Breaking Bad is not your average drama. But there’s no denying that this is the reason for its roaring success. It’s the tale of hard-up chemistry professor Walter White, a family man who discovers he’s terminally ill, so devises a plan: he decides to use his chemistry skills to produce illicit substances, and goes into business with an ex-student in order to fund his treatment.
As season four of arguably one of TV’s darkest treats prepares for its premiere on OSN on December 19, we caught up with triple Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston (of Malcolm in the Middle fame) as he journeys deeper into this criminal underworld.
What happens to Walter in season four?
Well, there’s that spectrum of Walt changing character – he goes from 1939 film character Mr Chips to Scarface, as [series creator] Vince Gilligan so fondly refers to it – and we are well along that colour change.
I think he’s closer to Scarface than Mr Chips by now, for sure. And this season deepens it by at least another notch.
How does the role of Walter compare to the other characters you’ve played?
It’s the role of my career. Complex, sympathetic, frustrating, physically demanding, emotionally demanding – I understand this man, I commiserate with him, yet I’m angry with him for what he’s doing. We’re more complex as human beings; today’s TV shows are demanding more honest portrayals, and we feel that’s what Breaking Bad does. We weren’t the first – you have Tony Soprano or Michael Chiklis in The Shield, Denis Leary in Rescue Me – so there are templates there and that gave us permission to tell a story about a man who’s not necessarily a good person. Vince Gilligan has said he’s still pondering the exact end of the series and what will occur.
Have you talked to him about it? Do you have your own ideas about how you’d like the Walter White story to end?
No. It’s one of those things where it’s so satisfying to be almost an audience member as well. I only look at the scripts a week before we shoot them, because this is such a journey for me as an actor and for Walt as a character. He doesn’t know from month to month, day, week, hour to hour if he’s going to be alive. There’s no way to plan ahead for that sort of scenario. So you just have to hold on, and it feels like a rollercoaster ride. So I don’t know where it’s going to go, and I have full trust in Vince to guide his writers to that perfect conclusion.
How would you convince someone who has never seen Breaking Bad to give season four a shot?
I’d simply say, ‘Like its main subject matter, Breaking Bad is addictive. So be careful!’
Breaking Bad season four debuts on Monday December 19 at 10pm on OSN First.