Interview Date: 03/31/2011
Run Date: 07/14/2011
It’s been a long, hard wait for Season Four of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” since the show wrapped its third season back in June of 2010. Sure, it’s only just a little over a year, but, c’mon, it’s literally the best show on television, and, as such, we here at Bullz-Eye have been chomping at the bit for the return of “Breaking Bad” since the show cut to the credits immediately after we heard Jesse’s gun go off. All things being equal, we’re not sure if getting the chance to return to Albuquerque and visit the set of the show a second time did anything but make us even antsier about wanting to see what was going to happen next, but we’re not complaining. We did, after all, get to have dinner with Bryan Cranston (Walt) and Giancarlo Esposito (Gus), tour the set, and sit down for interviews with Mr. Cranston and a trio of his costars: Aaron Paul (Jesse), Anna Gunn (Skyler), and, in her inaugural conversation with Bullz-Eye, Betsy Brandt (Marie). Alas, Mr. Esposito was unable to join us for a proper interview, but as you’ll see, one of his comments from the previous evening proved to be a recurring topic.
Bullz-Eye: First of all, I do understand that, by virtue of accepting this interview, I am required to refer to you at all times as “three-time Emmy award winner Bryan Cranston.”
Bryan Cranston: You son of a… (Grins) How about that?
BE: Pretty impressive.
BC: I still get amazed. They’re in my office, and I’ll walk by and see something shiny that catches my eye, and I’ll be, like, “Oh, yeah! Wow…”
BE: Are you at all disappointed that you won’t be able to get the fourth one quite as readily?
BC: I think there’s going to be a massive write in vote and I’ll be able to… (Starts to laugh) No, it’s somewhat of a relief, actually. You know, it’s funny, because I really felt the love and happiness that a lot of people had for me when I won the first time. But the second time, it was, like, “Oh, my God, that’s great! No, really!” By the third time, you’re getting the half-clap, and they’re going, “Yeah, uh-huh, how ‘bout that…” And I know this from being nominated for Supporting Actor in a Comedy (for Malcolm in the Middle) and going, “Okay, who’s gonna win – other than me – this year?” So I’m actually glad. But it’s not like I’m puffing up and going, “Well, I’m not eligible, so now it gives someone else a chance…” No, it’s not that. It’s that, in a way, this is the way it’s supposed to work out. And that’s okay.
BE: I don’t know if there’s any show on TV that quite so successfully zigs when you expect it to zag as “Breaking Bad.” Would you go so far as to say that yourself?
BC: I think that’s true. It’s like we were talking about last night: the surprise element is good. But surprise for surprise’s sake is not. You know, I could slug you in the mouth right now. That would be a big surprise.
BE: It would.
BC: But it wouldn’t be good.
BE: I would not enjoy it. Although it would make for a great story later.
BC: True. (Laughs) But, still, wow, what a surprise that was, you know? And what’s good is when something happens that’s a surprise, but you think back and you know, “Oh, it was set up. I didn’t catch it necessarily at the time, but it’s justifiable how it got to that point.” And that’s the genius of the writing. That’s when you go, “Oh, that’s brilliant.”
BE: Similarly, there’s no show, I don’t think, that has quite so much depth to it. I mean, they do plotline callbacks from three seasons back sometimes.
BC: Yeah. What’s interesting is we appeal to a core audience that’s very committed and addicted to this show, much like the drug itself. And in a way, by having such in-depth callbacks, it almost… (Hesitates) It doesn’t allow us to develop a larger audience in that sense. But it is what it is. I think we have our audience. But it would be nice if it grew, because we’re still a small show.
BC: We’re still a tiny show. But I’m so proud of it, that the stories are so true and rich, and the audience is really responding to it in a deep way. I’ve never had that. In all the shows I’ve done and everything, it’s, “Oh, yeah, you were great; yeah, I like that show; it’s fun.” But I’ve never had this type of, “No, I’m not kidding, this show is changing my life.” All of these just deeply rooted comments. And believe me, they’re well received and much appreciated.
BE: The characters and their relationships are so deep, too. For instance, there’s a conversation toward the end of last season, it’s between you and Skyler in front of the house, and you guys are just going back and forth, back and forth. Each thing each person says, you can tell they are convinced they have the upper hand in this argument, and yet no ever has the upper hand in the argument until the very, very end.
BE: And even then you’re not sure.
BC: And even then. And that kind of guesswork is just really terrific, because that’s what really happens in life. It goes back and forth and back and forth, and one day you stand firmly on your point, and another day now it’s wobbly. It’s fascinating how we can evolve a crime story, a man’s devolvement into this new world, and yet it’s a family drama as well. It’s like a hybrid of different concepts.
BE: The relationship between you and Jesse to some extent almost seems stronger than the one you have with Walt Jr. I mean, obviously you care about Walt Jr,. but there’s a different depth because of the situation you guys share.
BC: Yeah. I think the nature of the storylines have mandated that you have a man who’s dealing in drugs now, so there’s a natural sort of separation that he wants to have with his son, in many ways, so that he doesn’t catch on, almost. I think in a way I’ve always felt that Walter has put on blinders so that he doesn’t see the periphery of the damage that he’s caused. And I think if he did turn and look, he’d see that if he got closer to his son he’d feel this “what am I doing?” sensibility and need to stop. And he doesn’t want to stop. He’s a man who has found his selfishness for the first time in his life, and he’s using it and abusing it and taking full advantage of what that means to the full extent. And the relationship with Jesse, I think…I always like it where I reluctantly feel for him. Because he’s an idiot. (Laughs) Everything about us is different. There’s nothing that we share expect this one secret. And the only reason that we’re together is because I needed him and he actually, I think, needed me to change his world, but maybe I just caused more havoc. Maybe as a two bit hoodlum, he was fine, you know? As he says, his life has turned to shit ever since he met me, and maybe that’s true. It’s hard to say.
BE: Where do you think the turning point was in their relationship in Season Three? Because at the beginning, Walter was pretty much, like, “Fuck that guy,” but by the end, he’s literally willing to put his life on the line. Certainly a lot of it has to do with the fact that their lives are so inextricably connected that he pretty much has to keep him alive, but…where do you think that real turning point was?
BC: I think it was actually in season two, when I realized just how much he did love this girl, Jane (Krysten Ritter). When I put him in rehab, at the end. When I went to that crack house and everybody was strung out and so was he. He was just so lost, so devastated, that I felt so much for him that I was willing and wanted to hold him, tell him it’s going to be okay. I think that was the turning point in having the hook set in me, as far as my love for this kid. Although now, when things get crazy again, you’re screaming at him, “You idiot, what are you doing?” And sometimes there’s no getting through his thick skull. But he’s already there, as far as my affinity for him.
BE: The Walt and Sklyer relationship also skyrocketed in the third season, with Skyler finally getting a chance to expand into a proper character rather than almost just a sketch, which is kind of what she was before she really knew what was going on. Was it exciting to finally get to work with Anna on that level?
BC: Very so. Anna is so good that I was hoping and even mentioned that I think the show would be… (Hesitates) It’s evolved to the point where, if you look at actors as pillars, you know, that can hold up a show, one centrally placed pillar could do the job, but I think it’s better if you spread it out and give these great actors…and great characters, really…the chance to spread. And then it makes the storylines more complex and intertwined. If you’re just watching one man spinning out of control, it’s interesting but I think it’s always interesting when you can cut away to whatever storyline is going on and it’s equally fascinating. You know, it’s like oh yeah, what’s going on there? And then have them just dangerously intersect near the end. So I’m really pleased with the fourth season. I know we can’t say much, but every character is more and more and more involved in this and it’s really exciting.
BE: In the season three finale, when that shot rang out, did you at that time believe that Gale was dead?
BC: I did. I knew he was dead from the fact that I knew he had to kill him. It was really a happy accident that all of this conversation started. It was a sliding of the camera. It was a technical thing that wanted the muzzle of the gun not to be there, but if you’re the camera and you slid over, it looks like he moves the gun away. He didn’t. May he rest in peace.
(Writer’s note: There’s no need to call the spoiler police. The day after the Season 3 finale aired, Vince Gilligan told the A.V. Club point-blank, “It’s not actually meant to be ambiguous. It’s meant to be, ‘Oh my god, Jesse shot poor Gale.’”)
BE: And your one liner for season four, without giving anything away. How would you describe what we’re going to see?BC: That’s good that you’ve asked, because I really should come up with something. (Laughs, then quickly sobers) It’s like a shooting star. Is it going to crash now or later? But it’s destined not to stay intact. Do you know what I mean? It’s just…it’s vibrating with so much tension that it’s going to break apart, but when? You know, even thinking about it, you kind of…oh, man. And it goes all over the place, but justifiably. It moves in areas that you’re curious about, to establish everything. And all of the characters get very involved.
Bullz-Eye: Last night at dinner, I was thinking about how the last time I had dinner with you “Breaking Bad” folks, and you had flown into Albuquerque but had left your keys in L.A., so you had to call Bryan and ask him to pick you up from the airport.
Aaron Paul: Yeah, I tend to do that quite a bit. (Laughs) I haven’t this year though.
BE: Well, the season’s not over yet…
AP: Yeah, true! Well, what happened that time was that I was waiting for a cab, and it just wasn’t coming. I was, like, “Oh my, God, I can’t miss this flight,” because I was supposed to work that night, and you’re never supposed to like fly in on the day. But the cab’s not showing up, so I’m, like, “I have to take my bike!” And I’m almost on the freeway when I go, “Oh, my God, my keys!” And…well, anyway, it’s a long story. (Laughs) So, yeah, welcome back, man!
BE: Thank you. So I haven’t talked to you since, like, right as the season started, so I definitely haven’t talked to you since all of the shit went down last year. As ever, Jesse had a hell of a season…
BE: …and you did some insanely great work dealing with the drug addiction. And, obviously, the Academy rewarded you for that with an Emmy.
AP: Thank you. I owe it all really to the writing, though, y’know? I think we all do. This show is so unpredictable and special. And so fun.
BE: It seems to be the consensus among the cast that you all enjoy the fact that you don’t know what’s going on very far in advance.
AP: Right. They kind of keep it close to their chest. Any time one of the writers comes out to be here for their particular episode, I always like try to like poke and prod. It’s not that I want to know, I just like talking about it to them because we’re all so excited. We know this is something rare and we’re just kind of embracing it all. But, yeah, we don’t really know much about future storylines, which is great. But I’m excited to see where it goes.
BE: I loved the stuff where Jesse was trying to skim a little bit off the top to try to create his own small, burgeoning empire. But what made me laugh particularly was that it reminded me of a similar plot in ‘Superman III,” where Richard Pryor’s character tried to do something similar. And his character’s name…? Gus.
AP: (Does a small double take) I wonder if they knew…? I don’t know, man…
BE: I can’t imagine they did. But it’s still a funny coincidence.
AP: That would be pretty great if they did. It’s pretty weird. But, yeah, I mean, Jesse has more money than he really know what to do with, but it just shows you that he misses his old lifestyle. And it’s crazy how, you know, after Walt kind of came into his life, his life has just truly flipped upside down. He was very happy just kind of doing his day to day thing, selling his little day to day dime bags. But Walt and his greediness…greedy, really, because he has to be…kind of destroyed a lot of things for Jesse.
BE: It definitely changed him. I mean, there’s a scene during last season where he asks, “What’s more important than money?”
AP: Yeah, it’s definitely changed him. I don’t know, it’s pretty interesting; we’ll see. This season is probably the biggest season we’ve had, and it’s much darker.
BE: Yeah, last night Giancarlo was talking about how he had to put down the script for the first episode of the new season and just walk away from it, it just hit him so hard.
AP: Yeah, we actually were talking about that yesterday on the set. He was just saying that…yeah, man, it was insane. All of us were salivating; we couldn’t wait to see how we started this next season. We started off running, really. But yeah, when he read it, he just…I mean, especially Giancarlo, ‘cause he’s such this quiet, venomous character.
BE: Yeah, it’s ridiculous how much acting he does with his eyes.
AP: Yeah, he is incredible. And it’s beautiful to watch. And also very scary at times. (Laughs) But, yeah, just what happens in the first episode is just so shocking and so…I don’t know. I said this before, but it’s so unpredictable. You are left speechless at the end. You’re, like, shaken. And then, you know, it’s like a roller coaster. It starts getting more intense, and then we have a breather episode and allow people to get their bearings. And then it just punches you hard in the gut, in a good way; in a very good way.
BE: When I was doing my blog last year for the show, I felt like the next to last episode was really the definitive episode of the season, and then the finale was wrapping up loose ends and setting up Season Four.
BE: Without giving anything away, because I don’t really want to know either, how would you describe the first episode of the new season? Giancarlo said it started off with a bang, and I don’t know if he meant that literally or not… (Laughs) …but does it set up where the season is going to go?
AP: It sets the tone, I think, for where everyone’s at. Everybody. I mean, Skyler and Hank and Marie, and definitely Walt and Jesse. It puts people in their place, and you see where they’re at. It’s pretty intense. It’s really intense.
BE: So in that last scene of the last episode, without divulging anything from the first episode, did you think that Gale was dead at that time?
AP: 100%. Yeah, I mean, it was written that way. I don’t think it was ever meant to…when he wrote it, it was never meant to be a question. If you think about it, that would be such a lousy cliffhanger. Some people think just because the way the camera movement was, that Jesse moved his arm to the side and shot. So maybe in some people’s minds they thought, “Oh, he moved the arm to be threatening and pull the trigger.” But yeah, no, when I read it, I knew I had to get into the head space of, “Okay, he has to kill an innocent man and possibly the nicest guy on the show.” Like, Gale’s such a positive spirit. But Jesse has to do it out of necessity, so…we’ll see. (Laughs)
BE: A moment like that screams “game changer” even as you’re reading it, I’m sure.
AP: Absolutely. That’s truly the loss of innocence for Jesse right there. All last season, from day one of last season, he was stating that he’s the bad guy. And then by the end, he kind of proved that’s exactly what he is.
BE: He kind of fulfilled his own destiny.
AP: Exactly. I’m going to use that.
BE: Please do. At least once somewhere in there give me credit for it, though.
AP: (Laughs) I will, I will.
BE: Lastly, can you give us a one liner as to what we can expect from the new season?AP: I don’t know, man. What I thought I could expect…I had no idea any of this was happening. I knew it was going to get intense, but I didn’t think it was going to get this intense. So…I don’t know, man. Just hold on, really. Hold on tight, because it’s a crazy, wild ride. That is for sure. It’s the biggest one yet.
Bullz-Eye: I just spoke to Bryan about how the relationship between Walt and Skyler hit an all-time high in Season Three, and how Skyler evolved from being almost a pencil sketch of a character to being almost on par with him. How was it for you to finally be able to work with him on that level?
Anna Gunn: It was extremely exciting and really satisfying. I mean, it was interesting, because Vince and the writers had to walk such a fine line with the character of Skyler because, as you say, normally you’ve got kind of the put-upon wife and she’s not necessarily ever developed into much more. But he did from the beginning assure me that she was going to be a fully fleshed-out character on her own and be a major part of what eventually happens in Walt’s world. I think they did a really great job in terms of fleshing her out with her own moments of “breaking bad,” and moments of great…well, you know, she met these moments where there were choices that she had to make, and that continues on in season four, where she has to really wrestle with what she can and cannot accept, what she’s going to make work for her family. I think that Skyler’s really come into this place where her family is first, and she’s fierce in her protection and her devotion to them. And she’s a strong enough person that she’s able…she’s put into obviously really difficult positions, and Walt kind of pins her, you know? Traps her in these positions where her son thinks she’s an awful person and the family’s going, “God, what’s going on with her?” But what I love about her character is that she doesn’t sit there and pity herself or feel sorry for herself. She’s sort of always going into action. And it has been really exciting to have, because you have this character of Walt, who at the very beginning is this kind of a shadow of a man, really. He’s just a guy who’s just gone about life, not really living fully in it. And then he taps into this part of his personality that he didn’t know was there. Certainly she didn’t know it was there. So when confronted with that, she has to sort of access parts of herself and get in touch with things that maybe she never knew were going on inside of her. So it has been…they’ve been going really sort of toe-to-toe and head-to-head, and it continues. I love those scenes with Bryan. I mean, I just love acting with him, anyway, but the two of us really enjoy getting into it and playing with it and seeing where the rise and fall of things are. A lot of what goes on between the two of them is a jockeying for who’s maybe in the position of power or who’s in control; who’s going to say what goes. I like the dynamic that they play with, in terms of these two people trying to make this crazy situation work.
BE: Which is funny, because I just told him how much I loved it last season where you guys were having your conversation on the front porch, and it’s back and forth, back and forth, and each time either person says something, they’re clearly convinced that they have the upper hand in the discussion, even if, at the end, you’re not entirely sure if anyone actually does.
AG: That’s right. It’s really…because it’s Vince not only playing with two people in this extraordinary situation, but he zeroes in on marriage and what makes a relationship and what men and women do with each other. And then these people are in such an extreme position that even more of that stuff gets brought out. It’s fascinating. I love it.
BE: Skyler’s allowed to grow throughout the season, pretty much making up for lost time for the previous two seasons, and yet it never really felt forced. I mean, she went through the whole dealing with what she had learned, having the fling with Ted, and everything. It was just really remarkable the way Vince added so much depth to the character so quickly without feeling forced.
AG: Right. Yeah, exactly. And I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Skyler remains, to some degree and in some ways, a little bit shrouded as a person. You know, she plays her cards close to the vest. And that’s been interesting and sometimes challenging for me to play because I have to make sure that I know exactly what’s going on with her and exactly what she’s going through. But she’s not a person who’s majorly expressive and she keeps a lot of it in. And that’s a lot of her power, actually. But it can be challenging sometimes, for sure, because she’s got this guarded sort of quality about her. But I’ve been thrilled with where they’ve taken her and taken Walt. And you know, Bryan and I, neither of us know where we’re going to end up. “Are you going to end up together?” We have no idea. But we do always keep an eye, and so does Vince, on the fact that these people were in love and I believe still are in love, but they have all of the stuff piled on top of them. He keeps…he revisits sort of the beginnings of, I think, what made them a couple in the first place.
BE: It’s also been really interesting the way Vince has done the same playing-things-close-to-the-vest thing with the character of Marie as well. The last several episodes of Season 3, she just came out having so much belief in the strength of the relationship that she has with Hank.
AG: I think there’s really only two women in this landscape, and I think the relationship that he created between these two sisters and the fact that you don’t see any of their other family…I mean, we all have discussed what the background of that probably is. But the fact is that they are each other’s family. And they are both very strong women. It’s a stretch to make this leap, but I always think of The Grapes of Wrath, where the women, through this tremendously hard time, they were the ones who were the survivors and kept the men going. I think in a lot of ways Skyler and Marie do that in this world. You know, the husbands are both out there in their separate ways getting bashed around, and these women are steady and strong and devoted. So I like that. I like that he’s done that with the two of them.
BE: There’s some Midwest stock in the family. I’m sure.
AG: Yeah, exactly. And we’re both from the Midwest, so there you go.
BE: Perfect. By the way, I’ve been very disappointed that you haven’t gotten Emmy nods. I mean, you absolutely deserve one for last season.
AG: Thank you.
BE: In fact, I think the last time we talked was literally the day before they were announcing the nominations. The next day, I was on Facebook, writing, “Gyp! Gyp!”
AG: (Laughs) I know, I know. I mean, that’s always…the awards thing, I have no idea how that…there’s a certain amount of “whatever happens, life goes on” and all that. But I’ve got to say, even being talked about in that circle and having people sort of bring up my name in that capacity is very, very…I mean, that’s great. It feels really good. And sitting with Bryan and Aaron at the Emmys this year…I was sitting right next to Aaron when his name was announced, and we all just started kind of bawling, you know, and then we’re on our feet. Because it’s tremendous. This little show that we had no idea if it was going to even go on the air because of the subject matter. And then to see all of this is really remarkable. It’s really nice.
BE: Thank God for AMC. If you were on FX, you might have been canceled after a season.
AG: (Laughs) I know. Exactly. And, I mean, if we were on another network, we probably would never have seen the light of day in the first place. So it is, it’s pretty great.
BE: Well, I know you can’t really touch on much of Season Four, and I don’t really want you to, anyway…
AG: I know, it’s funny. People don’t really want to know. They want to wait.
BE: But with that said… (Laughs) How excited were you to finally get that first script for season four, and what was the effect it had on you? Last night, Giancarlo (Esposito) was telling us that he had to set his down and walk away for a little bit after he read it.
AG: Yeah. The scripts are really like that. I mean, because we had such a long hiatus this year, coming back to it, first of all, and then getting that first script and reading it, it really does…they’re all like unwrapping the most prized Christmas present, basically. And I can’t imagine how…Vince and the writers are really so brilliant in terms of how they thread just even the most minor things and you’ll think, “Hmm, what is that?” And then six episodes later, you see how that little minor character flaw or some little action that somebody took, it will come back and fit into the fabric of the story in a way that you couldn’t have imagined. I’m really impressed with the fact that I kept describing last season as the chickens coming home to roost for Walt. And then thinking you can’t like imagine it getting any worse or getting any darker, and it does. I mean, you almost feel your body going like this… (Stiffens suddenly) …when you’re reading it, because you can almost not take a breath because of how they create these things. And all of the characters are really further and further placed in backs-against-the-wall situations and are sort of pinned and trapped. It goes into levels that I think are really fascinating for everybody; for every single character. I mean, even Marie and Hank, what’s going on with them this year is just very, very interesting. Even Walt Jr., I mean, Vince has got his eyes so carefully on the inner workings of all of these people and how they all intersect. And that’s the thing that’s also fascinating, is that these desperate worlds, you have Gus and you have Saul and then you’ve got the family, and slowly you see the tentacles, and they start to tighten. It’s pretty great.
BE: I was telling Bryan that I don’t think there’s any show on TV that so successfully zigs when you think it’s going to zag.
AG: Yeah, it’s true. And it turns on a dime, doesn’t it? You’re watching something and it’s hilariously funny, and then all of a sudden it could take your breath away and make you think, “Oh, my God!”
BE: And yet you never feel cheated by any move it’s made, so far, knock wood.
AG: Yeah, I don’t think he has it in him. What’s that phrase for TV shows that do the jump?
BE: Oh, jumping the shark?
AG: Yeah, there’s no jumping here. (Laughs) He never does anything where you think, “Oh, come on.” It’s got such a firm footing in reality, even though it’s this fantastic…I mean, in some ways, you can’t believe the storyline, just given what’s going on, but it’s still very firmly grounded in a reality, and I think that’s why it hooks people in so much.
BE: Okay, but now you’ve got me trying to think of ways the show could jump the shark. Maybe if Walt went to prison and Skyler took over the family business…?
AG: (Laughs) Yeah, I don’t see that happening.
BE: Come on. Maybe in Season Seven?AG: Season seven. Exactly. Betsy and I are always talking about the spin off where Marie and Skyler are making our way as criminals in the world. Season Seven could be when it finally happens! (Laughs)
Bullz-Eye: When I was talking to Anna, we discussed the similarities between Skyler and Marie, as far as the way you both play pretty close to the vest with your feelings. But you both got a chance to shine in season three, finally.
Betsy Brandt: Yeah, it was great. I was so happy to have that, for a lot of reasons. It was really fun for me to do, just as an artist. But also, you kind of become, like, a champion for your character, and I really wanted her to get…I wanted people to get to know her and see another side of her, which I knew was coming. I knew how Vince felt about her and things he wanted to do with Marie, and some of the things that I wanted to see happen with her. So that’s been really, really great. And also it’s a surprise. If you pay attention, it’s not too much of a surprise, but, yeah, I like to be surprised. I think it’s good that she can do that.
BE: When you took the role…I know Anna said she needed some assurances from Vince that she wasn’t going to be just a cookie-cutter kind of wife character, and he assured her that, although it might take awhile, she absolutely wouldn’t be. Did you get that feel from him when it came to Marie, or did you just kind of go in and hope for the best?
BB: When I met him, when I went in and read for Marie, there really was not much to her at that point. So just in talking to him, you know, it was really fun to just build this person. And he was very specific, and I was always really happy and really relieved that if someone would say joking, “Oh Marie’s such a bitch,” he was very protective of her. “She’s not a bitch. She’s not!” She’s difficult, yeah. (Laughs) But I like that! And if there was anything that I went to him with and I felt strongly about, he listened to me, and I felt like for the most part those choices have paid off. But I felt like I was…I mean, I knew I was in good hands just going in and reading for Vince. Once I met him, I really wanted to work with him. Clearly, he’s amazingly talented, but I just…I like working with him. It’s collaborative and he just doesn’t miss a beat. And so I really wanted to do that. And I loved when he would direct. Now we have a lot of repeat directors, but in the beginning everybody else comes and goes, but season one Vince was out here almost the entire time. There were things where I would go in and be, like, “I just want to make sure I’m on the right page with how we play this scene, because hopefully the decisions we make in season one are ones that we’re still living with in season four.
BE: Which you are.
BB: Which we are. The thing is, for TV…if you do a play or you do a movie, you know what you’re getting. But in TV, you don’t. I mean, your character might not even be alive next season, you don’t know. You know, other projects you kind of know what’s in store for you, but television, it’s different; that can be tricky. You kind of have to have faith, and some of it is just you’ve got to let the storytelling happen. Some characters do have to die, as much as actors don’t like to lose their jobs and things like that, but it’s just part of how it goes. That’s why you’ve just got to enjoy the ride. I’m enjoying this ride. It’s a good ride; it’s a good bus to be on.
BE: Well, you got to do a lot of riding this past season. I’m sure if you’ve not seen it, then you’ve at least heard about how somebody did a “Breaking Bad” sitcom, putting a laugh track to it.
BB: Oh, yeah.
BE: On paper, if you look at the character Marie, at least as presented in the first season, she would be almost the most sitcom-y sounding character: her nose is always in everybody’s business; she’s always expressing her opinion, and then she’s got the wacky side where she’s also a shoplifter.
BB: I love that about her. All of it, all of the wacky stuff. I know there are some actors that probably would not want to touch this character with a ten foot pole, but I love it. On hiatus, I try not to do things that are…sometimes I’m, like, “Oh, that’s Marie; you want me to come in and be Marie.” Like, I try and do something else, so that you don’t get pigeonholed into one person, because she’s pretty specific. But it’s fun to do. It is really fun to do. I always tease, especially when I work with Dean…you know, when we go in for rehearsal, I say my lines and do it kind of sitcom style. Then I’m, like, “Sorry, wrong show, wrong show. Too much?” “Too much.” (Laughs)
BE: Betsy and Dean had so much depth added to their relationship in season three. It seemed like she was just kind of the harried wife who’s dealing with her husband’s goings on and trying to do her part to be the dutiful spouse, but she really stepped up to bat as the post traumatic stress kicked in.
BB: He’s her life. Oh, that scene, that phone call scene where they say that Marie’s been hit by a car and he just freaks out, and vice versa. I mean, the love between them, I think, is really sweet and real. It’s beautiful and it’s very real. They’re not a rom-com couple.
BE: I’m just curious how Vince presented it to you when season three rolled around. Was it, like, “This is your year, baby; this is your big chance to shine”?
BB: No, he told me – and this I really appreciated – he warned me, because the beginning of the season was pretty light for me.
BE: I think I said as much in my blog, actually: “Where is Marie?”
BB: I think some creators of a show know exactly where they want it to go, the whole way through. However many seasons they are going to spread that out over, you know, it’s probably up to their network and their studio, but…I think Vince is open to see where things go. I’m not saying he doesn’t have specific ideas. Clearly, you know, he does. Some things you just have to deal with, like Jesse’s house. I don’t think he thought we’d have that whole real estate thing, but sometimes you’ve just got to go with it. So he warned me and I really appreciated it, but he said, “You’re going to get some great stuff.” And then I did. I was just so, so happy with the material that I got. As an actor it was wonderful to do, but then I was also really happy for Marie to have that. And just for the audience to see that side of her, which I think part of that was there, you know, like the intervention scene and her relationship with Hank. We could see part of that in the way she is with Walt Jr. “Clearly we have to get him off the drugs; you have to do something, Hank, you have to.” So she is loving in her own way. I think there were times I remember telling Vince, “The thing is, she shows up, whether you want her there or not.” That could be good or bad, you know, the support. But she’s always there. But I loved when Skyler left Walt and Marie didn’t know why. But I knew it had to be something bad because I had that faith in my sister, like, she wouldn’t just take off on Walt.
BE: Did you enjoy playing the groundhog scene?
(Writer’s note: This is a reference to when Marie helps Hank realizes that his manhood is still alive and well.)
BB: (Laughs) Oh, that was Pete (Gould) that wrote that scene, who’s directing this episode that we’re working on right now. I thought it was just so fantastically written. I mean, on the page it’s great, just alone on the page, but then to do it…I loved it. I just thought it was great. Although, yeah, I did tell my parents that they may want to step into the kitchen when they see Hank and Marie in the hospital room in that episode; you know, go get a beverage or a snack or something. (Laughs) But I thought it was great, yeah.
BE: That’s arguably one of the most real scenes between a husband and wife, maybe in the entire realm of the show, because…well, I mean, not to be giving too much away about my marriage but I can totally see my wife doing something like that.
BB: Well, hey, he’s getting out that hospital one way or another. (Laughs) I know how to close a deal. Marie knows how to get it done.
BE: Absolutely. And as sexual as it could be perceived, it’s not really about the sexuality of the moment. It’s about, “You’re going to fight back from this, and I’m going to make it happen.”
BB: It’s really so sweet. I love that she says, “So you can see that it’s not hopeless,” because he needs that to get his manhood back; he needed to feel like he had his mojo back. And she felt like he needed that, and also she wanted to get him home. It’s good to get him home. He needed to get home.
BE: Obviously, we can’t talk too much about Season Four, but I’m curious what your reactions were when you got this first script, because Giancarlo said that he actually had to set it aside and step away for awhile after first reading it.
BB: Wait ‘til you see it, that’s all I can say. I actually saw it. I saw it back in L.A. They were finishing the sound mixing and I was in town, so I went to watch it and…just wait until you see it. It’s been a long wait, but it’s worth it. It’s amazing, this whole season.
BE: Like you said, it was kind of slow for Marie at the first part of season three, but I get the impression, at least based on the way that season three wrapped, that Marie is definitely going to be front and center when the season kicks off.
BB: Well… (Hesitates) It’s a great season for her. But it’s Walt’s show.
BB: But, yeah, I have some great stuff come up in this season. And I haven’t…I don’t know what happens in the last two episodes yet, so I’m hoping for…
BE: Season five?BB: Oh, well, for that, too. (Laughs) But I’m hoping for some more interesting things for Marie in 12 and 13. I don’t know what happens; I don’t know what happens with anybody in 12 or 13. I think it has been decided, but we don’t know. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!