Bryan Cranston on Walter White’s future in ‘Breaking Bad’ final season
It might have been the most epic bathroom break in television history.
If you’re not caught up on “Breaking Bad,” you might want to stop reading here. But if you are caught up, you know that last season’s cliffhanging finale ended with DEA agent Hank Schrader picking up some very special reading material while on the toilet — evidence to incriminate his brother-in-law, Walter White, for orchestrating the drug ring Schrader has had his eyes on since the first season.
While you might have been waiting with bated breath to find out what happens when Hank comes out of that bathroom, Bryan Cranston tells Metro he wasn’t.
“I didn’t ask for the whole year,” says Cranston, who has played the series’ lead Walter White since 2008.
He says he only got the script about two weeks before the episode began shooting. “I don’t need to have a lot of information in my head.”
Fans won’t have to wait much longer to discover what happens next, as the series returns for its final eight episodes beginning Sunday. Cranston himself was mum about the series finale when we spoke to him last month. But he did share plenty of insight into a series he calls a “cautionary tale,” about a man whose hunger for power just couldn’t be satiated.
So, how are you feeling these days — happy, excited, sad, nervous?
Go on, you’re hitting them all. Yeah, you know, we’re proud that we were able to get the support from Sony and AMC to be able to write the conclusion that [creator Vince Gilligan] wanted, in the amount of episodes that he felt was appropriate. He was able to do these last eight episodes without feeling like he was diluting the storyline or compressing it so much. He felt it flowed just right, so we’re very happy with that.
How many people know the ending right now?
Maybe about 20. It’s gonna go up to about 200. … There are several things that happen, as you might guess, in the last eight — many twists and turns that you will gasp at.
It feels like it can’t end well for Walt.
I don’t know if it ends badly or not. You’re fishing, aren’t you?
All right, all right. But last Walt was seen, he was out of the business and about to get his life back on track. That must be wishful thinking.
Yeah, I mean, it is “Breaking Bad,” so what happens in these last eight is what’s happened in the previous 54 episodes, or whatever the case is — that we go through unapologetically. [We] tell our stories as honestly as we can and present it to fans. And it’s been overwhelming, from critics and audiences alike, that it’s resonating.
Yeah, why do you think that is? People from all walks of life really connect to this show.
Well, I think because it’s honest. We’re exploring sociopolitical relationships. Some people were gleaning that, “Oh, this is a condemnation of the medical care system in the United States, because here’s a man who is a teacher, and a well educated man, and he cannot provide for his family.” … We are telling this story in that manner that is resonating with people because it’s not about drug manufacturing or drug usage; this story is about decisions that people make and the slippery slope that [can] happen.
Which Walt is harder for you to tap into: cancer-patient family man or merciless Heisenberg?
Neither, to be honest with you. … I know that there’s less than savory characteristics in my being and I have to let that out. … Whether it’s anger or jealously or resentment or whatever negative components in their personality, you have to admit it. … And then you say, well, let’s turn the knob and allow that to become the worst case scenario.
There’s a lot of backlash on the show against Skyler. Will she be redeemed, in a sense, in these final eight episodes?
You know, to me, when I look objectively, I’ve always liked Skyler, because the reason she had [issues] with Walt was because Walt was lying to her. She wanted to protect her family. … Fans were rooting for him and … she represented an obstacle for his success. … It really puts an ambiguity in the hearts and souls of the audience. [They’re] going, “Wait a minute, what am I rooting for? Why am I rooting for this man?” It fills them with anxiety. There’s drama in the show as well as in the audience. It’s pretty amazing.
You did some directing in this final season. Does that mean you had any say into Walt’s trajectory?
No. What happens in an ongoing series is that the person created the show and develops the sensibility with the actors and then the actors perform it. When that person then sees what the actors have done and the way they approach a certain problem or issue or how they respond to different people, it can influence how they write that character again. So basically it goes back and forth. Vince Gilligan wrote it, I interpret it, I perform it, he sees what I perform, makes some adjustments to what he writes, and then writes closer to what I’m doing or pushes me in an area that he wants me to go in. We work off each other.
Are you happy with Walt’s ending?
I’m very pleased. You know, there was apprehension of reading the last episode because once you read the last episode, there’s no more episodes to read — it’s just like, whoa, I don’t want it to end. But I can honestly say that fans of our show will be very pleased, very satisfied with the outcome. It’s very “Breaking Bad” — unapologetic and very appropriate. We cover it all. I can tell you this: There’s not going to be a sense of, “Wait a minute, what?” That’s not going to be the case with “Breaking Bad.”