Bryan Cranston has been busy letting everyone know that the end is near for his riveting drama Breaking Bad. Weeks after the ultra-likable star got another Emmy nomination for lead actor in a drama, he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After crisscrossing the country hitting all the major talk shows, and a few days before picking up a TCA Award for Program of the Year, Cranston sat down with the cast to talk about the acclaimed AMC series that will start its final eight episodes Sunday, Aug. 11.
It was a gathering of one of TV’s most remarkable casts headed by three-time Emmy winner Cranston, along with two-time winner Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, and Dean Norris (who has moved on to a great role as the mayor in CBS’ Under the Dome). Series producer-creator Vince Gilligan was also there at the TCA interview panel and awards ceremony insisting that he always intended to wrap up the show after five seasons.
“I think everyone will be satisfied with the ending where we hug it out. All is forgiven. He spreads his joy throughout the last eight episodes,” Cranston jokes with his usual ironic sense of humor. This was an unusual show in that the Walter White lead character (Cranston) becomes the most despicable, murderous character over the course of the series, and yet the audience stays tuned because they are fascinated by his journey over to the dark side.
The premise of Breaking Bad started with the life of the mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White taking a major turn for the worse. His salary barely makes ends meet, a situation not likely to improve once his pregnant wife gives birth, and their teenage son is battling cerebral palsy. But Walter is dumbstruck when he learns he has terminal cancer. Realizing that his illness probably will ruin his family financially, Walter makes a desperate bid to earn as much money as he can in the time he has left by turning an old RV into a meth lab on wheels.
Over the drama’s five seasons Walter White has turned into a heinous soul, with little chance of redemption. Of the good school teacher he used to be, Cranston says, “I always embraced the moments when I was able to show his acumen in the show. It was his one true passion, besides his family. He excelled and he truly had a gift. That being said, I think there comes a time in every teacher’s life where the overwhelming impact of apathy that is facing them every day has to chip away at that passion. I think he got to that point where he was kind of beaten down and it had taken its toll. He was certainly in a depressed state when we first started the show. So he could have been ‘Mr. Chips’ maybe 20 years ago, but now he’s not.” Cranston explains that Breaking Bad had Mr. Chips turn into Scarface because his emotions were calloused over by the depression.
“Just the notion of trying to take a serialized television show and change this character was never done before, and I was aghast by that. I wanted this role really bad. When we read good scripts, it instills imagination in you immediately. But at the first meeting we never discussed where it was going to end up. As the seasons went on, I never found out. I never asked. I never wanted to know. The twist and turns of my character were so sharp that it wouldn’t help me to know. I was just holding on, much like the audience was,” reveals Cranston.
He hopes everybody will be satisfied with the ending and muses, “I really believe that everybody is capable of good and evil. We are all human beings. The best or the worst of you can come out depending on your influences and your DNA, parenting, education, and your social environment. Given the right set of circumstances and dire situations, any one of us can become dangerous.”
Cranston, who became a household name as the wacky dad on Malcolm in the Middle, will now go on to do more movies (remember he starred opposite Ben Affleck in the outstanding Argo film). And his wonderful actress-wife Robin Dearden says a stage show is in his future. But for now he’s riding the bittersweet last wave of AMC’s Breaking Bad.