With the final season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” kicking off in July, fans are braced for what could be the beginning of the end for Walter White, the chemistry teacher-turned-drug kingpin whose descent into darkness was solidified at the close of last year’s season finale. From frightened cancer victim to unstoppable super-villian, Bryan Cranston has followed his role to dark places viewers never predicted, yet the actor says even he can relate to the guy.
“What I’ve learned from this role is that even the meekest, most unassuming person, it’s possible to have that person change into a desperate, horrific human being,” Cranston tells Zap2It on Sunday (June 10) at the Actors Fund 16th Annual Tony Awards Viewing Party in Hollywood. “With the right set of conditions, anyone can change.”
“If I said to you ‘Let me punch you in the face,’ you’d say, ‘That’s ridiculous, of course not,'” he continues. “Let me make it this way, ‘I’ll give you $10,000… $20,000.’ Then you start thinking, ‘Well, where are you going to hit me and can I be transported to a hospital?’ Now, we’re just negotiating, and you make all these justifications. That’s what happened to Walter White. He made a couple decisions that he thought were beneficial to his family, a couple twists and turns, and suddenly he’s no longer himself. That’s the road I’m on.”
Cranston took a day off from filming the final season of the series to support his fellow thespians at the annual event, but said he was returning to New Mexico Sunday night to continue production. Cranston says the beginning of Season 5 would be more “intellectual” than the past. He also offered more thoughts on Walter White and his shifting persona.
“The idea that a man can go from being a good person to a bad person was intriguing to me, and that’s what was pitched to me at the very beginning,” Cranston says. “Television, historically, has always been the same — things that stay the same. You see characters you like; you latch onto them. You like them. You want them to be that way, and you invest in them to be a certain way. Now they’ve invested in me at the beginning of the series, and we’re evolving, changing, forcing the audience to follow us. And yet, they’re hating what I’m doing and what I’ve become. And I still get people — even people like critics — saying, ‘How are we supposed to like you?’ and I say, ‘Why are you supposed to like me?'”
In real life, Cranston is an actor’s actor and a fan favorite, earning three Emmy Awards for his role on “Breaking Bad.” His roots, however, are in theater, and on Broadway’s biggest night, he fondly recalled the days when he was broke but happy, working as a stage apprentice.
“My first professional job, if you can say that, was summer stock in Florida,” he says. “And that was such great fun because you’re doing two or three plays in repertory. You’re young, and when you’re not on stage you’re building the sets and the costumes, and it’s just, you’re completely involved in the process from start to finish. It’s really uniquely perfect for that age group — when you’re in your late teens and into your 20s — when you can sleep on somebody’s couch and not have any problems. Now, it would be a problem.”