In less than a week, the final episode of the Emmy-winning show Breaking Bad will go on air in the US. News of the last two episodes being extended to 75 minutes in duration met with all sorts of reactions — excitement (because there’s more to watch), anxiety (because the show does that to you) and despair (because, soon, there will be no more to watch). But there isn’t much ambiguity on one thing — Bryan Cranston’s performance as the protagonist, or the antagonist, Walter White, has been unparalleled.
As the second half of the last season goes on air on Star World (in India) on October 2, Cranston talks about the degeneration of Mr White, what to expect from the finale, and why he needs to move away from television for some time.
From the mild-mannered chemistry teacher in season one to what he is now, Walter White’s character arc has been quite something.
The viewers know that Walter White is going to go through a transformative adjustment made through this decision — to try to
supply funds for his family after he’s dead…and it’s a slippery slope. A decision to try to become someone else is always the downfall of a human being, and he sold his soul in order to do this.
How does he justify the situation to himself towards the end?
He goes through a number of things… denying that he is a criminal… he’s just doing this for his family… realising later on that he has to embrace who he really is to stay alive. He has to not only accept and tolerate it, but embrace it and be that man.
How well did you know what you were getting into when you signed the show?
I knew he (creator Vince Gilligan) was attempting to turn a character from a good person to a bad person — but that’s very, very broad. You don’t know the intricacies of the journey itself, how quickly it’s going to go or slow sometimes, and that’s the great thing about Breaking Bad — is that the person who created the show was able to manipulate that time, slow it down, then go fast and slow it down again.
What’s the biggest change the end of this show will lead to?
My hair will grow back. That’s a big change. I got used to be being bald, and I didn’t mind it. My wife didn’t care for it too much (laughs).
There are opportunities; as actors we go from job to job… we’re vagabonds historically looking for the next
opportunity to perform… and I’m no different.
How much did you know about crystal meth before you started?
I didn’t know anything about crystal methamphetamines... I’m not very well-versed with the world of drugs. That skipped me. So I had to learn. My character had to learn only how to make it, and he says, in an episode — “I make it,” to Jesse (Pinkman played by Aaron Paul), “you sell it”.
Will television take a backseat?
I won’t do a (TV) series for a while. I think I need to step away. Walter White had a tremendous impact on me, as a person, as a performer. As we now see, the show’s created this iconic image. I think it’s best that I step back from that, and allow that to go away. I’m going to do a stage play next and look at different film opportunities and see what happens next.
What, according to you, is the highlight of the finale?
In the final season, we maintain an integrity to what we established. The writing is consistent, unapologetic; you’ll come to expect the unexpected, but it’s
justifiable. It makes sense, and we’re proud of that. The end is appropriate. You’ll feel it was the right thing to do.