In the latest issue of Empire - out now, fact fans - there's a six-page on-set feature on AMC's high-school-chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-lord drama Breaking Bad. We were lucky enough to interview the whole cast for the piece, as well as the showrunner Vince Gilligan, the man who made it all happen. So as a tease for any BB lovers out there, here's a spoiler-filled parallel feature where Gilligan lists his favourite five moments so far.
Needless to say, this piece contains spoilers from seasons 1 to 5A.
*From: 'Negro Y Azul' – Season 2, Episode 7*
"The severed head on the desert tortoise, crawling through the desert and then – BOOM! – blowing up. That was a highlight moment for us. When we came up with the idea of the head on the tortoise I literally said to the writers, 'You know what? I think we can go to lunch early. We’ve earned our money today.' And then one of my writers, George Mastras, said, 'And the head should be booby-trapped! The tortoise should blow up!'"
"And I said, 'George, quit while you’re ahead, all right? That’s ridiculous. We’ve already got a head on a tortoise, why should it blow up?' Of course, I then thought about it for five minutes and said, 'Damn it George, you’re right. The head has to blow up.' (Laughs)"
*From: “Face Off” – Season 4, Episode 13*
"Again with the explosions, but Gus Fring getting half his face blown off, that was definitely a real highlight moment for me. That was an image I had in my mind, many months before we shot that episode. People compare the teddy bear with half a face to Gus Fring, and I’d love to take credit for that, I’d love to say I was thinking of that all along, but unfortunately that was either a happy accident or on some very deep, subconscious level I’m not aware of, I’m obsessed with half-exploded faces."
"I also had the pleasure of getting to direct that scene and that episode, so it’s very vivid in my memory – it’s also vivid that it took 19 takes to get that shot, which is about 15 more takes than we usually do, so that was another sincere moment of anxiety and frustration, but it came out well I think."
*From: 'Gray Matter' – Season 1, Episode 5*
"One of our finest moments was not necessarily one of our most dramatic. But in the writers’ room during the first season, we did an episode – only our fifth episode – where we offered a Deus Ex Machina moment to Walter White. We basically had a saviour, a white knight, come to Walter White in the form of Elliott Schwartz, his former friend and lab partner who is now a millionaire, running an enormous scientific research company."
"And Elliott comes to Walt and says, 'I’ve heard about your cancer, I’m going to pay for your medical treatment, I’m going to pay the full freight on it, and I’m going to give you a job, anything you want – I just want to do right by you and help you and help your family…' And instead of taking this life preserver that’s been thrown to him, Walt decides to go back to cooking crystal meth, and that’s one of my favourite moments and one of the most important moments in the life of the show, because prior to that I don't think the writers and I truly understood Walter White."
"We didn’t understand that he was a creature of such pride and such damaged ego that he would rather be his own man and endanger his family’s life than take a handout like that. He’s that kind of a guy. Prior to that Walter White was basically a good but mislead guy with bad decision-making skills. He was going to make money, and then what was going to happen to keep him cooking meth? The money was going to get stolen, so he’d have to cook more meth… we came to realise truly what we had in that fifth episode."
"That’s when he broke bad, in a way. When the show kicked in to high gear, or started to, anyway."
*From: “Better Call Saul” – Season 2, Episode 8*
"Another favourite moment was bringing the world Saul Goodman. Saul is one of my favourite characters. The first scene, where Saul comes in to meet his new client Badger Mayhew and basically spends five minutes talking about what kind of billing procedure they were going to use – he’ll take cash, he’ll take a money order, but he doesn't take American Express – that still makes me smile. I love that scene."
*From: “Say My Name” – Season 5, Episode 7*
"In season 5A, as we call it, the character of Mike gets brought down by Walt in a moment that Walt himself I don’t think sees coming, and it’s just a sad moment, beautifully written and directed by one of my oldest friends, a writer named Thomas Schnauz, who I’ve known since NYU film school, and in his first professional directing gig he just did a fantastic job with that episode and that scene."
"And of course the two actors, Bryan Cranston and Jonathan Banks, killed it. Just did a wonderful job. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house that day."