7 Things We Learned From Dean Norris’ Appearance On NPR’s Fresh Air

By: 08.07.12  •  15 Comments

When I downloaded the latest podcast of NPR’s Fresh Air this morning I was delighted to learn that Dean Norris — aka Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad — was Terry Gross’s guest on the show. Norris spoke at length about his character and the show, and since we all seem to be Breaking Bad geeks around here, I figured that y’all would enjoy it just as much as I did. Below are a few of my favorite moments from the interview, including a possible spoiler he may have let slip out.

On Walter White hiding under Hank’s nose all this time…

I think we as people, certainly law enforcement, they size people up rather quickly, and I think they then hold on to that opinion. And he has known Walter White for a long time, and he’s only known him to be this kind of ineffectual, milquetoast kind of guy, and that’s who he sees him as.

So the concept of seeing him or even possibly imagining him as some sort of meth cook and a man who could function in that environment is just beyond ridiculous for Hank Schrader. And so the audience can often see and make leaps and say, wow. How come you can’t figure it out? There’s all these clues that it’s him and blah, blah, blah. But they seem like good clues to the audience because, yes, they already know that it’s him. But Hank Schrader doesn’t. And it’s been important to Vince Gilligan and to myself in portraying that character that we don’t make him look stupid. He’s a good cop. He just hasn’t put the pieces together yet.

On why he no longer reads Vince Gilligan’s scripts completely and sticks to the parts that pertain to his character…

The first few seasons, I would read it page by page. The last couple seasons, I would first look for my character’s stuff. And then I would – I kind of wanted to preserve watching the show and to see it as the audience sees it over the past couple years. So I didn’t always read the entire script. I needed to know what was pertinent to my character, but I kind of wanted to be surprised and be able to watch the show as an audience member would.

And so I then developed this kind of need to want to watch “Breaking Bad” in a pure sense, like everybody else does – not knowing what’s going on, not knowing what’s going to happen – and see if I had the same reaction to the show as a lot of critics and audience members have. So that’s kind of why I did it.

On his big break as an actor: being cast in Lethal Weapon II…

That was my very first movie, and it was a great time. And I made some good money on it. That’s what turned me into an actor from being a waiter…I’d gotten to L.A. with no money and with no experience as a waiter, and immediately got a – lied my way into a job at a local restaurant, and was there for about six months. And I got a phone call literally while I was at the job saying that I had booked “Lethal Weapon 2.” And I was like: Are you sure? How much money, exactly? And now this is guaranteed, right? Yes, it’s all done. I said, OK, took my apron off, handed my, you know, to other waiters, this hamburger goes here, that hamburger goes there, and I left. And interestingly enough, the “Lethal Weapon 2” premiered in the theater next to the restaurant where I was working.

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