Bryan Cranston on Breaking Bad's Third Season and Getting to Work on Pixar's First Live-Action Movie
Flying into Pasadena for the TCAs just hours after wrapping some scenes for its third season (debuting in March), Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston was chatty about the progress of the show. This season his character, Walter White -- a high school chemistry teacher with lung cancer who sells methamphetamine to support his family -- reveals his drug-peddling secrets to key characters. Movieline talked to Cranston about discovering Walter's essence, and his role in Pixar's mysterious sci-fi feature, John Carter of Mars.
"That's part of the joy of being an actor -- the rehearsal process," Cranston said. "You can read through you scripts and start to imagine how you'd approach any given scene. But then you get in the next morning -- and on television, this is how it is -- we don't talk about it, we don't rehearse. I don't call Anna [Gunn, his costar] on the phone and say, 'How are you going to play that one moment?' I just discover it the next morning when we go [on set]."
You might think earning television acting's most esteemed prize two years in a row would solidify a producing team's perception of a character. Not so, says Cranston, who found himself standing up for Walter's parenting skills after the director bounced a boisterous baby out of a scene.
"There was an instance yesterday where we were shooting and Vince [Gilligan, the show's executive producer] was directing, where I'm at the house and I'm feeding our little baby," Cranston explained. "Well, the scene with the baby was awkward -- I think it was a non-union baby -- she was just crying, crying, crying. So it was decided that we do the scene without the baby. The other character, Junior, was doing his homework, and Skyler was setting the table for dinner. By taking the baby out of it, all of the sudden, I was just sitting there. And they said, 'Let's shoot it this way.' And I said, 'I feel funny sitting here while they're busy working and doing things that are important for the family.' I said, 'I need something!' So those things happen all the time. You have to defend your character. It would've been easy for me to just not say anything, and just sit there -- but it's not truthful to the character. He wants to be a part of this family. He needs to be. He would not sit by, and just let his wife do all the work. So those adjustments are made."
Cranston's most recently announced project is John Carter of Mars, the Andrew Stanton-directed adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel about a Civil War veteran transplanted to Mars. The 53-year-old actor said the story's original author -- the same man who gave us Tarzan's epics -- and the excitement of one key creator sold him on the idea.
"I was taken in by the story and the by the enthusiasm of the director, and what he was looking to do," he said. "It's a fantastic story. Burroughs wrote it in 1913, I think that's when he started. I play the colonel who John Carter is with at the time he finds the portal to Mars."
For an actor known as a jarringly human presence on screen -- whether in Breaking Bad or Malcolm in the Middle -- Cranston relishes the chance to dress up a bit and take on a fantasy role. He said the details of John Carter of Mars's shooting, which just began in London, have yet to be hammered out. But he knows one aspect of filming will be particularly titillating.
"As far as hair, I'm going to be wearing a wig," he said.