The Emmy-winning actor reveals what to expect when the series returns on July 17th, and reminisces about last year's stellar run, on Blu-ray and DVD June 7th
Forget whatever big movies are hitting the Cineplex this summer. The hottest ticket is on television, as Breaking Bad returns to AMC for Season 4 starting July 17th. This Tuesday, June 7th, the Breaking Bad: Complete Third Season Blu-ray and DVD will hit store shelves, giving you enough time to catch up on what is happening with Walter White, a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who starts dealing meth to provide for his family and to cover the rising cost of his heath bills.
Season 3 is a heart-pounding jolt of adrenaline from its first episode until its last, offering a side of its main characters we've never seen before. Series stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul both took home the Emmy for their outstanding performances, and now you can re-watch all of the excitement and drama again, before finding out if Jesse really did shoot Gale.
Here is our conversation.
Are you as excited about the return of Breaking Bad in July as we are?
Bryan Cranston: Excited? Excited? Of course I am! It's been a great season. This will be the first season that we have wrapped completely. We will be done and gone from New Mexico by the time the first episode airs. There will be some distance from what we are seeing. Again, Season 4 has been masterfully written by Vince Gilligan and his writing staff. To churn out the agony and the ecstasy of these characters? It's like a well-crafted tragedy. It keeps getting tighter and tighter. This life that Walter White has chosen is fraught with complications and tension. And its so exciting to watch it all play out.
And obviously, you guys have shot some of these episodes already...
Bryan Cranston: We are shooting the last two episodes as we speak. We have ten more days, and then we are done.
With Aaron Paul winning the Emmy this year, does that sort of insure his character's safety? Or will he be on the edge of his demise as much in Season 4 as he was in Season 3?
Bryan Cranston: There is always a chance that he may not make it. Without giving away too many details, there is a character on our show that will not survive the first episode. How about that for a teaser?
This is one of the bigger, main characters on the show?
Bryan Cranston: Yeah.
That's not even fair to tell us that!
Bryan Cranston: I will give you a little nugget there. A little tease.
That scares me, because I love every single character on this series. Who's expendable, and who's not?
Bryan Cranston: The conditions and the dynamic is changing all of the time. We never know from one episode to the next who is becoming more susceptible to extinction.
What colors will Walt be wearing this year, and how will that reflect back on his character's arc throughout this upcoming season? Will we finally see the colors between Walt and Skyler blend as they grow closer together in their new working relationship?
Bryan Cranston: Using the color palate metaphorically? Literally, we do have color palates for every character carefully chosen, weaving in and out of whatever emotional turmoil they happen to be in at the time. It is really amazing that you mention that. Nothing is by accident. All of the art direction, which is anything you see or hear on the show, is all designed. Its specific. So all of the clothes that you see on the show have been carefully chosen to stay in a pattern, in a particular palate. That's why, when you saw Walter White in episode one of the pilot, in that first year...He was in beige. I wanted him to be in beige. I wanted him to blend into the walls. I wanted him to become invisible. I didn't want him to stand out as a person. And that really helped me to stand out as this everyman. This man who has lost his image. As he goes along, you will notice that the colors do change. I get into blacks, and I get into reds whenever there is a little something more going on. It's a subliminal message to the audience. It's an interesting notion. What happens in playing this, is that all of the characters that we have...They are playing a more important role in the show. In the beginning, it was just me, and how Walter White's decision is affecting his life. Now, going into Season 3 and Season 4, we are seeing how it is affecting everyone else's life. Skyler is faced with a situation that to most people is a hypothetical, "What would you do if you had a year to live?" Now, she is looking at this possibility of a coexistence with this man, whom at first she was absolutely aghast that he was involved in this. She's now had time to think about all of this, and look at it. Now, she is being seduce, just as I feel Walt was seduced into this behavior. By the attractiveness of the power. Albeit, a poor decision, and ultimately a deadly one. Now we are seeing it go across the board. It has been done so realistically, it makes me feel that anyone, and everyone, is susceptible to this kind of seduction. This allure of the darkside.
In Season 3, we see Walt go into remission. Has anyone ever done studies to prove that becoming involved in the sort of behavior that Walt has committed himself too, where everything is high stakes, and he has an immense amount of adrenaline pumping through his veins at all hours, actually helps cure or repress this disease?
Bryan Cranston: I think this is something that you could read into it. There is no scientific bearing on it whatsoever. And remission? I had to be reminded of what that is. I really had the wrong connotation to it. Walter White has terminal lung cancer. That has not changed. It will not change. Remission simply means that it hasn't progressed exponentially. His demise isn't more imminent. It has actually slowed. But his demise is pending. It will happen. Walter White will die of lung cancer...If he doesn't die from something else first.
And that will be the end of the series...
Bryan Cranston: That will be the end of it.
Last year, there was talk that RJ Mitte's character might come in and take over the business for his father. As the reconciliation between Walt and Skyler continues, will Walt Jr. be brought back into the family dynamic?
Bryan Cranston: Who said he might take over? I never said that!
I was just reading the interviews from last year's season finale. And it was said that Walt Jr. might come in and take over the family business at some point...
Bryan Cranston: Maybe we were purposely sending you down a wrong path. I think there are few things, in the history of storytelling, that are acceptable, and a few things that are absolutely unacceptable to the American palate. And that is endangering children...That is an unacceptable condition. Of course, its like, "Oh my god, my child was kidnapped!" There, you have everyone's sympathy. If a person is thought to be, or accused of being a molester, you are persona non grata. You cannot recover from that type of exposure, even in storytelling. The idea of RJ Mitte's character getting involved in the scheme here...I think, and I am honestly saying this from a thinking point of view...I don't know for sure, because I don't know what is in the deep recesses of Vince Gilligan's mind...I know its dark...I might hand him a light bulb in there to see. I don't really know what his intentions are.
On that note, though, it must be incredibly challenging to work Walt Jr. into the storyline in terms of what Walter and Skyler are doing together at this point...
Bryan Cranston: A necessary aspect of all dramas, and all stories, is conflict. Without conflict, the story doesn't move forward. If Walt and Skyler were childless, it would be so much easier. We would just have open conversations inside the house. We wouldn't have to worry about being exposed, about being found out. That helps create the tension. That is what you want. You want those complications in any story...
Here, moving into the fourth season, you also have this baby in the mix. You say you can't put those children in danger, but it seems like a logical step, that the bad guys would eventually get to Walt through his children...
Bryan Cranston: It would be very difficult and very delicate. You have to be very careful with something like that. What we have seen...We have seen these two people now...With Skyler being tempted to be a part of this business. Walter, certainly, is beyond reproach. He is this man now. But both of them? We can look, and ask, "Does this affect their parenting?" I suppose, on one level, it has too. But on a meta level, they seem to love their children. I have come to completely embrace that. Where you can have almost a schizophrenic kind of experience. I think it is humanly possible to have a person ordering deaths on this side, yet can't wait to get home to see his babies and his children, who he loves more than anything, and he would mourn forever if something happened to them. He has love and a fatherly attraction to them. I think that dichotomy is a human trait. I think we are able to split that and focus myopically on one or the other.
Having shot the entire season before it airs...Does that give you enough breathing room to go back and look at those episodes with a fresh eye for the material?
Bryan Cranston: I don't do that. I have seen every episode once. A few of the episodes twice. And the first episode several times, because we always have a cast and crew screening here in New Mexico, for the crew specifically, to show them what we are doing. As a whole. The finished product. Its good for morale. The producers put that on. We also have premieres in New York and Los Angeles. We see it again. That is why I will see the first episodes more often than not.
How methodically planned out are the Heisenberg sequences? And are we going to see more or less of him than we have in these past three seasons?
Bryan Cranston: Heisenberg, Walter White's alter ego, has become such an important character. Especially to Walt. When Walt was a little heavier, and he had hair, and this silly little moustache, and he would come home at the same time every day, he would bring his sack lunch. And he would do all of these mundane things. We knew that man, and we felt for that man. He was a little bit of a sad sack kind of a guy. In order for Walt to completely allow this inner demon to take over and do what he does, he needs that physical change of Heisenberg. That baldhead. That goatee. The porkpie hat. The black. That allows him to take on a character. When he puts that garb on, he can, in some ways, erase the old Walt. And in some ways, accept what this new Walt is doing. He even gave himself a different name. He is trying to disassociate himself from Walter White when he feels he has to be Heisenberg, and find that power from deep within. To exert himself. It was specifically planned and laid out, in season 3, that we didn't see Heisenberg for most of it. Until that very end, when we needed to see him. Heisenberg needs to save the day. And he shows himself at what appears to be his weakest moment. When he needs to turn in his friend, his co-worker...Then Heisenberg shows up and changes the dynamic immediately.
In season 3, there are at least four huge moments that make you jump up on the couch, mouth agape, disbelieving of what has just played out. They are some of the biggest 'wow' moments of any TV series. Are you going to continue down that path in season 4? Or are you going to slow things down a bit?
Bryan Cranston: I can honestly say that there will be plenty of photos of me, with my mouth agape, during season 4...Probably more than season 3. When you think about it, this simple plan that this man thought up so long ago has just spun completely out of control. He was ill equipped to handle it. Walter White's life is going to get more complicated, not less, as the series goes on. It is going to twist tighter and tighter and tighter. It is well crafted. Vince Gilligan does a masterful storytelling job. We set the tempo. We slow it down, we speed it up. By having this slower pace, which you won't see on broadcast TV but only on cable channels, because its left up to the story runner to devise his own way of storytelling...If its left up to the artists, and not the studio or network executive to call the shots, then more often than not, you are going to see a well-crafted, slower paced roll out. So that what happens when you do it slower is...We create this tension, and we create this image of people being oddly attracted to this car accident of a show...And you see people start to lean forward. We can feel them starting to reach, to ask, and they want more. They need more. Just when they start to reach in, we close the trap. Now, we have them in the cage, and we take them on this wild ride that they don't always want to go on. That was the devised plan. We got to know Walt, and we kind of fell for him in the beginning. His plight was so horrible. He had to work these two jobs, because he is not well paid as a teacher. His health care system is not going to cover what he needs. All of these things were set up for him to make this risky choice and this drastic decision. Without those components, he wouldn't have been compelled to make those moves.
Is there an end-game scenario laid out? Do you guys know where this is going, and how it will eventually play out?
Bryan Cranston: Vince Gilligan has an idea of how this might play out. But just like...I write as well, and as I set out with the notion of going in one direction, all of a sudden, the characters and ideas start talking to you, and taking you, and pulling you in another direction. An idea is good to have when you start out. It gets you going. But as he will tell you, especially, that these surprising turns will take you this way, they may take you that way...You don't know where exactly they are going to end up. That is the exciting part of this. I think he would be bored if he knew exactly the step-by-step of how he is going to end this show. He doesn't know that. And what the writers do from season to season, and all good writers do this...The writers' room will write themselves into an inextricable position. They will find themselves in a corner that is like, "Oh, my God! OH, MY GOD!" Blackout. End of season. Then they have time to think about that, and germinate on it. They aren't pressured to pump out the next script. They have time. Let's take a vacation. Let's all split up...And believe me, this doesn't leave you. It has to be a part of you all the time. Maybe you will think of a couple of things, sitting on the beach, reading a book. You go, "Wait a minute! That is interesting..." You make a note. You jot it down. So months later, when you reconvene to start planning out the next season, and you say, "When we last left, all of our characters were in places they can't get out of. How do we now get them out of this?" With fresh eyes, they start to poke at it. See how they can possibly, logically, justifiable move their characters out of that corner. That is what good writing is all about. Not that there isn't some bad sci-fi ideas, like, "Hey! I found this laser that turns us invisible. Now we can just walk out of here. Fantastic!" It can't be, "My god, I was having a dream! I'm not really in trouble!" Those are cop-out ways to go. Those are cheap ways to go.
Breaking Bad is one show that will never cop out...
Bryan Cranston: No. It does however make it extremely more difficult. And more burdensome for the writers. It is more rewarding.
Of Season 3, which episode did you enjoy best?
Bryan Cranston: (Sigh) Oh, boy. I don't know if I can say I liked it the best. It was the most different. The fly episode, was, I guess...I don't want to say it was an apparition of what we do...But it had a different flavor, and a different tone...That was very courageous of Vince Gilligan to do that kind of episode. It was claustrophobic, and it centered on minutiae. A couple of things came out of there that were very surprising to me. The one thing that really popped out...And I had never before seen this in a film or television show. It's when Walt was in his delusional state from lack of sleep and being drugged by Jesse. To try to get him to sleep. He is trying to stay awake, and he is trying to focus. And he is trying to get this fly, which by all likelihood wasn't going to be a huge contamination factor. He just got OCD on it, and he had to fix this. Under this state, he lamented about missing the perfect time to die. I thought that was so profound. So existential. When would be the perfect time to die? Can you pick it? Can you look back at your life and ask, "When would I have wanted to die? If I had to die in the past, how would I pick out the time that I would have liked to have died?" Its like, wow, that is trippy. He picked a time, and Walter White truly meant it. He missed his chance. It was after his daughter was born, and he got to see her. He had made enough money to pay off the college educations of his kids, and set his wife up. He had just sat there in his chair. He was calm, he was having a drink, and he was listening to his wife put his daughter to bed and sing a lullaby. He was able to smile, it was truthful, and it was simple. That would have been a good time to pass out and die. But he didn't. He had to live. After that, Jane died. He was involved in that. It got messier. He's now witnessing all of this murder and mayhem around him. He is directly evolved in that. He has watched himself become this person that he is not particularly fond of. Yet he is that person. He has to embrace that.
Who took the fall we see in that episode? That has to be one of the best falls ever seen in any TV show...
Bryan Cranston: My stunt double Edward A. Duran took the fall. And it was a very good way of shooting that. We did a lock-off with the camera. The camera was in that low, wide position, and when Walt falls off, he hits that canister, bounces off, and down he goes. We got it. Without bumping or touching the camera, they remotely shut the camera off. Just off, right where it stands. We all go in. Don't move. Ed fell in a specific position. However he fell, he knew he had to freeze after cut. Don't move. I went in, our medic went in, and our director Rian Johnson went in. We said, "You okay, Ed?" He was fine. Good. The medic goes away. I am studying, and we are all studying, his position. His right ankle is a little tipped on the side. His toes come to that point. We were taking picture, picture, picture. Ed gets up and I lie down, in what I had studied, and what I think was his position. They look at the picture. They are adjusting a finger, they are adjusting a foot. They are adjusting this and that. "Got it?" "Yes, good!" Then everyone gets out of the way. We turn the camera on, and push in. Now we are on the dolly, and we are pushing in. We come up, and we go right into my face. Put together, it is seamless. It looks like me. It was a great way to do that, and I am grateful that I didn't have to take that fall. Ed had bumps and bruises, but stuntmen are crazy. They are used to that life. I am glad he wasn't seriously hurt. But I'm also glad he took it and not me.
Its so flawless. I had to watch that scene twice, and I was dumfounded.
Bryan Cranston: Because you don't see a cut. The reason you don't see a cut is because the camera wasn't touched!
To see this incredible fall in action, be sure to grab the Breaking Bad: Complete Third Season Blu-ray or DVD in stores this Tuesday, June 7th.