With eleven days to go, there’s a part of me that feels like we have done so much dissection of Breaking Bad that it’s bones have been picked and are feeling sore at this point. What else is there left to say? How many times can I watch the latest teaser trailer? (At least 15). Just bring on the new episodes and take us to the finale, already!
But on the other hand, every time I rewatch an old episode, or when Chet Manley runs a season worth of GIFs, or when we explore the characters of the show, or consider a new theory, or think about the series in an ENTIRELY different way, we seem to find that there’s an endless supply of meat on this series’ bones.
I spent last evening trying to scrape up some fun new tidbits from the series by watching the New York Times conversation with the cast of Breaking Bad. It didn’t provide a lot of new information on the series, but there were some fantastic exchanges between the cast members and Vince Gilligan, and it’s fun to relive some of the better moments of the series with some behind the scenes context.
I’ll say a few things before drop the blockquotes: 1) Bryan Cranston is always on, and you can see why he was a comedic actor first. 2) Betsy Brandt and Dean Norris are an adorable couple, and after seeing them together, I kind of wish they were real-life married. 3) Vince Gilligan never missed an opportunity to give credit to a writer or a episode director or someone behind the scenes, including the sculptor who built that giant magnet we see in season five out of styrofoam (and subsequently turned it into a coffee table), and 4) Bob Odenkirk is a delight, and 5) these people truly, truly adore one another. A good 30 percent of the hour and 15 minutes was spent talking about how great everyone is.
Here are some of the more interesting and/or pertinent exchanges during the conversation, which you can also watch, if you have an 75 minutes to spare.
Betsy Brand to Dean Norris:
“I haven’t even said this to you yet. But watching you on Under the Dome, at first I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I felt like you were cheating on me. I was like, ‘Stop that. Stop that right now.’ And then, I don’t know how far into it, but I forgot that you were Hank … and I think that says huge volumes about you as an actor.
Dean Norris: “That’s sweet. That’s why I married her.”
Anna Gunn on Skyler:
“Her intellect is as sharp as [Walter's], and it’s also her downfall as a human being because she thinks that her intellect can fix everything.
Aaron Paul on Jesse Pinkman’s planned departure at the end of the first season:
“The arc of the first season, my character would bring Walter White into the drug world, and then he would die in some horrific death. Then it would lead to Walter White going after revenge to avenge my death …
Towards the end of the first season … Vince said, ‘I wasn’t going to tell you this until the end, but Jesse Pinkman was going to die at the end of the season.’ And my heart just starts racing. ‘What do you mean? What are you saying?’ And he says, ‘No, we’re not going to do that anymore,’ and I just instantly thought that if we go to the second season, Jesse is going to die at the very beginning. I started panicking … I’m super insecure, and I just started panicking.”
(Joking) “And that’s all I needed. I would be like, ‘Justin Timberlake really loves the show. I got an idea. He comes on the show. KILLS JESSE. And then takes over!”
Aaron Paul describing the torture Cranston put him through:
“Bryan would mess with me throughout the ENTIRE SERIES. I remember in the middle, halfway through the second season, Bryan came up to me with such a serious look on his face. He gave me this big hug, and he said, ‘It’s great, huh?” “What do you mean?” “Did you read the next episode?” And I said, ‘No.’ And then he looks at me, and he gives me another hug, and he says, ‘Just read it. It’s going to be fine.’ And the just walks off, and I thought to myself, ‘Holy Sh*t. Jesse is dying.'”
Bob Odenkirk on the fate of Saul throughout the series:
“Oh, I was sure I was going to die. I wasn’t worried about it. I was just looking to find out when it would happen. I was dreading getting the head prosthetic made. It’s horrible … It’s like being buried alive … but me as a person watching the show, I was like, ‘Saul dies. That guy’s got to get it.’ So every scene I picked up, I was just waiting to get it.’ I said to to [the writers]. ‘If you’re going to do it, let’s go nuts! Take his head off, split him into three parts. Whatever! Let’s do something cool.’
On whether Dean Norris, who has had a lengthy acting career, would be OK if his most revered moment is him on the toilet?
Bob Odenkirk on Vince Gilligan:
“I don’t trust this guy. When he says he doesn’t know where it’s going? That’s a con job!”
Vince Gilligan on the Saul Goodman spin-off:
“There’s no assurances that it will happen, but I would very much like to see it happen.”
Vince Gilligan on working with Cranston again (after The X-Files):
“One of the reasons is because I knew he had this basic, underlying humanity that just comes through, that beams out of his eyes. You just root for this guy … so that first season, I did everything I could to make the audience want to root for this guy. And then, as he got worse and worse, as the character got darker and darker, and made more and more questionable choices, I thought, ‘Well, hopefully the hook is still set, and people will keep watching, even though they won’t like him as much. Even though he’s no longer sympathetic. But lo and behold, but 54 episodes in, and people are still rooting for this guy, and I’m like, “Really? God bless you. Not me so much, but if you’re still digging him … I want you to still be interested in him, but I would’ve guessed at this point that he would’ve lacked sympathetic ability.”
Vince Gilligan and Cranston on the theory that the series will end with Walter White going into witness protection, and Breaking Bad being a prequel to Malcolm in the Middle
(Jokingly) “I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to have to rewrite that.”
Bryan Cranston: (Also jokingly) “That may not be as far fetched as you imagine.”
Vince Gilligan on why Walter White left the book on his toilet:
“I think anyone who has an opinion on it has as valid as opinion as I do. Having said that, my personal take is … he neither wanted to be caught, nor is he particularly arrogant in that moment. He had been out of the business a month when Hank goes into his bathroom and he was just not as cautious as he should’ve been. I think it was a mistake, pure and simple … It’s also possible that when he got the book from Gale, he may not have realized it was inscribed.”
Bryan Cranston on whether Walt deserves to die:
“I think there’s a good case for that. That maybe that’s the fitful end. But what if, the thing he wanted the most, the togetherness of his family, what if he lived and they didn’t? Wouldn’t that be a worse ending?”
Vince Gilligan on the third to last episode of the series, which was directed by the brilliant Rian Johnson (Brick, Brothers Bloom):
“It will knock your f***ing socks off. It may be the best episode we’ve ever done. Unfortunately, there’s two episodes after that.”