Bryan Cranston Channels Walter White By Remembering The Time He Watched A Man Die On The Street

11.19.12 8 Comments

The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad begin shooting early next month. Much like the sentence “Sir, you’ve already eaten all the pizza,” this represents both good and bad news for the show’s diehard audience. As the finale approaches, we are sure to get lots of stories and interviews and thinkpieces about all the various moving parts of what is widely considered to be one of the best shows on television, which is A-OK in my book because I must have all of the information — every single piece of it — as soon as reasonably possibly.

On that note, Bryan Cranston spoke with The New Yorker recently about the difficulties he originally faced getting into character as the show’s ruthless, meth-dealing lead, Walter White. The solution: Remembering the time he watched a stranger die on the sidewalk.

“At first, Walt’s emotional core wasn’t available to me, because he was so depressed he was numb. But now it’s all coming out, this shotgun of emotions.” […]

“In August of 1987,” he said, “I was walking to the doctor, because I had a gastrointestinal bug. I was just turning the corner when I heard Bam! Blunk! Aaah!” The Aaah! was a terrible cry. “I turn and see a man on the street, run over, blood on the ground, his eyes are turning up, and his neck was”—Cranston crooked his own almost sideways. “I put my hands under his head so it would be softer than the asphalt, and I could feel him gurgling, and I was shouting, ‘Did anyone see the car?’ The doorman said, ‘Oh, that’s Mr. So-and-So. I knew he was depressed, but . . .’ And then I saw that the parked car next to us had”—his hands carved out a huge dent. “And I realized, Oh, my God—he threw himself from an upper window. I was so delirious from illness that, as I watched him die, I felt it all as these sharp fragments, a bad editing job of my life. And I became angry at the man, and pulled back from him.”

After a moment, he added, “Every experience feeds an actor, and I’ve learned that depression is all around us.”

RELATED: One time I threw up when my friend’s cat dropped a half-eaten mouse at my feet, and I still get nauseous when I think about it today. I would not be a very good actor.

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