Dean Norris is having a good year. His arc as Hank Schrader on “Breaking Bad” about to take a turn for the climactic when the series comes back for its final eight episodes on Aug. 11. And “Under the Dome,” the new show based on a Stephen King novel in which Norris plays the morally ambiguous James “Big Jim” Rennie, netted 20 million viewers for its premiere on CBS. Naturally there was plenty to talk about when Zap2It caught up with Norris at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend.
When the first half of “Breaking Bad” Season 5 concluded last year, Hank had just discovered the biggest clue yet to his brother-in-law Walter White’s escapades as a drug lord, and he did it while sitting on the toilet. The episode ended with a close-up on Hank’s face, with him looking perfectly dumbfounded. Will Season 5 episode 9 pick up right where the last one left off?
“Well, I’m going to wipe first, and then flush. Then I wash my hands,” Norris says. “Whether that’s on-screen or not, I can’t tell you. Be sure that I do wash my hands. That’s all I’m saying.” He wouldn’t drop any hints, but he did predict — correctly — that the “Breaking Bad” panel in the enormous Hall H on Sunday would be both “bedlam” and “interestingly emotional, because it will be our last one as a cast.”
Hank Schrader is a good guy with some flaws, but Norris’s character on “Under the Dome,” Big Jim, is much harder to read. After the mysterious and nearly impermeable dome falls on the town of Chester’s Mill, councilman Big Jim naturally assumes a leadership position. But he’s definitely got some dark secrets, and episode 5, airing July 22, will show that he won’t hesitate to take out his enemies when the opportunity arises. Norris grinned devilishly when Zap2It brought up his character’s moral ambiguity.
“Good! That’s what we want you to think,” he says. “You know, I think he’s a bit of both. Big Jim thinks he’s doing the right thing for the town — certainly bad guys never think that they’re bad guys — but maybe some of the ways he goes about it aren’t such nice ways, you know? So I think that’s a complexity we wanted to keep throughout the whole season, is: is Big Jim a good guy ultimately, or is he a bad guy ultimately? And then you’ll have to judge that yourself when you see the last episode.”
After a cackle, he continues: “I think he had inkling — I think he wanted to be [a leader], and having this dome come down, he’s the only one who’s happy about it, because it gives him the opportunity to realize his dictatorial ambitions, you know, and become this guy that he’s always wanted to become. I always imagine him, like, reciting Churchill speeches in his bathroom to the mirror, and now all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Woah! The dome’s down! Here’s my chance to do this.'”
Last week episode 4 of “Under the Dome” ended on a cliffhanger as Big Jim discovered the girl his son has been holding hostage, but it’s unclear whether he’ll set poor Angie free. That’s something that will play out further in episode 5, which the cast and producers screened at the “Under the Dome” panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Norris told Zap2It that it’s one of his favorite episodes, though it provides few answers about the show’s many mysteries. Those will come later, Norris said.
“All will be answered in these 13 episodes,” he laughs. “Not exactly what the dome is, but there’s a lot more understanding of what it is, and that’s part of the story that also starts really picking up in [episode 5], and really accelerates through to the end of the season, where the dome becomes a real character and the kids actually start to understand it. And then it becomes a question of: who is going to control it? Is it on their side? Is it a good dome? Is it a bad dome? Whose side are the powers that that dome has going to be on?”
In other words, there will be plenty of room for a second season? “Yes. I think that would be correct,” he says. Will Norris be on that second season? “Yeah!” he exclaims, laughing.
“Breaking Bad” Season 5 resumes August 11 and “Under the Dome” airs Mondays on CBS.