With a premise about a middle-aged chemistry teacher who finds out he has cancer and starts cooking meth, “Breaking Bad” was not exactly an easy sell to make it on television. But its history includes some bigger bumps and near-misses than most — including the idea that John Cusack could have played Walter White.
That and other details of the show’s long road to critical raves and Emmy wins for AMC is documented in The Hollywood Reporter. Among other tidbits in the story:
– After Showtime, TNT and HBO passed “Breaking Bad,” FX bought the pitch in 2005 and started developing the show. FX eventually said no too, opting instead to go with Courteney Cox‘s show “Dirt” in a bid to draw more female viewers.
– Sony, which produces the show, and AMC were initially skeptical about casting Bryan Cranston as Walter White — partly because of his “Malcolm in the Middle” past, partly because the character was initially conceived as being 40 instead of 50 years old. In addition to Cusack, executives also suggested Matthew Broderick. They both declined, and creator Vince Gilligan got his wish to cast Cranston, who had impressed him as a guest star on a 1998 episode of “The X-Files” that Gilligan wrote.
– Cranston’s fellow Emmy winner, Aaron Paul, met with resistance at the casting phase too — there was concerns he was too handsome to play the scruffy Jesse Pinkman. “Too good-looking? I had never gotten that in my entire life,” Paul tells the HR with a laugh.
– Jesse almost didn’t survive the first season. Gilligan and the writers floated the idea of killing the character early on, but reconsidered after the 2007-08 writers strike shortened the first season.