what’s going on in his head. It’s good. Not many people do. It is interesting to go on this journey, all of us together, and not really know where the end is.
Q: Even Scarface got to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Would you like to see Walt enjoy himself a little?
Bryan Cranston: Yeah, he certainly feels like he needs a break certainly. The interesting irony is that this man has never been more alive since he got this death sentence.
He is a guy now who has the capability of intimidating someone. He’s never felt that as a man. He’s got a pocketful of money. He has adrenaline pumping in his veins and that’s an important thing. It says a lot. He feels important and he feels more virile. There are things I think he wouldn’t change. The question, would you rather live an exciting year and a half or a drab, boring, dull, depressing 20 more years, I don't know. I’m not sure.
Q: We hear you’re a Dodger fan?
Bryan Cranston: Oh, I love the Dodgers. I’m in mourning right now
. Willie Davis passed away. I used to watch him all the time when I was a kid. He always used to run like he was hurt, like Mickey Rivers. Remember that? Mickey Rivers was that way. Vladimir Guerrero has that kind of thing, always looks like he’s hurt.
Q: Did you go to any spring training games?
Bryan Cranston: I didn’t go this year but I try to go as often as possible. I went to the Dodger fantasy camp a couple times where for a week, you get to be a baseball player and that’s all you do. You play baseball, morning, noon and night, talk baseball, have lunch next to Duke Snider and all these other old time Dodgers and things like that. The younger Dodgers and the ‘70s Dodgers and the ‘60s Dodgers are there. It’s fantastic, so much fun.