Bryan directed Breaking Bad 3×01 No Mas and both his daughter and wife made small appearances. He gives a short commentary on this school assembly scene.
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Bryan has given many interviews over the past few months promoting Breaking Bad, with great insights into the show and Bryan’s life. Did you know Bryan was a one-time thief when he was younger? – I’ve highlighted in bold some of the best bits from the interviews.
Bryan Cranston (‘Breaking Bad’)
by Dan French – October 31, 2009 – digitalspy.co.uk
A man on his deathbed with terminal cancer, some hardcore family betrayal, and more than a trip to the dark side… No, it’s not the latest instalment of the Saw franchise – it’s acclaimed drama series Breaking Bad! With the first and second seasons about to drop on Five USA and a third season on the way Stateside, we caught up with leading man Bryan Cranston for a chat about the show and what’s it’s like to play Walter ‘not-whiter-than-white’ White.
The show has a large following online and has won a lot of awards. What’s the secret to its success?
“Does it have a large following online? Good job! I think it’s attracting audiences because it’s different. In the States AMC told our studio and producers that they didn’t want anything that could be seen on broadcast networks like NBC, CBS, ABC – they wanted something different and they have to have something different because there’s such competition to draw attention to any show. It has to strike a chord with viewers but if it’s really daring and exceptional you’re not going to have a large audience at any given time because it’s not safe television. The lines between good and evil are very blurred.”
We’re about to get season two here. What can we expect from that?
“In season two it really explores the ramifications of his decision and the penalties he’s going to pay emotionally and physically. It’s in regards to the chemotherapy but more importantly in regard to deciding to become a drug dealer. He’s a scientist – he’s not equipped to deal with people who are nefarious like drug-dealers, liars and cheats. So he’s under-prepared for this and throughout season two it feels like he’s taking one step forward and two steps back.”
When do his family discover the truth?
“Aha – you’ll have to be patient my friend! I think it is going to be revealed. In season two it gets very close and my wife discovers that I’ve been lying and everything I’ve worked for – putting the family unit together and keeping it together – is going to be jeopardised. He realises, ‘What have I done? Everything that I’ve wanted is going to be lost so I have to make some more changes’. Legally, too, my brother-in-law, who is the DEA agent, is closing in on the identity of this Heisenberg person [Walter’s pseudonym]. It’s like a noose wrapped round my neck getting tighter.”
I heard his tumour shrinks in the second season. Is there a chance of a full recovery?
“You’re talking about going into remission and you know what I learnt about this? Remission has the connotation that it’s receded and things are better but all that it means is that whatever stage you were diagnosed at, it hasn’t progressed beyond that point. You’ve probably bought yourself a little more time because it’s not progressing as fast. I do go into somewhat of a remission stage in season two and I’m contemplating trying a surgery that might even increase my lifespan by another few months but at the end of it I will still be dead.”
Do you think Walter has to pay for his crimes or do you think the payment will be his eventual death?
“There’s a season long mystery connected with season two and a lot of people are saying, ‘Is he going to die such and such a way?’ but no – that would be letting Walt off the hook if he just died suddenly or quickly being hit by a bus or something. All I know is that I will die at some point at the end. I don’t know how it’s going to happen but I’m not going to be hit by a bus. It’s going to be a bit more involved!”
Do you have an ending in mind?
“Vince [Gilligan, creator] has an ending in mind. He didn’t offer to tell me and I didn’t ask. Quite frankly I’m enjoying the idea of getting each script and reading it almost like a viewer would. I get each script and it’s like opening a present – I get startled and I laugh a little bit and it’s a full package – I like that surprise.”
How does the role of Walter compare to the other characters you’ve played?
“It’s the role of my career. Complex, sympathetic, frustrating, physically demanding, emotionally demanding – I mean I understand this man, I commiserate with him, yet I’m angry with him for what he’s doing. We’re more complex as human beings and today’s television shows are demanding more honest portrayals and we feel that’s what Breaking Bad ushers in. We weren’t the first – you have Tony Soprano or Michael Chiklis in The Shield, Denis Leary in Rescue Me – so there are templates there and that gave us permission to tell a story about a man who’s not necessarily a good person.”
But he’s doing it for the right reasons, isn’t he?
“What’s interesting is that it starts out that way. I think the trait in all human beings is trying to justify our actions, but what’s happening here – and you’ll see this in the second season – is that Walt becomes addicted to the rush of what he’s doing. We’re going to explore and be honest about his journey but also his ego and how it steps in and affects his decisions. It’s not always going to be very clear as far as this character and what his motives are.”
Does it make a difference having more episodes to play with this season compared to the first?
“We got cut short [in the first season] because of the writers’ strike – we were going to do nine because I was only contracted for nine. Everything worked out really well so it increased to thirteen for season two and then we have thirteen coming up for season three. We’re hoping to be able to extend the series for as long as it takes the story to be told well and, given the set of circumstances I think we could do five years of thirteen episodes but at the end of that it has to end. It’s better to keep the story strong.”
Bryan Cranston breaks bad
by Geoff Shearer – January 19, 2010 – The Courier-Mail
Bryan Cranston has done a bad, bad thing. The Breaking Bad star has just confessed, after years of grappling with his guilt, that he is a criminal, nothing more than a low-down common thief . . . as a child he stole candy.
What? Back up. Is that what he considers his “break bad” moment; the one time in his life he went off the rails?
“In my childhood, yeah, where I’ve stolen a candy bar here or there and felt guilty about it. But it’s kind of a learning curve for children,” he says philosophically down the phone from New Mexico where the critically lauded drama is filmed.
“Otherwise, no I’ve been very fortunate in the sense that I knew early on that in order to sustain my life as an actor I needed to get my house in order and be real solid. So my home life is as boring as can be; so that my work life can be as exciting as it can be. That’s pretty much how I’ve set it up and it’s been great actually.”
Which sounds not a bit like the rollercoaster ride his Breaking Bad character Walter White takes. As the series opens, the once highly regarded research chemist is eeking out an existence teaching chemistry to a group of disinterested kids in a New Mexico high school.
When life throws Walt a curve ball, he is inspired to make big money cooking meth in his own mobile drug lab; but a pair of competing dealers have other ideas and soon he is thrust down a blood-soaked path of no return.
While Cranston played it for laughs as Hal, the gormless father of the title character in Malcolm In The Middle, in Breaking Bad he takes a much darker and dangerous bent on fatherhood.
“In the very first page of the script it explains a middle-aged man is driving recklessly in a Winnebago without any pants. He’s wearing a respirator. He’s wearing tighty-whitey underwear. There’s a man passed out with a respirator in the passenger seat. Dead men are sliding back and forth in a sea of chemicals . . . and that was the first page,” Cranston says.
“And I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ It is so whacked.
“From that moment we realised that Breaking Bad was a show that was going to ask more questions than it gave answers to. And I think that’s the charm of it – it hooks people in by answering a question and asking three more. But that is what life is really like; just as something settles three more things pop up.
“It is really compelling storytelling.”
The role has already garnered Cranston two Emmy awards and he’s delighting in working with such a strong cast. Anna Gunn from Deadwood plays Walt’s wife Skyler; Aaron Paul is his partner in crime Jesse; and newcomer RJ Mitte – who was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy – playing the disabled Walt Jr.
“Yeah it’s (Mitte’s) first role but he does great things. There’s that scene in the first episode where Walt Jr’s trying on pants at a store and Anna just threw out the improv, ‘Well those are nice, it looks like those skater boy pants.’ And he didn’t know she was going to say that; he just looked to her and says, ‘Do I look like a skater?’ That was just ad libbed and I knew from that point he had some good instincts regardless of his lack of experience,” Cranston says.
“Anna Gunn is just a terrific actor and Aaron as well. It is the same feeling as if you go out to play tennis with someone who is better than you are. Your game will improve. It’s the same sense here.
“And you also can’t slack off; you gotta bring it. If you get lazy they’re going to show you. That embarrassment keeps you honest and playing at a high level.”
That level combined with the intensity of the character means for an exhaustive day on set.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. This is my 31st year as an actor, so it was one of those things where I knew what I had to and wanted to do,” the 53-year-old says about his approach to the role.
“When I’m finished for the day I have a ritual that helps me wash away the character. I really don’t want to take Walter White home with me, oh God, that’s too depressing. So I go into the make-up and hair trailer and I put on make-up remover and take a couple of hot towels and drape them over my head and face and I just let it sit there, and the warmth soaks in. Then I wipe off the make-up. It kind of has a feeling like I’m getting rid of that guy.
“Then I take my clothes off and so I get rid of the Wallabee shoes and khaki pants and I put on my own clothes and it pretty much washes away. So I usually don’t take him home at all.”
Which wouldn’t be advisable in any terms. Although Walt’s still the “good guy” of the show, the audience is constantly having to re-evaluate its acceptance and support of him. What starts out as a money-making venture becomes an adventure in morality . . . and mortality.
“At first he thought it was (about money); that he would die in less than two years and let’s see how much money I can make for my family, and then let me get the hell out of here,” Cranston explains. “So he had honourable intentions at the start but with what happened and as the series progresses you’ll see that he’s getting caught in a web of ego.
“He’s starting to be seduced by this lifestyle and I think men, especially, can relate to that. For the first time in his life he has some money in his pocket. First time in his life he’s intimidated another man. That’s never happened before and that’s very powerful, very seductive.”
There’s also some repressed anger going on. Walt’s a bit like a cross between Ned Flanders on The Simpsons and Michael Douglas in Falling Down.
“I love that,” Cranston says with a laugh when he hears the description. “What I think I’ve learnt from this is even the meekest among us can be dangerous.
“Someone that you wouldn’t think in a million years could possibly do what they are going to do. So many times we hear neighbours say (on the TV news): ‘He was just the nicest man, I can’t believe he took an axe to his entire family.’ But there is that element – that seeing red – when you pop out of consciousness into this other world where you get so livid; and whatever your actions are from that point on is really an aberration of who you are most of the time.
“Audiences can relate to this man . . . they see how 25 years of being a teacher, facing apathetic students who don’t give a damn about what you’re saying, can just depress you to a point where anything is better than this.”
The backdrop of New Mexico’s disconsolate desert landscape adds a stand apart quality to the show and also makes for an interesting comment on Walt’s isolation.
“It is what we call a happy accident,” Cranston says. “We went to New Mexico to shoot because it was financially capable – our studio insisted that’s where we shoot it. The benefits we’ve discovered is that the big sky, the miles and miles of desolation, justifies the ability (in plotlines) to go out with a recreation vehicle and cook crystal meth with relative privacy.
“And the colours of the mountains and the richness of it and the culture of the Mexican-American families and the native American families adds a richness that we would not have had had we stayed in California.”
Cranston agrees that even Hal from Malcolm In The Middle could find himself on the same journey through this human wilderness as Walt. Hal’s fear of stuffing up could well be a trigger.
“That’s exactly what I used for Hal – at the core of him was fear,” Cranston says. “Now Walt wasn’t fearful. He was just numb. He was void of emotion.
“What we found out was it wasn’t that there wasn’t emotion, it was just so capped and so covered ’til this thing blew it off and now his emotions are just pouring out. There’s no way to control it and he’s going to do something he’s never experienced before in his life and he’s not really prepared for this.”
And it’s a lot more serious than a few stolen candy bars.
Cooking up a risky business
by Sacha Molitorisz – January 21, 2010 – theage.com.au
Like Six Feet Under and Nurse Jackie, Breaking Bad is a provocative drama series that will challenge audiences. The first episode alone features drugs, guns and unsightly underclothes.
“It can be tough to watch at times,” says Bryan Cranston, the show’s star. “My daughter is 16 now and my wife and I have said it’s up to her whether she wants to see it. But she’s not into it. I think she just has the sense of, ‘Ah, that’s my dad in underwear — I don’t wanna see that’.”
That’s a shame. Just because of her dad’s smalls, she’s missing out on an impressive series.
An incisive blend of black comedy and edgy drama, Breaking Bad is an award-winning hit in the US, where two seasons have aired and a third will premiere in March. Among other prizes, its trophy cabinet houses four Emmy Awards, including two successive gongs for Cranston as best lead actor.
“The mantel’s not empty any more,” says Cranston, who had never won an Emmy, despite three nominations for playing the dad on sitcom Malcolm in the Middle.
In Breaking Bad, Cranston is Walter White, a talented scientist who has, in the words of his obnoxious brother-in-law, “a brain the size of Wisconsin”. Unfortunately, Walter is sinking into a debilitating, depressing numbness thanks to the myriad pressures of suburban life. He used to be a research chemist with exciting prospects; now he teaches science to sarcastic high schoolers, struggling to provide a meagre existence for a wife (Anna Gunn) and a teenage son with cerebral palsy (RJ Mitte). Each day, the Bunsen burner in Walt’s soul burns a little dimmer.
Then, two wonderful things happen. (Warning: spoilers follow.) One, he is told he has a terminal illness. Two, his cop brother-in-law takes him along for a drug bust. The idea hits him like an explosion: he should cook up drugs to provide for his family after his death. So he hooks up with drop-kick former student Jesse (Aaron Paul), customises a mobile meth lab and goes to work.
The ensuing metamorphosis would have impressed Ovid as Walt transforms from inert family man to volatile drug dealer. Rejuvenated by his death sentence, he becomes lusty, bold and unpredictable.
“Walt was comfortably numb,” Cranston says. “There was a lack of emotion. Nothing affected him, until this explosion of emotion was created by this death sentence. The irony is, he’s more alive than at any time in the past 20 years.”
Energised by the bad news, he confronts a young jock who teases his son, he cuts his boss (at his second job) down to size and he surprises his wife. “Walt, is that you?” she asks, as he takes her roughly.
Cranston was just as lusty when he accepted the part.
“I didn’t have any hesitancy in taking on this role,” he says. “To me, Breaking Bad is not about a drug dealer, it’s about a man, about the decisions a human being makes and how that has a rippling effect on everyone around him. For a very, very smart man scholastically, he makes this very stupid decision and now for the rest of his life, however long that lasts, he has to pay for it. It’s a tangled web he’s woven.”
Morally, as the protagonist cooks up hard drugs to make money to secure his family’s future, the show raises intriguing questions. Like Dexter or Nurse Jackie, Walt does bad things for good reasons.
“It struck a chord with me as a man, a husband and a father,” Cranston says. “This is how we’re wired, to hunt and provide and have a sense of responsibility. I felt sympathetic to Walt and his plight. I tried to answer, ‘Why would he do this?’ And I answered it by saying that he hasn’t done anything surprising his whole adult life because of missed opportunities. He’s in a depressed state. I don’t know any person who wants to leave that as a legacy, that withering away, on top of leaving his family destitute.”
For Cranston, a large part of the appeal was the way creator Vince Gilligan skipped back and forth between drama and comedy.
“That’s done by design,” Cranston says. “I think any really well-respected and received piece of literary television will have the combination of levity interwoven into the drama. And also vice versa, pathos interwoven into comedy. That’s much more satisfying for viewers. It gives a picture of life as it really is.”
It certainly makes for a change from Malcolm in the Middle, the enduring sitcom that ran for seven seasons from 2000 until 2006. There, Cranston played Hal, the embattled father who, like Walt, struggled amid the quotidian vicissitudes of family life. Unlike Walt, however, Hal didn’t cook up A-grade crystal meth while dressed in little more than white Y-fronts.
Surprisingly, Cranston sees profound similarities between Walt and Hal.
“Well, they both wear tightey whitey underwear,” he says. “Actually, I was shocked when I saw that written in the script for Breaking Bad. At first I tried to get away from that but then I realised that here, the same underwear told a different story. It was a manifestation of Walt’s stunted emotional growth.
“And that underwear is just funny — although Walter White can’t think that it’s funny. In his world, nothing’s really funny. But I think the characters do have some crossover. They are both good-hearted men who accept their responsibilities as parents and spouses. They both love and adore their wife and family and yet both are basically unfulfilled in their own way. Both are somehow depressed. Given the set of circumstances Walt has, I think Hal may have done something similar. Fortunately, he didn’t have the depth of education to try something that devious.”
Cranston has fond memories of Malcolm in the Middle, a surprisingly fresh exponent of an often dull genre that ran for 151 episodes.
“I’m positive Breaking Bad won’t make it to that number,” he says. “I think that a television series, like a feature film, should be just as long as it needs to be for the story it wants to tell but not longer. It’s meant to be temporary, like life itself.”
With season three due to air in the US this year, Cranston hopes season four will get the green light soon. Malcolm in the Middle ended at the right time, he says, but its conclusion was, nonetheless, sad.
“You have to leave what has become a family,” Cranston says. “Everybody goes their separate ways and you just hope you bump into them again.”
Cranston stays in touch with cast members, including Erik Per Sullivan, who played Dewey, the youngest sibling.
“I was very happy that he asked me to write a reference for him for the University of Southern California, where he is now a freshman. Little Dewey’s now in college.”
One project Cranston undertook with the Malcolm in the Middle team was KidSmartz, a DVD that bills itself as a “guide to abduction prevention for parents and children” and is supported by the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
Another piece of Cranston trivia is that he’s an ordained minister.
“When I was going to college back in the ’70s, my brother and I befriended a man called Reverend Bob, a hold-over from the hippie era who married people for a living. Accidentally, one day he booked two weddings at the same time in different locations. He said, ‘Oh gosh, I messed up. You wanna marry ’em?’ So he put the certificate in the typewriter and sent it off to the Secretary of State and voila! I was a minister. So I did the wedding, made $150, drank champagne and got the phone number of the maid of honour. It was a good day.”
All of which means that Breaking Bad is a radical departure. From a background as an ordained minister who promotes child safety, Cranston has become, to quote one headline, “America’s favourite meth dealer”.
Has Breaking Bad sparked any public protest? Conservative ire?
“When we were promoting it, I thought we were going to get hit hard,” Cranston says. “But we have not received any bad press that I can think of. The critics have loved it and no family organisations have picketed it.”
So far, it’s all good. What’s more, on Breaking Bad, as on Malcolm in the Middle, Cranston has had the chance to direct several episodes. This allowed him to cast his 16-year-old daughter Taylor in a small role.
“I put her in the first episode of the third season,” Cranston says. “I was directing the episode, which called for a sad, 16-year-old girl. So I offered it to Taylor. She was nervous and apprehensive, because it was her first professional role but then she jumped at it.”
Funny that: it’s easier for Cranston to get his daughter to co-star than to watch.
‘Bad’ has been good for Bryan Cranston
by Ian Spelling – March 10, 2010 – toledoblade.com
Bryan Cranston is no longer simply the guy who played Hal, the goofy dad on Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006). Thanks to his fearless performance as high-school teacher turned drug lord Walter H. White on Breaking Bad, which has earned him back-to-back Emmy Awards as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama, Cranston is a star.
A star in demand too: As AMC kicks off its third season of Breaking Bad on March 21, Cranston also has a quartet of film projects on the way. There’s Taylor Hackford’s drama Love Ranch, with Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, and the thriller Leave, which co-stars Ron Livingston and Vinessa Shaw. There’s the Tuskegee Airmen drama Red Tails, produced by George Lucas, and Cranston is currently flying back and forth between Los Angeles and London to shoot scenes for the big-budget film version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi pulp series John Carter of Mars, which stars Willem Dafoe, James Purefoy, Mark Strong, and, as the title character, Taylor Kitsch.
“The game has changed, no question,” Cranston says. “One of the problems that a successful actor has is that you are typed as the character you last played, so we’re always trying to reinvent ourselves. I knew, after seven years of Malcolm, that it was time for me to do something more serious or, if it was a comedy, something that was a big change.
“I was offered two pilots when Malcolm ended,” he continues, “and both of them were goofy, silly dads. And I turned them both down with thank-yous because, if I help to perpetuate that, then I have only myself to blame. So you have to just say no and think, ‘I have faith that something will come along and I’ll work, but I don’t want to be redundant.’ I just wouldn’t have known how to do a different silly, goofy dad than what I did for seven years on Malcolm.
“So that was that,” Cranston says. “It was seven great years. I have terrific memories and I’m very proud of the show, but it was time to move on. And that’s how I look at Breaking Bad too, actually. I’m in the moment. I’m enjoying it, I appreciate the compelling storytelling. Let’s do this until it’s done and, whenever that is, it will be time to move on to something else that’s as different from Breaking Bad as Breaking Bad was from Malcolm.
When we last saw Walt, in the second-season finale, his world was falling apart – and simply falling, because a plane had crashed over his house, scattering body parts and plane debris all over the neighborhood. Walt’s wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), had left him and taken their baby with her. His brother-in-law, DEA agent Schrader (Dean Norris), was on his trail. And Walt was slipping more and more into his persona as “Heisenberg,” the powerful leader of a much-feared drug cartel.
If it seems as if they’re making this up as they go along, that’s not the case. Cranston recalls meeting with series creator/executive producer Vince Gilligan, more than three years ago, to discuss Gilligan’s ideas for the proposed series.
“Over the course of this series, and this is what Vince said, we are going to metamorphose a character from one type of person to another,” Cranston says. “He wants to completely change this guy from what I started out as, which was a milquetoast, mild-mannered, depressed, 50-year-old high school chemistry teacher who has missed most of the opportunities in his life, into a guy who, through a set of circumstances that are justifiable, sets himself on a course of destruction and is on a whirlwind roller coaster.
“From that experience Walt will change, just because he needs to in order to survive, in order to protect himself,” Cranston says. “And he’s not entirely there yet, but he’ll become this whole other person with a completely new set of moral values. ”
So how does that translate into the events of the third season?
“We’ll be making big leaps in terms of getting to that point where he’s completely this whole other person,” says Cranston, who directed the season opener. “He knows what adjustments he needs to make in order to survive. There’s no way he can turn back…. What we don’t know yet is how fast it will happen, when he’ll get there fully and how long we’ll stay with him in that world, as that person, once he gets there,” Cranston says.
“There are so many questions,” he acknowledges. “Every time we come to the conclusion of an episode, we resolve something but also ask two more questions. That’s compelling for me to play, as well. That keeps it exciting.”
Bryan Cranston: ‘Breaking Bad’ is Being Turned ‘Upside Down’
by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith – February 18, 2010 – jaxobserver.com
Bryan Cranston, who’s earned two Emmys for his work on “Breaking Bad,” tips that the third season of the highly lauded AMC show will be “like a million-piece puzzle that’s hiding the picture on the box.”
Cranston, who directs the March 21 season-opener, reveals that as the story progresses this year, “The very structure of the show is turned upside down.” His character, science teacher Walter White, who started cooking crystal methamphetamine to make big money to support his family when he learned he had terminal lung cancer, has been keeping his double life secret. “Yet the one thing that can’t happen does happen. His wife finds out and all is lost,” Cranston says. “He must make amends, live with the fallout of his actions and try to win his wife back and to reconcile who his is.”
That might be, but make no mistake that drugs won’t still be a vital part of the story, as will Aaron Paul, who plays Walter’s former student who’s teamed up with his one-time teacher in the drug trade.
Cranston, who counts his role as the father in “Malcolm in the Middle” among his many credits, notes how flawed many television heroes have become today. Among them: Denis Leary as an alcoholic fireman in “Rescue Me,” Edie Falco as a cheating, drug-addicted wife in “Nurse Jackie,” and murderers and such in “Sons of Anarchy.”
The way Cranston has figured it out, “In the old days, the leading man was handsome, never drank, didn’t abuse drugs, always figured out what his problems were and solved them. But today, we are accepting more sophisticated storytelling — more honest portrayals of the human experience.”
Meth-od Actor: A Conversation with Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston
by Tim Surette – March 19, 2010 – TV.com
Bryan Cranston has made one of television’s great leaps: From goofy dad on Malcolm in the Middle to the complex Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. White is man on a collision course with the dark recesses of the human soul; that may seem dramatic, but all it takes is one look in Cranston’s eyes to see the depths of his character’s tortured soul.
Earlier this week I caught up with Cranston, who has won two Emmys for his performance, to talk about what’s in store for Season 3.
I talked to creator Vince Gilligan last season, and we both agreed that Breaking Bad could be categorized as a comedy. What’s your take on that?
I don’t see it that way. I look at something like Malcom in the Middle, that was a comedy. This is a well-written drama, and any well-written drama has moments of levity that provide several things: a relief for the audience, a more well-rounded experience. So no I don’t see it that way.
It is a bit of a stretch, but I just can’t get over how many times I find myself laughing at loud at the show.
Well it depends, you happen to be a person with a sick sense of humor. You probably laugh at little old ladies who fall. You bastard!
Ha! When we last saw Walt, there was a plane crashing down around him, he was watching Skylar leave him, and he had the death of Jesse’s girlfriend on his hands. How is he going to handle all this weight?
Not well. Season 1 was all about the decision that was made. Why he made it. Who this man is. What his circumstances are. Season 2 was the consequences, like you said, of that decision and realizing that he has to learn a whole new set of skills and that he’s unprepared for all of this. Season 3 really encompasses the change he is going through and the self-realization that he has to accept that he’s capable of some very dark things. It’s embracing who he really is now, and allowing himself not to put up the defenses about it, but allow it to be “This is who I am now, I’ve changed, there’s no going back. And I just want to hang on to be able to hang on to as many little threads of my family as I can before I die.”
Will we see the ramifications of Jane’s death surface?
That does come to surface in one particular episode this year. And Jesse gets suspicious and starts to probe and… I can’t tell you anymore. [laughs]
I believe you’ve said in other interviews that Skylar discovers what’s going on with Walt.
At first, even the producers said, “Wait, what are you doing, don’t give that away!” And I said, “You’re kidding, we have to tell [the media] something about the season.” And that happens in the first episode. She makes an educated guess and finds out what I’m doing. What I thought was brilliant about it is that the conceit was this man truly believes that if she found it, it’s over. That’s it, I lose everything. That was the whole series. Now they throw that out in the first episode, and it’s very compelling to be able to watch what you thought might happen may not happen. It’s a very good year for Anna Gunn. She goes through a lot of reflection, anger, and loss. It just keeps getting more complicated.
We heard about the cartel in Season 2, but never really came face-to-face with them. With Walter gaining status and territory, will we see the cartel come into play in Season 3?
[pauses for a second… as if not knowing if he should tell the truth] Yes. The cartel becomes a bigger player in Season Three, primarily because Walt steps on too many toes. It’s another example of Walt not having the skill set to understand the world that he’s in, and that when you do well, it makes others do less than well. It’s remarkable to him and he keeps scratching to make sense of it all. And he really doesn’t even know the extent of the danger around him.
Do you think Walter is a good man or a bad man?
In the first year, I can honestly say that Walter was a good man who’s made bad decisions. Now, being more specific with it, you have to admit he’s just a man. Complete with qualities that are positive and negative. And he has to embrace all of who he is in order to survive. That’s an interesting thing. When someone else fails you, you can be angry and hurt by this other person’s action and you can discontinue your relationship. And we do that often, we come in and out of relationships. Some end forever, some waiver, and a few stay strong all the way through because you learn to adapt to each other. But when you yourself disappoint you, you either embrace it or you end it, in suicide or self medication.
And Walter is starting to embrace the bad.
Walter is starting to accept it. At first he was incredibly judgmental about it and using this altruistic point of view—”This is for my family. This isn’t for me, it’s for my family.” Well there’s only so far you can make that claim. But he’s been seduced, and the knee-jerk reaction is to resist going to the dark side. There’s a scene last year where I’m giving my son drinks, that was a hard one for me, as a parent myself. It was like, “Wow, how do I wrap my head around this?” I was able to do it because I was starting to feel like the Wolfman, I could see the hair grow on the back of my palms. And you can feel the dichotomy between good and bad, and for the first time in his life, Walt was dangerous. He could intimidate people, and he was a man in some good sense and some bad sense. He was determined to resist the voice of reason, who was Hank in that instance, and I was resisting it because I didn’t want to hear the voice of reason. He was venting some self-loathing, he wants to be scolded, he wants to be yelled at. It’s a very delicate scene.
I’m a huge Bob Odenkirk fan, so I have to get a Saul Goodman update.
He plays a very key role in our show now, and I think will for a long time to come. The reason is legitimately that these two guys haven’t a clue as how to proceed on a level they need to proceed, and [Goodman] has the know how. Like Jesse says, “You don’t want a criminal lawyer, you want a criminal lawyer.” Here’s a guy who is away from the day-to-day threats of life. He’s looking paperwork and making phone calls and connections. So his point of view is free and easy. “Hey well, it’s been known to happen, a drug dealer getting killed.” Meanwhile, Walt and Jesse are tense and can’t take the pressure, and Bob just comes in with such a laissez-faire “Ehhh whatever… so you don’t like that joke.” And it’s a wonderful juxtaposition between the angst-ridden Walt and Jesse and Bob’s kind of laid-back self.
My favorite scene in the series is the talk the family has, where Skylar is passing around the talking pillow from Season 1. What’s yours?
I haven’t thought about it at all. I’m not really one to reflect, in my life, in the job… I’m in the present. I like experiencing the present and looking toward the future. I would say 85 percent of my life is in the here and now, 12 or 13 percent is in the future. and 2 percent is like, “Remember when we did that. That was fun.” So when people say look back, I say, “Look back?” It’s kind of like your favorite meal, it’s the one that you’re eating.
Between putting on some weight and shaving your head, you really put yourself in the character. Has there been any fallout from that transformation in your real life?
Yeah, it’s made me look and feel a lot older, which is right for the character. Walt is older than he is, he’s only 50 on the show but he feels the weight of the world, he has hunched shoulders, and the anguished face. He feels like he’s 65 to 70 years old. I feel for him, I certainly wouldn’t want to be him. At the end of every day, I have a ritual. I strip the wardrobe off, get rid of it. I go to the makeup trailer and put on the makeup remover, and I take two big, hot, wet towels. I put one on my bald head and one on my face and I just breath into it and wipe all the grime from the day off my head. My head’s steaming now, and ohhh that feels great. It wipes away all the energy that Walter White carries with him, I don’t want to take that home with me.
Bryan Cranston’s ‘Breaking Bad’ breakout
by Greg Braxton – March 30, 2010 – latimes.com
It’s a tough job, and Bryan Cranston is more than glad to do it — playing Walter H. White, the frazzled antihero at the center of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” that is.
Though playing White, a meek chemistry teacher who gradually transforms into a hard-core drug dealer after he finds out he has life-threatening cancer, is “a dream come true,” Cranston pointed out that the character and the series’ increasingly dark tones have taken an emotional and physical toll on him.
“At the end of the day, I take two moist towels, put them on my head and wash all of Walt’s energy off of me, and leave him at work,” Cranston said, sighing heavily.
After decades of being mostly relegated to guest shots and supporting roles in TV and film, the actor has found a breakout role in AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Cranston was previously best known as the buffoonish father on “Malcolm in the Middle,” but “Breaking” has scored him two consecutive Emmys for outstanding actor in a drama series, an achievement that has propelled him to the top tier of TV dramatic actors.
And the character of White, whose initial rationale for getting into the drug trade was to give his family a financial foundation after he died, now joins a gallery of prominent antiheroes such as gangster Tony Soprano (“The Sopranos”), corrupt detective Vic Mackey (“The Shield”) and advertising hotshot Don Draper (“Mad Men”) at the center of complex dramas.
Additionally, the show has established AMC, which also airs “Mad Men,” as a venue for quality original programming.
In its third-season premiere this month, the series drew its largest audience ever, attracting more than 3 million viewers.
“Breaking Bad” has grown consistently darker as creator Vince Gilligan maps out what he calls White’s journey from “Mr. Chips to Scarface.” Cranston, who directed the season opener, says he is particularly excited about the upcoming episodes: Even though he had his doubts when “Breaking Bad” started that it would work, he now has total confidence in its direction.
“What made me want to do this in the beginning was the notion of taking a character and completely changing him from one kind of person to another,” he said last week while relaxing in the immaculately tasteful San Fernando Valley home he shares with his wife, actress Robin Dearden, and their young daughter.
He added, “That’s never happened on TV before. I knew we would have to find a way to make this man sympathetic. If we didn’t make him relatable or identifiable to the majority of the audience, we wouldn’t have a show. His actions are indefensible. All we were hoping for was to get an understanding of why he’s doing this, not to condone his actions.”
Still, despite the critical acclaim surrounding “Breaking Bad,” Cranston and its cast, including Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and Dean Norris, catching the cultural zeitgeist has been more elusive than it has been for other A-list dramas such as “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” or “The West Wing.” Entertainment-oriented magazines have passed him by for covers. Though “Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm and January Jones, who have not won Emmys, have hosted “Saturday Night Live,” Cranston has not gotten the call.
Gilligan, who praised Cranston as a solid and “courageous” actor, said he is mystified: “Bryan truly deserves to be more noticed. He is much more a chameleon than most actors, and he truly disappears into his role.
“Perhaps it’s that quality that has kept him from getting more covers or things like that. Hopefully that will change because he can absolutely do anything. If he hosted ‘Saturday Night Live,’ he would hit it out of the park.”
But Cranston is much more understanding and philosophical about the road of celebrity, and he is more devoted to the craft of acting than to the more superficial trappings of fame. Visitors to the Cranston home won’t spot his Emmys on the living room mantel. Nothing in the front rooms of the home suggests that he is an actor on hit TV shows and movies.
“There’s this notion that in order to draw attention and to be considered for roles I want to be considered for, you need a certain amount of notoriety,” he said.
“I never pursued that. My goal has always been to be a working actor.”
Leaning forward, he added, “Would I like to host ‘Saturday Night Live’? Hell, yes, I’d love to. But it’s not going to have a big impact on my life if it doesn’t happen.
“I feel good our show is doing well and ‘Mad Men’ is doing well, and we have a symbiotic relationship, and, it’s fair to say, a healthy competition. We can only benefit by their success, and they can benefit by ours.”
Great Expectations 2010: Breaking Bad
by Kate Kiefer – February 17, 2010 – pastemagazine.com
On paper, high-school chemistry teacher Walter White is despicable. He cooks up high-grade crystal methamphetamine and sells it to faceless losers. He gassed and suffocated one drug dealer, strangled another, and blew up his distributor’s office using fulminated mercury. He made his business partner Jesse dissolve a dead body in hydrofluoric acid, and forced his 16-year-old son to drink shot after shot of tequila until he threw up in a swimming pool. He tried to rape his pregnant wife. Oh, and he steals chemistry supplies from the school where he works.
On his worst day, Walt went to Jesse’s apartment to find him and his train-wreck girlfriend Jane asleep and strung out on heroin. When she started coughing and throwing up, a decent human being would have turned her over, sat her up, maybe even called 911. But Jane posed a threat to Walt’s business—so he just stood there, watching the poor girl choke to death on her own vomit.
In spite of all this, Walt is our hero. We like his wife, we love his son, and every week during Breaking Bad (which begins its third season in March) we hope Walt doesn’t die. Before becoming a monster, he was sympathetic—a dorky Albuquerque science teacher who took a part-time job at a car wash to make ends meet. He had a teenaged son with cerebral palsy and an unexpected baby on the way, and he’d just found out he had stage-three lung cancer and two years to live. Desperate times called for dangerous measures, and Walt decided to use his chemistry skills in the most profitable way he knew how—making meth. The medical bills were piling up. He did it for his family.
Actor Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle, Seinfeld) made a seamless leap from his history of comedic roles to this intensely dramatic one. As a sick teacher, husband and father, he’s pitiful; as a chemist gone bad, a ruthless drug dealer known as Heisenberg, he’s terrifying. “I had Bryan in mind early on to play the part of Walt,” says series creator Vince Gilligan. “I knew him from working with him on The X-Files, where I was a writer. I put him in an episode where we had a character who was awful—he was a racist, unpleasant creep—but when he died at the end, we needed the audience to feel empathy for him. Bryan knocked it out of the ballpark. Then and there I realized not just what a fine actor he was, but how likeable he was, and how humanity just seemed to ooze out of him. We needed a guy like that.”
Cranston, in turn, was immediately drawn to Breaking Bad after reading the script. “The first page is the first minute or so of the pilot episode—a middle-aged man drives ferociously in an RV, wearing a gas mask and only tighty-whitey underwear. Behind him, two dead bodies slide back and forth with the motion of the RV. Next to him in the seat is another man, passed out,” he says. “I’m going, ‘What the hell? What’s going on?’ It captures you right from that moment.”
It’s a bold premise indeed—especially for AMC—and Gilligan doesn’t dodge the drug world’s filthy realities. There’s blood and guts, and a decapitated head on a live tortoise. “Every now and then,” Gilligan says, “when I stop and look around from my little office here with my writers, I think ‘How did this show ever make it on the air?’” Sure, HBO has vampires and Showtime’s got a soccer-mom selling pot and a handsome serial killer who targets murderers, but those are premium channels. Plus, marijuana is small potatoes compared to meth, and serial killers and vampires don’t exactly hit close to home. But somehow Breaking Bad does, rarely requiring a suspension of disbelief.
“There is a way to be provocative without being exploitative,” Cranston says, “and I think that’s what Breaking Bad does so well—we pose an interesting proposition: ‘What are the conditions that would make a mild-mannered, nice guy who’d never even got a moving-violation ticket, let alone been arrested, turn into a criminal?’ I think people look at that and go, ‘I’ve felt desperation. I’ve worried about losing my job or paying for my kid’s braces. And this is the avenue that this man chose.’”
Gilligan makes sure that Walt pays for his sins: His wife doesn’t trust him, he has to feign appreciation when his handicapped son creates a website to raise money for his poor, sick dad (savewalterwhite.com, which you can actually visit online), and he’s paranoid that his brother-in-law, a feisty DEA agent, is on to him. Not to mention, his cancer is progressing. It’s a dark world. When Walt carries his newborn baby into the garage, shows her the stacks of cash he scored from a drug deal and whispers, “Daddy did that for you,” there’s a glimmer of guilt in Daddy’s eye.
“I told Vince that if this worked out, our job as partners in this storytelling would be to connect with the humanity of this man, and allow the audience to see his vulnerability, his fear, his hope, his joy, his intelligence, his struggle, on a very real basis,” says Cranston. “And if we are able to do that, we have a chance at a very unique show.” And that’s why so many people watch—Gilligan and Cranston have found our soft spot. We believe that our evil protagonist is good at heart. We know that he’s spun out of control, and we’re caught up in his story. We’ve come to recognize that look in his eye, the one that says, “What have I become?” And when the series ends and Walter White dies, whether quietly in bed or violently outside an RV, we’ll miss the son of a bitch.
Bryan Cranston dishes on season 3 of ‘Breaking Bad’
by Dan Snierson – March 21, 2010 – EW.com
All hail the return of the kingpin: Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC, we begin the third season of the critically acclaimed drama Breaking Bad, which promises a whole new set of twisted twists for Walter White, a.k.a. Heisenberg, the terminally ill chemistry teacher who began moonlighting as a meth chef to support his family. Bryan Cranston, who has won two Emmys for his role as White, gives EW.com the goods on Bad‘s new season. [Your SPOILER ALERT begins here.]
What’s the overriding theme this year?
The first season was about the decision that he’s made. The second season was a study of the ramifications of that decision — all the things that he underestimated, which were far and wide, and how it was starting to unravel his life. And the third season really capsulizes his adapting to his new life. How he is changing as a person in order to function, to stay alive, and to back up what he’s already done. And he’s gone so far down the road that if he turned around, he wouldn’t even see anything recognizable. He’s so far down, he has to keep going. In some ways, he’s starting to accept the seductive powers that this has had on him. He has started to learn about himself, and that any person can succumb to greed or avarice or lust of power. He’s been seduced by this situation, and it’s not unlike a sexual relationship where you just get seduced by a certain situation and you can’t get out of it. I’m not saying that he’s Tiger Woods—I’m not saying that he’s not Tiger Woods either. [Laughs]
The legend of Heisenberg seems only to be growing. How big does this thing get?
It gets very big. He’s entered into a world that he has no skill set for and he’s unaccustomed to it. He doesn’t know the depths that it can go to, and this season he’s starting to learn. He’s absolutely certain that he won’t be doing this anymore, and then he’s given an offer he couldn’t refuse. And I think it’s very honest and very real. That’s what money does. It skews your morality. It plays havoc with your senses. And it blurs. It makes you dizzy and you tend to forget who you are. All of the sudden he’s unclear about his motives: Who am I really doing this for? How do I accomplish this?
At the beginning of the season, we see two scary men from a Mexican drug cartel headed north to find Walt. What can you share about this situation?
Walt thinks of himself as a small player—an independent contractor—but what he doesn’t realize is you can’t make that big a splash and not have the ripple effect touch other people. So he’s starting to realize that butterfly effect, and it’s come back to haunt him because he’s stepped on some toes that he didn’t even know he was stepping on…. The cartel has sent these guys to straighten things out, and they’re just cold-blooded killers. They have no emotion connected to it all. All they’re interested in is keeping the family business in order. And blood runs deep, so they’re going to come into contact with people who are related or who have connections that will either help them or hinder their progress in what they want to do throughout the season. And it gets very webby. It’s like a big maze. It spreads out, I think, for the specific reason of showing the audience and Walt just how big this thing is, and how many people and families are connected and dependent on this business.
The marriage of Walt and Sklyer (Anna Gunn) is crumbling. Any hints about what will happen with those two?
The conceit that Walt was hanging onto was: I have to keep [the meth business] as a secret from my family. If she finds out, game’s over. I’ve lost. Because the whole reason I’m doing this is to provide for my family, but if I don’t have my family, there’s no one to provide for. And what was really brave of the writers and [series creator] Vince Gilligan… in that first episode, she finds out. Now they’ve put themselves in a corner and have to find a way to get out of that corner. And that’s always compelling to watch: Everything we thought and believed to be true is changing again. There’s going to be some new truth that’s created. So Walt has to figure out: Is this the end with Skyler? Obviously and rightfully she’s disgusted and nauseous by what she finds out. So he’s lost. But he hasn’t lost his children. He has a legal right and an emotional right to them, so he’ll be maintaining that relationship with them. And it puts Skyler in a very difficult position, which is always good to watch.
Meanwhile, Jesse [Aaron Paul] has been in rehab. How is he different now?
He’s gone through a transformation. He’s lost someone that he loved [Jane, played by Krysten Ritter] and that’s another secret that Walt can’t reveal — that he had anything to do with that. But some of that slips during the season and Jesse starts to wonder and tries to put some pieces together…. This season is about adjusting to your new life. You’ve made this decision, you’ve been slugged in the face, and now you’re starting to slowly understand how it works, and what you need to do to survive, and I think both of them are in a metamorphosis this season.
On Character: Bryan Cranston in ‘Breaking Bad’
by Jeremy Egner – March 19, 2010 – nytimes.com
Armed with a death sentence and the best meth in New Mexico, Walter White, the protagonist in AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” has become one of the most celebrated characters on television since the series debuted in 2008.
Bryan Cranston has won two best actor Emmys for his portrayal of the high school chemistry teacher who began cooking methamphetamine after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis. Mike Hale, a television critic for The New York Times, compared the character to other antiheroes like Tony Soprano and noted that “none has been quite as guilt-wracked, or as creative in his rationalizations, as Mr. Cranston’s Walter White.”
Prior to “Breaking Bad,” Mr. Cranston was probably best known as the daffy dad on the Fox sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle.” For the AMC drama, his brief was a little different.
“Vince Gilligan [series creator] told me right from the beginning that he wanted to do something that never been done on television,” Mr. Cranston said. “He wanted to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface.”
“Breaking Bad,” which also stars Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, Walter’s sidekick, returns for its third season on Sunday. Below, Mr. Cranston discusses the evolution of his character, breaks down a scene from the premiere and offers tips on the best way to fashion an “impotent mustache.”
So did you construct Walter White out of whole cloth or were there some models you used?
Walter really has become an amalgam of imagination and some real people that I know. He felt older than his years. He was depressed. So I started doing some research on that and I concluded that there are two basic types of depression manifestations. One is to go outward, and to blame everyone else for your downfall, your lack of opportunity or whatever the case may be. And then there’s Walter White. He imploded, he just went invisible and started going to seed. That was very interesting to me: someone who became invisible to society and to himself. So that informed what kind of makeup, hairstyle and clothing colors we eventually chose, because I wanted him to literally blend into the scenery.
How did you flesh out the character?
I created a back story in which his depression evolved from missed opportunities that he was either too afraid to take or just did not recognize — more likely too afraid to take. That informed the rest of his adult life. It just kind of wears you down, your shoulders slump over, your appearance is blah. I remember going into the makeup trailer and I said ‘I want this mustache to look impotent.’ So we were able to create that. You thin it way out, you lighten the color and you make sure that no hair comes down past the corners of the mouth.
So then the show takes this beaten man and thrusts him into a narcotics underworld, which both terrifies and, to a certain extent, invigorates him.
For the first time in his life he can intimidate another person — he’s never had that. He’s got money in his pocket for the first time. He’s got adrenaline pumping through his veins; sometimes feeling fear is better than feeling numbness. That’s his new outlook now. He has this ability to become a new person.
There is black comedy in “Breaking Bad” but it’s never played for laughs. Is the strategy just to always play it straight, or what?
Yes. In “Malcolm in the Middle” my character’s core emotion was fear. So Hal was able to create a lot of comedy because fear set him up nicely to be a foil. This is different — I look for opportunities to have something humorous, a little bit of levity because I think all the best dramas do have some element of that. But Walter certainly has no clue that there’s anything funny about any of this business. So we’re not in on the joke.
How does the character evolve this season?
The first season was all about the decision: what he’s done, what that means and how it affects his new life and his family. The second season explored the ramifications of that decision and its consequences. The third season is really the adjustment season. It’s Walter and Jesse starting to adjust to new lives, accepting who they are and going on with it for as long as it will last.
Bryan Cranston: ‘Breaking Bad’ Will End with Death
by Jeanne Wolf – March 19, 2010 – parade.com
Bryan Cranston returns in his career-making role as a chemistry teacher turned drug dealer in AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad. Cranston won two Emmys for his portrayal of Walter White, who, while fighting cancer, tries to provide for his family by sinking deeper into a world of crime.
Parade.com’s Jeanne Wolf found out why Cranston hopes he’s not a role model and what fans can expect as the third season begins this Sunday night.
Don’t try to be Walter White at home.
“I certainly hope people don’t want to be like him because the choices that he’s made have been very detrimental to his life. On the other hand, I think that’s why viewers are attracted to him. He’s a human being with foibles and some good qualities. I also think people have related to what it’s like to be up against a terminal disease and see all your savings go out the window and not have enough medical coverage. That’s what Walter has gone through.”
But maybe not watching him take a life.
“Walter has committed murder. But I was ready for it. I damn near killed my career killing people. If you’re going to do television and movies, you’re going to play some bad guys. They’re the most fun roles to play. On the other hand, we’ve seen the taking of another human being’s life on television so much that it’s easy to become immune to what that does to a person. In truth, it would be devastating if I had to face it in real life, even in self defense.”
As for facing the big C.
“I didn’t want to know that much more about cancer than the normal person knows because that’s where Walter was coming from. Cancer patients that I have known don’t want to think about it all the time. They want to go on with their lives. If they were to think about it too often, it would bring them down. They need to push beyond that and try to be positive because its been proven that a positive attitude goes a long way toward healing. I think some of them watch the show just so they can go, ‘At least I’m not going through what Walter is going through.'”
Portraying the ravages of the disease.
“The weight loss that I experienced in the first season, the loss of hair, that’s what happens. When we first started, I had a little impotent mustache. I wanted people to look at the mustache, and go, ‘What’s the point? Shave it or grow it.’ Now it’s full out and I’ve grown the goatee out, and it gives me a harsher look because I’ve lost all the hair on my head.”
His facial hair ritual.
“When we wrap the series, I always grow a beard and let my hair grow. There’s a practical reason for that. I don’t know when the next job is going to be. So if I have a full beard and hair, I can play a hillbilly. Or, I could trim it to a bad-looking fu-manchu mustache. It helps you change your look and how you present yourself in an audition.”
What’s coming up.
“This season really explores Walter’s transformation to adapt to his new lifestyle of crime and how you have to manipulate and maneuver in order to navigate the dangerous waters. It’s all about Walter starting to come to grips with who he is, why he’s doing this and acceptance of that. He’s taking control, allowing himself to be the intimidator. It’s about the seductive power of money and how that changes a person.”
How will it all end?
“Mr. Chips to Scarface, I think is a very colorful way to describe Walter’s journey. I don’t really know where he’s gonna go, but that’s the excitement of it. Just as we don’t know where we’re going to go in our own lives. I’m pretty darn sure that he’ll die at the end of the show. But how he dies, I really honestly don’t know and I don’t want to. Would you want to know how you were going to die? It would freak you out.”
His take on living a secret life.
“Truth is only a positive thing. Truth is only a wonderful thing if it helps someone. But you have to be careful with it. You have to ask yourself: Does this person need to know? Is it appropriate for this person to know? If not, don’t tell them.”
‘Breaking Bad’ is good for Bryan Cranston
by Bruce Fessier – May 11, 2010 – mydesert.com
The best one-hour drama on television is halfway through its originally conceived life span, and it’s just warming up.
For those who haven’t been watching “Breaking Bad” at 10 p.m. Sundays on AMC, Walter White, a brilliant underachieving high school chemistry teacher who cooks methamphetamine to support his family after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, is now working for Gus Fring, a chicken restaurant owner with connections to a Mexican drug cartel. Gus offers him $3 million for three months of cooking massive amounts of meth with a partner that Walt’s DEA brother-in- law, Hank, is out to get.
In Sunday’s episode, Hank, who has been supportive of Walt, has survived an assassination attempt by hitmen and the cartel boss has apparently been killed in a hit orchestrated by Walt’s boss.
So we’re about to see Walt turn into the major supplier for New Mexico’s top meth distributor.
We’re fortunate to have the star of “Breaking Bad,” two-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, as a part owner of the Cinemas Palme d’Or, which happens to be a great art house in Palm Desert. He gives us insights into what’s happening with him and “Breaking Bad.”
I told him by e-mail a few weeks ago that I love the recent additions to “Breaking Bad.” He said they’re an example of how the show is evolving within creator-producer Vince Gilligan’s original concept.
“Bringing Bob Odenkirk on to play our lawyer was a great move,” Cranston said. “He adds a comedic, but legitimate tone that was not present on the show before — a self-possessed, confident, shyster. Add to him last season’s year’s additions of Giancarlo Esposito as Gus and Jonathan Banks as Mike, the shady PI, and we’ve opened the show up quite well.”
Gilligan projected a five-year run for “Breaking Bad” with Walt evolving from a nerdy high school chemistry teacher into the Tony Soprano of New Mexico. Cranston had never seen a TV character make that kind of transformation and that’s motivated him to move to New Mexico to shoot and occasionally direct the 13-week series.
He said the show is still on course to run five seasons, although there could be surprise developments.
“It could be six years,” he said. “The most important element to both Vince and myself is that we don’t over-stay our welcome. I think Vince will honor our show’s conceit that this man is dying of lung cancer — that hasn’t changed. By the end of our journey, providing we’ll get to stay on the air, I must believe that Walter White will die. Of what, even I don’t know.”
Cranston’s acting challenge, as he lets TV viewers watch his transformation, is to not upset or disappoint viewers who have come to like Walter White.
“Knowing that my character is in transition from a nice guy to… well, let’s say not so nice, I was prepared to show the less-than-sympathetic side of Walt,” Cranston said. “That being said, I still want the audience to relate to him and his plight. The goal was always to understand him, not to condone his actions.”
I’ll be watching every episode and I’m also looking forward to seeing Cranston again at the Palme d’Or. He said he’s still very proud of that theater operation.
“When I’m not working, I make it out fairly often,” he said, “mostly to moderate our Meet the Filmmaker series, where we’ll bring in the directors of films and give our audiences a chance to learn more about the movie and the filmmaking in general. It’s a lot of fun.”
Bryan Cranston on Breaking Bad’s Dark Side
by Joe Pompeo – March 30, 2010 – observer.com
Bryan Cranston woke up on the morning of Wednesday, March 24, and went for a long run over the Williamsburg Bridge and back. Then he ate lunch, did some writing for a new children’s show he’s working on for Nickelodeon and popped into the bar at Soho’s Crosby Street Hotel, where he was staying, for a late-afternoon beer.
“I like darker beer,” said the actor, just before ordering an Ithaca Nut Brown Ale and a bowl of nuts to go with it. He sat beneath an elaborate wall fixture consisting of nine black rotary telephones, dressed in a blue, pinstriped button-down tucked into tailored gray pants. His hair was close-cropped, his sideburns neat and his face delicately creased with age.
“I took a tour of the Guinness factory in Dublin,” Mr. Cranston continued. “They give you a little eyedrop of Guinness encased in, uh, like a plastic — almost like a paperweight. And you can keep it as a souvenir on your desk. It’s really fun.”
Mr. Cranston, who recently turned 54, was in town on an epic press junket to promote Breaking Bad, AMC’s twisted black comedy, which has earned him two Emmy Awards for his leading role as Walter White, a terminally ill, midlife-crisising high-school chemistry teacher-turned-meth manufacturer living in Albuquerque. The show was created by Vince Gilligan, formerly a producer on The X-Files.
Breaking Bad, the third season of which premiered on March 21, is disturbing, hilarious, touching, taboo, nauseating, edifying, awkward, anxiety-filled and, above all, masterfully written and directed, as is evidenced by the various awards and critical acclaim it has received. It is not, however, nearly as massive a hit as many of its peers (at least not yet) — zeitgeisty, water-cooler-chatter shows like The Sopranos, Lost, True Blood and, of course, Mad Men, Breaking Bad’s extraordinarily popular network-mate (widely perceived as the reason AMC has become relevant). Walter White is no Don Draper, and Mr. Cranston himself is perhaps still more well known as the fumbling father from Malcolm in the Middle, the Fox sitcom in which he appeared in 151 episodes between 2000 and 2006.
“Breaking Bad is not a sexy show,” said Mr. Cranston. “It’s a gritty show. It’s not going to be on the cover of Vogue. Mad Men, you have the dashing Jon Hamm and all these beautiful women. The Sopranos, we’re enthralled with mobsters. You know, the goombah, the goodfellas, the godfather. That’s totally magazine-cover-sexy. A guy in his underwear [cooking meth] out in the middle of the desert in an RV? Not sexy.”
In the season-three opener, which begins after Walter has just confessed his secret profession to his wife, Skyler, who subsequently leaves him, we first see Mr. Cranston slouched on some patio furniture in his backyard, wearing a brown robe over tighty-whities, slowly flicking lit matches into his swimming pool. With one match left in the book, he gets up, strikes it and tosses it onto a charcoal grille with the intention of burning the $500,000 in cash he’d just made off a recent meth sale — money he needed only so that Skyler, his newborn baby and his handicapped teenage son wouldn’t be left penniless when he eventually succumbed to lung cancer. As Walter gazes at the burning bills, he suddenly thrusts himself onto the flames, catches on fire, and jumps into the pool, with the grill, to salvage his fortune. You just don’t know whether to feel bad or call him an asshole.
For Mr. Cranston, the most intense moment of the entire series thus far occurred in season two, when Walter lets his young business partner’s girlfriend die in her sleep, watching idly as she chokes on her own vomit during a heroin overdose. Good times!
“What we’re doing on the show has never been done in the history of television, and that’s not hyperbole,” said Mr. Cranston. “[Vince] told me, he wants to do a series where, at the beginning, the guy is Mr. Chips. Good guy. Smart guy. Provides for his family. Never got a ticket in his life. And by the end of the series, he’s Scarface. He’s a killer. And that’s never been done before. I mean, gone are the days of Magnum P.I. He was great-looking, great car, never drank too much, never cheated on his girlfriend. It’s like, ‘What a guy!’ We don’t have that. Those days are over. So we’re in uncharted waters here, and that’s what so exciting about this era of television. It’s going places that really haven’t been discovered. I think it’s, dare I say, another golden age of television.”
Whether Breaking Bad ever gets to Mad Men proportions, Mr. Cranston is not concerned. “That’s not what I do this for anyway,” he said. But: “I think we could easily do two more years, to do a total of five seasons. We might be able to do six. I hope we’re on for as long as it takes to thoroughly examine this journey, and no longer.”