Bryan Cranston was best known for six years as the beleaguered dad in Malcolm in the Middle. And then he broke right out of that, with his award-winning role of cancer-suffering, cartel-dodging Walter White in Breaking Bad. Now, with the DVD release of the third season, he tells HuffPostUK about his own fears, the success of this show, and his own unusual journey from Baywatch to Breaking Bad...
What is your deepest, darkest fear?
Bryan Cranston: I don’t know. My deepest darkest fear is always, when you become a father, anything happening to my daughter and/or wife, that’s my worst fear. Because for men, mostly we feel like we can take care of ourselves but then when we get married you go, “Okay, I now have an extra responsibility.” Then you have children and it’s, “Oh my God!”
When you go to a dark place with this character, do you ever find yourself staying there?
Bryan Cranston: No. I have a method of getting out of it. If I need to stay in it for the episode or for any given shot, I will sequester myself so that I am not around a lot of chatter, and that sort of thing, so I can come in and just focus. Then for the most part, I have worked out a system where after work I go into the make-up and hair trailer and I put make-up remover on my bald head and on my face, and I just put two hot towels, one on my head and one around my face, completely covering it – I look like the Mummy – and I completely cover up, and I just sit in the chair, just for a few minutes, and let that steam open up my pores. It’s euphoric and other-worldly sometimes. You take a little mind-vacation at some point.
Bryan Cranston has come a long way from Baywatch
And it gets rid of the negative energy?
Bryan Cranston: It gets rid of it. I take all the make-up off, and that gesture seems to wipe away all that energy, and I take off these clothes that Walter White wears and put on my street clothes and I go home, and I’m Bryan. I don’t want to take him home. Because I live with him five days a week, when we’re shooting, for 14 hours a day.
What do you think is the secret to dark humour on TV?
Bryan Cranston: Being honest. I think the best thing and the only thing we can promise is that we will try to depict the human condition in its most honest form, and beyond that, the show will or will not appeal to people depending on their sensibilities. If you laugh or giggle when you see someone trip up on a sidewalk or something, you might like our humour. But it’s not for everyone. And the good thing about
The show has certainly struck a chord with some people.
Bryan Cranston: It’s really struck a chord because we dare to be dark, and because we dare to take our time. I think what has really happened is that our show is very cinematic and it has sort of taken the place of the glut of independent films that used to be out there, and now we have our show. We don’t mind taking our time to see a vista and a truck in the distance going left to right and taking its time, and really allowing the viewer to settle in and start to get into it. With that much time, you get a chance to look at the sky, look at the colour of the mountain, the straw colour of the grass that’s blowing in the wind – you get a chance to go into it. And then once we get you into it, we try to hold onto you with this story of this man and this rollercoaster ride.
Let’s talk about this ride and this dark road that Walt is heading down, and do you know where he will finally end up?
Bryan Cranston: The interesting thing about this show is that unlike other series, this is a show that is a journey. And it’s also a journey not just for Walter White but for Bryan Cranston, so I have made it a policy that I don’t ask what happens. I know in a general sense that Vince Gilligan (creator), over the course of the series, wanted to take this character from – as he respectfully says – from Mr. Chips to Scarface. He wants to change this man. And we’re changing. He is a changed man from when we first saw him. Exactly where he goes, to what extent, and how long he’s there before his demise, I don’t know. I’m not sure, just like I am not sure in my real life exactly where it is going to go 100% of the time. I just like to know that Walter White is on this adventure and I’m tagging along with him.
Bryan Cranston is in remission, but facing fresh challenges in season three of Breaking Bad
Can you tell me about the end of season three and the beginning of season four?
Bryan Cranston: The third season ended with a gunshot, and season four picks up right at the next moment, and there is a question of whether or not we were successful in eliminating our competition, and we explore that and we answer that question. But we ask a couple more. Every time we answer a question on our show, we ask a couple more and it keeps going along. All I know is that Walt will continue to devolve into this mire.
Tell me about when you are in those truly bloody, gnarly scenes: have you become more used to it?
Bryan Cranston: No. So in that sense, it’s not difficult to be in the scene. I mean, imagination is really the jumping off point for creativity and talent, so a child with a good imagination has a head start into being an artist because that’s what it takes. So I see someone getting killed or something before me, and how would I react? Honestly, how would I react if someone was killed in front of me? I would freak out. It would devastate me to a deep, deep level, so all you have to do is think about that and then what we try to do is
Just to really think about it. And when I direct, I ask actors – young actors – don’t act, just think. “Here’s what I want you to think, think about this, this and that, or this one thing, and just think about it, don’t act. Don’t do anything, just think about that.” And that’s enough. That’s plenty.
This is all a long way from where you started out. You were once in Baywatch, for instance, was that fun?
Bryan Cranston: Actually, it was. Any time you are working as an actor, I think is fun. I’ve been doing this for 32 years now. So, back in the day when you’re just starting out and doing things, when someone offers you a job, you take it because you need experience and you need money to pay your bills.
Breaking Bad Season Three is out now on DVD. Here's the trailer below...