'Breaking Bad' Tidbits from Cranston, Paul and Odenkirk
by Joel Keller, posted Mar 19th 2010 3:05PM
After speaking to Vince Gilligan at the press tour, the folks at AMC were eager to get online writers a chance to talk to the entire 'Breaking Bad' cast. So, later on that day, about a half-dozen reporters sat with Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk and Anna Gunn to talk about the show's intense second season and what's coming up in season three, which debuts Sunday at 10PM ET.
The most interesting tidbits came from Cranston, which makes sense; not only is he the show's Emmy-winning star, but he has also directed a number of episodes, including the season three premiere. When I asked him about the next-to-last episode of season two, a moment that I've dubbed the show's "holy crap" moment, he had an interesting response.
(WARNING: Spoilers of season two are ahead!)
In the penultimate episode, Cranston's character of Walter White lets Jane, the girlfriend of his meth-making partner Jesse (Aaron Paul), choke on her own vomit in a heroin-induced haze. It was the moment where you knew that Walt has made the turn from good guy to bad, even if he felt he was doing it for Jesse's sake. But, according to Cranston, he and Gilligan had a bit of a debate over which way that scene would go.
"The original way was that he's filled with disgust, he looks over at Jesse and he's like strung out... about the wasted life. And he looks to the girl and almost in a paternal way, looks to her like this is someone's child, you know? And then pushes her on her back, pushes her back, and she flops back, boom (choking noise) and starts coughing and choking," Cranston said.
"That was the way he originally wrote it. And that's the first one I read. And that blew the top of my head off. And quite frankly, AMC and Sony had something to say about that, and brought Vince in, and said um, can we talk about this?"
The network and studio felt that it was a bit of a big leap for the character, and felt things could be more subtle. "So you want it to be somewhat surprising, but not necessarily jarring and have the person push back from it," said Cranston. "And (Vince) listened, and to his credit, he agreed that it may have been an overstep and let's pull it back a little bit, and he came up with this other method, the shaking. And I think we talked about how that would work, and that's what we did."
Cranston also mentioned a third version of the scene, that he suggested, where Walt walks down the hall and hears Jane choking. He called that "the soft version." The shocking scene that ended up being shot is the compromise between the two.
That scene was very emotional to Cranston. "Actually, I had a moment when I imagined my own daughter dead in the bed. I saw her face and it scared me. So you want to be able to go to those places, but that, I didn't want to go to that place."
For season three, says Cranston, "we form new alliances, new relationships, new understandings. Sometimes it's agreed upon, some it pulls apart. It's like a muscle being built. We get together and it rips apart, and we get together again and we rip apart again. In fact, this whole season seems to be just that get together and apart, and together and apart. It's very, it's fruitful for the show, but it's frustrating to experience."
All of the cast expressed surprise at Gilligan's assertion during the panel they did earlier that day that Jesse Pinkman was actually the moral center of the show. Paul was also surprised, but he could see where that assessment of his character came from.
"I mean, where this season starts out, you don't really know exactly where Jesse stands," he said. "Obviously, he has a lot of guilt on his shoulders. He's taking complete blame of the death of Jane. So it's a lot to chew on. He doesn't really know, or the audience doesn't really know, where he's at emotionally. But he has accepted who he truly feels he is, and he's just going to take that on and try and just keep his head above water."
Cranston decided to go opposite Gilligan's view. "I think there's moral ambiguity to him."
The big addition to the cast dynamic during the second season was Odenkirik, playing slimy lawyer Saul Goodman. Not only does Saul take Walt and Jesse to the next level of drug dealing, he serves as a good source of levity in a very dark world.
"People always tell me I'm funny on this show," he says. "And the character's funny and he gets to say a lot of ridiculous things, but you know, he's also a scream in comparison to all these guys and what they're going through. He's an unbelievable clown, you know, the best ever, when it's compared to people with guns to their heads, you know, this horrible situation you're all in. (laughs) It's a big joke to me. It's a big laugh for Saul."
When I asked the cast if having an end date like 'Lost' got would be helpful, Cranston responded that an end date"could only help the storytelling process." But he'd be happy if, however long the show lasts, wherever it ends will feel like a good end point.
"Whatever it is, I would love to have it come to its natural completion so that all of us can look back and go, that was great, look at that package, I'm very proud of what we've done here, and now it's time for all of us to scatter like roaches and find our next job."
By the way, the reason why you didn't hear from Anna Gunn in this piece? It's because I got a few minutes with her after the 'Breaking Bad' panel at the press tour. We talked about how her character, Walt's long-suffering wife Skyler, is also going through a transformation. Since we discuss a big plot point from the third season premiere, I'll have that interview for you on Monday, after the episode airs. In the meantime, take a look at the 'Breaking Bad' coverage from our friends at AOL TV, including their interview with Cranston.