'Breaking Bad': Bryan Cranston, cast and Vince Gilligan on ending the series
Before the cast takes the stage, AMC shows a clip reel recapping the entire show to this point. It ends on the scene from "Say My Name": "You're Heisenberg." "Youre godd*** right." ( Watch it here.)
Vince Gilligan takes the stage wearing a Los Pollos Hermanos T-shirt. Want.
Were any characters conceived one way and turned out another, due to the actor playing them or the direction the story took? Hank (Dean Norris), Gilligan says. He started as kind of a "frat boy" that Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) liked more than his own dad -- "he was a bit of a mechanical construct" before Gilligan met Norris and started to tailor the part to him.
"TV is this great, organic, living, breathing thing," Gilligan says. "If you roll with it a showrunner ... wonderful things derive from that."
AMC head Charlie Collier failed to introduce Bob Odenkirk at the start of the panel and jumps in now to do so. "I'm sneaking in. I'm a fan of the show," Odenkirk deadpans.
Gilligan says "I can't honestly remember" his original intent for the end of the show. Cranston says Gilligan told him "broad strokes" for it, but not specifics. So much has happened since the pilot that Gilligan says he's not sure what he was thinking at the outset.
Cranston says he and Paul read the last script together about a week before shooting it that will be part of a documentary about the show.
Gilligan allows that now that he's done, the "Mr. Chips to Scarface" shorthand he used to pitch the show doesn't quite fit, considering that a lot of Walt's arrogance and ego were there from the start. "You could argue whether his road to hell was paved with good intentions or whether it revealed things already in him." Gilligan has come around to the latter.
Cranston says Walt "could have been Mr. Chips 20 years ago," but after being beaten down by the apathy of hundreds of students over the years, when we meet him he can't be.
What about this documentary? Gilligan says it's part of the extras for the full-series Blu-ray and DVD set. Directed by Stu Richardson, it's a two-hour look at the life of the series. "I don't know all the ins and outs of it, but I've seen it, and it's damn good," Gilligan says.
Question about the relative complicity of Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Jesse: Why are people so much more sympathetic to Jesse? Paul isn't sure, given the fact that Jesse's a drug dealer and murderer. "With Skyler, when I watch it, I feel for her so much. ... She just wants to protect her family."
Gunn's take on it is because "people got so behind Walt ... that they really sided with him." She got the sense that some viewers channeled their frustrations about "dreams deferred" into Walt, and Skyler was the one who most often stood in his way. "Therefore she became kind of a villain to people who really identified with Walt."
How much bad is left in Jesse, and how much good is left in Walt? Paul says Jesse is "emptied out" after the events of Season 5a, and he's "terrified" of Walt and trying his best to stay out of the business.
Cranston, kidding: "Walt has a large reservoir of joy to share with everyone, and he spreads it around in these last eight episodes. I think everyone will be satisfied with the ending where we hug it out." Betsy Brandt: "Don't mention the musical number."
Cranston, serious: Everyone has good and bad in them, and "given the right set of dire circumstances, any one of us could become dangerous."
Gilligan is tremendously grateful for the passion of fans and those of us who write about the show frequently, but he hasn't read your recaps.
"I hope I am not wildly wrong in my estimate that most folks are gonna dig the ending," Gilligan says.
Update on the Saul (Bob Odenkirk) spinoff: "It is my fervent wish" that it happens, Gilligan says, but it's still in the "hope it happens" stage. Odenkirk calls the person who asked about the spinoff "an incredibly perceptive, forward-thinking human being" but doesn't know anything more either. He's really, really happy just to have been on the show in the first place.
The show hasn't revealed a ton of back story about its characters -- did the actors create their own? Odenkirk says he's always thought of Saul being from Chicago. Mitte relates his own dealings with cerebral palsy through Walt Jr. Brandt says she always thought Hank and Marie wanted to have kids but couldn't, and she and Gunn wondered "What the F are their parents like?" Gunn adds they agreed the sisters didn't have a happy childhood -- "they're like war buddies."
Paul says he didn't rely too much on back story because Jesse was on a "constant search for some guidance in his life." He found a father figure in Walt after his parents gave up on him, and because of that he also wants to protect kids.
Cranston: "The turning point for Walter White was July 4, 1978, when he entered the Nathan's hot dog-eating contest and consumed 38 1/2 hot dogs" and nearly became a competitive eater. Gilligan: "Why did you have to ruin the ending?" Cranston: "I thought it was obvious."
And that's it. Sixteen days until "Breaking Bad" returns.