It’s close to freezing in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., but Bryan Cranston isn’t allowed to let on that he’s cold. He and Aaron Paul are currently filming a scene in a public square, and though it’s the dead of winter in real life, there’s apparently no such thing as the dead of winter in the “Breaking Bad” universe.
“They try not to show really any season. It’s like, light jackets, windbreakers. We’re never in big jackets, you’ll never see that. I always wear a T-shirt,” Cranston explains. “My hands are still cold right now.”
And that can make shooting the hit series a bit uncomfortable. “These are conditions, these are little things. Sometimes we’re shooting in August and we have to look cool, and sometimes we’re shooting in winter and we have to look hot,” he says. “Two weeks ago we were shooting a scene out in the sand dunes in the desert and it was 5 degrees, not including the wind chill factor. So it was brutal, and I have no hair. And I didn’t have a hat on. I timed it one time, I was able to look at my watch before my body started physically shaking, and it was a minute and a half. Even as much as I willed it not to. It was a four-minute scene, and so pretty soon I’m [trembling].”
Weather woes are just one of the details we picked up from Cranston during a visit to the set of the hit series, a job that has earned Cranston awards and accolades and reinvented his career, playing high school teacher turned meth dealer Walter White. Here’s what else we learned.
He doesn’t know if Walt can be redeemed — and he doesn’t care
“Is it important? It’s such a subjective viewpoint. I don’t judge him,” Cranston says. “This was all designed. This series is unlike any in the history of television. This show was meant to be discomforting. The hook was to make him sympathetic. We knew that if we could make you sympathize with him at first — in the first couple episodes, we were rooting for him. You were rooting for him to make crystal methamphetamine and sell it to the world. Why is that good? There is ambivalence even in that.”
He doesn’t need to know how it all ends
“I don’t know how it’s going to end. I don’t ask and they don’t tell me,” he says of the series. “Other actors are far more interested to find out, but my journey has been so switchback-y that I didn’t find it helpful. This has been such a massive journey for me that it doesn’t help. I honestly, truly want it to end as Vince Gilligan wants it to end. It’s his baby.”
He has a ‘hair strategy’
“I grow hair out. As soon as every season is done I start growing my hair and start growing my [facial] hair. So I would end up with a full beard and hair, and whatever job is next I would then be able to sculpt how I wanted that look,” he says. “Just before ‘Argo,’ I was shooting ‘Total Recall’ in Toronto, and just before ‘Total Recall,’ I was shooting ‘Breaking Bad.’ Season four had just ended, I believe. So my hair was short and I wore a wig [for ‘Total Recall’], and then as my hair is growing, by the time ‘Argo’ came along it was long enough to portray this CIA officer.”
He can no longer dress himself
“I don’t care what I look like. Look at me, I’m kind of a slob when I’m not dressed in Prada that someone dressed me and put on me and laid out or me,” says Cranston, dressed comfortably in jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. “But I like it that way. I’m so used to people laying clothes out for me, like wardrobe people will. And my wife and daughter love doing that, so I don’t have to pick out clothes except when I’m here and no one’s around.”
He’s found his outlet
“Some cope with medication, some cope with calming. I run, and when I run I spew,” Cranston says. “I get rid of aggressions and anxieties, and I run. It’s a solo act for me. I always sleep better, I always eat better because I feel good about what I’ve done, I’m more regular — all the things you don’t want to know. And my wife now is like, ‘Can you go run?’ She can sense it. We all need an outlet, and you’re lucky if you find it.”
Playing this role has changed him
“It’s dropped my voice,” Cranston reveals. “If you go back [to the first season], a couple things have happened. My posture has changed. When I was Walter more often, I was rolled over and kind of world-weary, and my posture changes when I go into Heisenberg. My voice drops, and by dropping my voice — just thinking it, feeling it — my own voice has dropped. It’s a little bit lower.”
Everyone is capable of breaking bad
“My personal feeling is that every single human being is capable of becoming a Heisenberg of their own. I believe that anyone could become very dangerous given the right set of circumstances, the right buttons being pushed,” Cranston says. “We’re conditioned people.
“Children aren’t born sweet and lovable, they’re born selfish and self-centered. We’re constantly conditioned until we’re adults, and then we’re supposed to condition ourselves. We have rules and etiquette and behavior modification and what’s right and what’s wrong. We’re constantly going, ‘I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry.’ That’s what apologies are for, and that’s what make-up sex is for.”