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Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston: 'it’s a bold show'
Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston. Image. REUTERS.Phil McCarten
Breaking Bad season five is underway in the US. Here in the UK, although the show is not currently broadcast on TV, season four is out now on DVD and the first part of season five is available on Netflix from 1 November.
The series tells the story of cancer-ridden chemistry teacher Walter White (magnificently played by the great Bryan Cranston). He is still making meth alongside sidekick Jesse (the wonderful Aaron Paul). But Walter's attempt to provide for his family sees his dark transformation to full-blown criminal reach lethal new heights.
Bryan Cranston was in the UK recently so a selection of journalists, including yours truly, sat down to grill him about life and Breaking Bad.
How has Breaking Bad changed your life?
It's created a level of opportunity professionally that I have never experienced before. When actors first come up, you're auditioning for everything - you're trying to sniff it out like a pig with a truffle and you would do anything!
I feel like I've become pretty good at identifying well-written material. That's the cornerstone. If something is well written, it has a chance to be good and if it's not well written, it will not be good. It could even become popular, but it won't be good.
So if you just attach yourself to really good writing, it will save your ass almost all the time.
Do you feel TV now offers better opportunities for actors?
What's happened is the business model of television has changed. When I was a kid, there was a select amount of channels and they were all governed by the same networks with the same business models. It had to have a more large appeal to people and they just didn't offer very much.
So we were attracted to independent films, because it was risky, it told us stories that would make us uncomfortable or go into different areas and not necessarily all end up in a nice little bow.
Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season is out now on DVD. © 2011 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Now you have a situation where the television world has expanded, there's hundreds of channels and networks and they need to be able to have their own identity.
So in the states, AMC has this credo that if it can be shown on a broadcast network, then they don't even want to hear it. It's 'we want the things that you thought couldn't be done', and that is like catnip to a writer.
It's empowering those writers to be able to do exactly what they want - the same with Vince Gilligan; he never thought Breaking Bad would be able to fly.
He wrote this on spec, just on his own, because it was in him and he thought it was crazy, no one was going to do this... he still didn't believe it when we were going into production!
Because of the nature of the show and the storytelling, it's not ever going to be a show that millions and millions of people go to. It's too different, it's too pungent for the taste of most people and that's OK with us. I think if you try and appeal to the masses, you have to end up watering it down and I think it's better to be specific and be bold.
Do you have your own view on what should happen to Walt?
I don't! I honestly feel - and I swear to you this is not a cop-out answer - I want it to end exactly how Vince Gilligan wants it to end. He's the captain, he's guided the story from the beginning and I empower that and I'm his mouthpiece basically.
Some people ask me, 'you're eight episodes from the end, is there pressure on you to finish it?' and I go, 'not at all, not on me - it's on him!'
At the recent Emmys, Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul were up against each other. How did that make you feel because they both deserved to win.
The truth is that we don't think too much about it. I don't think too much of it. I never dreamt about winning awards - the fact that you are in that conversation, that people are responding to your work, is in itself a remarkable thing. You're all gathered there and it's all worthy people in my own category, like Damian Lewis.
Here's something that I found to be upsetting - that people tend to want to pit us against each other, like it's a competition and I see it why they think like that, but I don't truly see it that way.
But people came up to me after Damian Lewis won the Emmy and said, 'you got robbed, man, you got robbed!', and every time someone would say that it would feel like someone was accidentally stepping on my toe.
Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul . Image Copyright 2011 Sony Pictures Television Inc. All Rights Reserved.
I understand the sentiment, that they're trying to say, 'oh, sorry that you didn't win'. But it's not enough to say that, they have to put down the other guy, and that kind of competition was uncomfortable to me.
I know Damian and he's so terrific, and he certainly deserves that kind of accolade and attention. It was his year. People expect you to be sad and it's like, 'no, I'm not upset, he's terrific!' But by saying 'you got robbed', it's saying that he didn't deserve it and that's a little annoying to me.
Why do you think Breaking Bad has struggled to secure a permanent UK broadcaster?
It's an underground show. It's kinda cool that a lot of people still don't know about it - it's almost like a private little club, you know? And that's alright.
Like I said, it's very pungent. If you like vanilla, you're not going to like Breaking Bad - you need to like a specific flavour that is unusual, that is different, that takes risks. Most television shows don't do that because they're geared to appeal to a massive audience. It's not frustrating to me, because people will either find the show or they won't.
Breaking Bad Season 5 is available on Netflix UK from 1 November. Seasons 1-4 are available on DVD and Netflix UK now.
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