|The Breaking Bad Interviews: Bryan Cranston|
Walter White on ceremonial head shaves, pranks and Oprah
Warning: Contains spoilers for seasons 1 to 5A.
How exhausted are you?
I had two and a half hours sleep after the SAG awards, followed by a seven page workload on Monday morning. Then I had a 6am call this morning, and then this, and then I have a meeting tonight, and then a 6 o'clock call tomorrow morning... I love it. I do. It's my personality. I love go, go, go, go, go.
It drives my wife crazy, and she knows now just to leave me alone, because we're in a different thing... and we're together for the right reasons because after 25 years, she calms me down when I need to be calmed down.
Have you enjoyed pulling any pranks this season?
I haven't thought of specific pranks to pull as it's been such a whirlwind now, and my life has changed. I've got a lot more opportunities, opportunities that demand my time, so now it's, "I've to go to this, I've got to do that". As much fun as that is, and despite a sea of chances that have presented themselves, I'm not doing so many pranks.
But I still need and still want to have a laugh. Especially in a show that's so tense most of the time. You can't sustain that kind of tension - you need to blow it off, and sometimes, in the 14th hour, is when you need it most.
What won't you miss? The early desert shoots?
If I'm not freezing my ass off in Albuquerque, I'll be doing it somewhere else. And as painful as that is, I still always think, in that pain, in that cold, when you're shivering, desperately concentrating on what you're supposed to say and hitting your marks or you're going to have to shoot it again, so there's another take, and you're colder... and still, I recognise that I am the luckiest guy in the world.
Seriously - what percentage of the world's population loves what they do? And looks forward to Monday? 'Oo, Monday! I get to work!'
How much of you is in Walter? And how much, as a producer, have you been able to affect the way he's changed?
|Walter White now: he doesn't have time for depression, he's busy trying to save his life, and the lives of his family.|
I pitched that he should have glasses, I pitched that I should be overweight (to start), because we knew where we were going, we knew chemo was coming - and he should be overweight anyway, because when we shot the pilot, I weighed probably 12 pounds more than I do now. And that's all by design because Walter White in the beginning had gone to seed. He didn't care any more, he gave up, he was depressed. Walter White now: he doesn't have time for depression, he's busy trying to save his life, and the lives of his family.
Are you still pitching new ideas to Vince?
No, because what happens is that I interpret. You say he's a jealous man, so I process what that means to me and then you as the writer see the result of what I do and that influences your writing in turn. 'I like how he went that way...', so you start writing that. Then you see something else, and it's reciprocal. You're writing it, I'm processing it, you're processing it, you're writing it, I'm acting it.
So Vince and I, and Vince and the other actors, have been doing this whole dance for the last six years. And that's how you grow together, how it becomes that triumvirate of actor-writer-director. You keep it in that triangle, you grow, and then your support system, or your crew, they come and support it with beautiful lighting, great sound and music and so on, all these things, and that's what lifts it up a level that hopefully you will achieve.
Did you ever dream it would ever become this phenomenon?
I am making pork pie hats happen. Kids are dressing up as Heisenberg for Halloween, the t-shirts, the artwork... But no, I never saw this coming. Actors don't honestly know whether something's going to be successful. You hope. And you know if something is good when you see it, you know if something is good when you read it. But there's a long way from reading something to having something result in a good performance in a play or a good movie or a good TV show or a good song or a good poem, or whatever the case may be.
Inspiration and desire only gets you so far, you have to execute, and then to have to have a healthy dose of luck. You have to have critics who find it and say, 'Wait a minute, this little show called Breaking Bad, which looks like no-one should really like if you just read what it's about, it's really good!' Or there's a family defence council who says, 'We don't approve of glorifying drugs!' And we say, 'It's not about glorifying drugs! It's not about that at all! You would never want to trade places with this man - he's on a collision course.'
So it's people finding it, and getting their way through it... if it becomes a classic, it's all because the audience made it so. No-one who makes stories can start out saying, 'I'm going to make a classic.' It's like saying, 'Hey, watch this! I'm going to swing on this chandelier to the other side of the room...' It's, like, disaster. 'I'm going to backflip into that icy pool.' Gooooood luck with that.
Do you have any favourite fan memes or artwork?
I must confess, I'm a not very reflective type of person. I don't scour the internet; I don't think I've even seen my IMDb page. I don't read blogs, I just don't go there. It pauses me, then sends me backward. I am a forward kind of guy. I'm in the moment, I want to be here, I want to talk to you, and I want to convey my thoughts and hear yours, but once this is over, I'm done, I'm looking forward. We're over, okay? WE'RE FINISHED! OUR RELATIONSHIP IS OVER!
But, in the same sense, I want to say that I appreciate the comments that I do actually hear. Aaron (Paul) is much more in touch with new media and he tells me what is happening. I am much more inclined to want to create something new or push out, as opposed to stopping and looking back.
How do fans treat you when they see you on the street?
That happens all the time now. The unfortunate thing is that my relationship with fans is almost like a relationship in a loud bar, meeting someone that you're attracted to. 'HI! WHAT'S YOUR NAME? OH. WHAT DO YOU DO?' And then you can't quite hear each other... 'I GOTTA GO.' 'OKAY!' You only brush the surface, and that's the same relationship with fans. It's like, 'I love your show!' 'Hey, thanks man, I appreciate that,' is my response. 'Can I get a picture?' 'Sure!' 'Can you sign this to my dad, he loves Breaking Bad.' 'Okay sure.' 'See you later!'
It's only when I get the chance to do a long seminar, which I enjoy, or a Q&A, or even just sitting down and talking about what my life is like, like here with you - or talking with young actors, which I love doing. These high school or college actors, who have stars in their eyes, and they're gleaming and hopeful and all those sorts of things, I love to be able to encourage them... and discourage them. I try to get to them and say, 'I think I'm doing you a favour if I say, "If you don't have a strong burning passion for this business, for acting, do something else, because you won't make it."'
You say you're not a reflective person, but after this amazing show has changed your life, is there a memento you're planning on keeping?
It's the pork pie hat. I'm going to get the pork pie hat and put it in a Lucite box with my sunglasses. Those are the two things. So I'm going to steal those - don't tell anybody - and... that's about it really. Well, I have some mementos in the form of artists' works. What I love is that this show has spawned some really great art. Really wonderful art. I see that, and being an artistic person, I like to see other people's art. And that we've influenced that, or inspired that? That's very satisfying.
Did you ever feel like shooting Breaking Bad was like shooting a film?
|What I love about Breaking Bad is that it's pungent. It's got a specific taste to it, and you have to have an adult sensibility to appreciate it.|
And so, it was cinematic. It was... like a novel. That was the first chapter of a novel, where we were introduced to the dilemma, and the plot, and that he killed his first person, and has made this decision and he is on his way. It doesn't just give it to you - it asks more questions than it answers.
Have you heard of people being turned off by how full-on the first two episodes are?
What I love about Breaking Bad is that it's pungent. It's got a specific taste to it, and you have to have an adult sensibility to appreciate it, and not to disparage anybody who doesn't like the show, but Oprah (Winfrey) told me, she said, 'I just couldn't take the acid bath. The guts and the blood... Argh!' Whereas her friend Gayle (King - Editor-At-Large for O and co-anchor of CBS This Morning) was like, 'Oh, I loved that!' So she's on the path, whereas Oprah's like, 'I c... c... can't.'
It's not an insult to me, she was very kind, but I like to do artwork that does not appeal to the masses, but appeals to a specific taste. Now that doesn't mean I'd stay in that, because I would do children's theatre - it has its place - and you see these young faces and they can't help but respond while you're acting, and that's fantastic, and you can play with them, say you're Captain Hook or something like that.
Are you planning on doing more comedy now?
More comedy, and more stagework. Because I've done almost 13 straight years of television, and I did a play in that one year between Malcolm In The Middle and Breaking Bad and I need to get back to that process and what that feels like, because I miss it.
Is there going to be a ceremonial last shave of the head?
You know, I have to shave this every other day. But no, I'm not that sentimental, I don't do that. I mean, I'll probably be bawling my eyes out, but now, when we have a couple more months of shooting to do, and a 6am wake-up call, you're too tired to think like that. I'll cry about it, but after I get some sleep.
THE BREAKING BAD INTERVIEWS
Head back to the interview hub for more exclusive interviews with the cast and makers of Breaking Bad