For Bryan Cranston, one of the most fun things about starring in the new AMC television series Breaking Bad is getting to blow stuff up on set.
“I’m doing several things with gun play and chemicals and explosions. So I really enjoy that, being a badass,” he said, speaking by phone yesterday afternoon from his dressing room at The Rachael Ray Show, where he was scheduled to appear. “It’s like being a boy again.”
It seems ironic considering that Mr. Cranston, 51, is most well known for playing a father. He was the goofy, fumbling dad on Fox’s Emmy-winning sitcom Malcolm In the Middle (now you can picture him!), and as the high school chemistry teacher turned drug dealer, Walter White, he’s taken on another paternal role, albeit a dark and twisted one, in Breaking Bad, which premiered last Sunday, Jan. 20. Forget about the Corvette – this show, a black comedy of sorts created by The X Files’ Vince Gilligan, takes the mid-life crisis to a new level; one that, for Mr. Cranston’s character, involves terminal lung cancer, his family’s impending financial ruin, and resorting to the sale of crystal meth to try and make it all better.
Indeed, it’s a far cry from playing Hal (Malcom’s dad), whose biggest problems usually involved clumsiness and embarrassing his four sons. But for Mr. Cranston, whose acting credits include an array of diverse roles – from a laughable dentist on Seinfeld, to a hardened one-armed Army colonel in Saving Private Ryan, to the little seen, though omnipresent “Stan Grossman” in 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine – it’s all about finding the “emotional core” of whatever character he is playing. He said he’s still not certain just what that is for Walter White, but being a father himself (Mr. Cranston has a 14-year-old daughter named Taylor) his own emotional core sometimes manifests itself during the filming.
“There’s a scene where [Walter White’s] son looks at me and calls me a pussy, and every time I did that scene I cried because it affected me so much,” Mr. Cranston said. “There’s something about a son having such a lack of respect for his father that just destroyed me as a man.”
But for the most part, he said doing the show has been a lot of fun. And a lot of work: Following his Rachael Ray taping, Mr. Cranston, who until now most viewers recognized as a supporting actor, had some more interviews lined up, and though he said all the press appearances (a notoriously monotonous routine) have been “keeping me busy,” he doesn’t seem to mind.
“I really believe in the show so I’m very eager to spread the word,” he said.