It’s been the hot topic of conversation since Breaking Bad first aired in 2008: what will happen to Walter White? The character, played by 56-year-old US actor Bryan Cranston (pictured, centre), has been walking a fine line between death, derangement and detainment since he turned to crime to support his family. Now, Walt’s end is near and Cranston will grace our screens for the last time in the fifth and final season. The conclusion, which is split into two parts that will screen six months apart, launched on OSN on Tuesday September 25. Yet Cranston is careful not to give too much away.
How did the season’s shoot go? It was more physical this year than it has been. Of the 65 shooting days, I had maybe five days off.
Is it trickier to access Walt the darker he gets? ‘Trickier’ is a good word for it. The journey we took the audience on allowed for conflict and drama within the viewer – they were rooting for this man to be successful doing something illegal. [Laughs] Justifying the killings: ‘Well, she was gonna expose him, so she had to go.’ And it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, what am I saying?’
What’s it like living with a character like that long-term? Every human being has a light side and a dark side, and it’s just your willingness to expose that darkness. We always put on a good face. We’ve been trained since kindergarten to be nice, be kind, share. So we’re conditioned to squash our natural selfish instincts, and that’s the right thing for society. As an actor, you want to be able to dip back into that darkness. You just have to be given a platform to be able to do that, and Breaking Bad was that for me.
You had success before, but nothing on this scale. Do you identify with Walt as a man coming into his own, into power, midlife? Yeah, midlife has been very kind to me. I’ve been working steadily as an actor since I was 24 years old. I said, ‘I’m going to do this for the rest of my life, and wherever it takes me, it takes me.’ And I’m still saying it.
What would you do if you had Walt’s fate: facing a terminal illness, leaving behind family? We’ve all asked ourselves that at some dinner party: what would you do if you had a year to live? I’d probably spend time with friends, doing what I’m doing at that dinner party, have more dinner parties, travel a little. And when it’s time, it’s time. Cash in.
You said that, unlike other famous actors, you can blend in. But you said that three years ago. Yeah, that’s changed. In the first season I shaved my head and nobody recognised me. It was cool to just walk around. Now it’s the reverse. Now when my head is shaved, they know me more than when I had hair.
And what do they say? ‘Let’s go party together.’ And I come back at them in character: ‘You obviously don’t know me.’ And they freak out: ‘Whoooa!’ But I don’t like being recognised. I’ll pick a chair in a restaurant where my back’s to the greatest number of people. It used to be where I’d be able to do my homework as an actor – observation. But when you’re being observed yourself, human behaviour changes. It’s not as ‘useable’ as it used to be. Season five of Breaking Bad airs on Tuesdays at 11pm on OSN First.