"Breaking Bad" Cast Spills Character Secrets

With production wrapped on their Emmy-winning drama, Bryan Cranston and several members of the cast offer up the backstories and motivations that you didn’t see on television. Plus, Anna Gunn on why some fans hate Skyler.

1. Bryan Cranston: Walter White

“He developed a fear of failure and that’s why he became a teacher,” Cranston told BuzzFeed. “It was a subliminal decision because you cannot criticize the profession of teacher. So if you develop a fear of failure, which is very common, people launch into something and then they get cold feet and say, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I should do it.’

He’s hiding out in education. This is a brilliant chemist; if he decided to become a truck driver, people would say, ‘What are you doing? You’re wasting your god-given talents, why would you do that?!’ But no one would say that about becoming a teacher. So he has in a way cocooned himself in education. But that didn’t help to assuage his guilt or depression about missed opportunities in life.

I worked a lot on the subject of depression, because that’s where his kicking off point was. When we first meet him, he’s a man who loves his wife, loves his family, is responsible — but depressed.

[When Walter gets cancer] he doesn’t have room for depression. That’s the irony of these last two years of Walter White’s life, is that he’s so close to death is when he started to live, to be powerful, to be respected, to be able to intimidate another human being. These are very, very powerful things, especially for men. It makes a man’s chest go out. You see Walter White, whose physicality was hunched over under the weight of the world; when he becomes Heisenberg, he stands tall, with his hat.”

2. Anna Gunn: Skyler White

“I think she and Marie had terrible, terrible parents, and essentially raised themselves,” said Gunn. “It was something that Betsy and I decided between ourselves, that Skyler was almost the mother figure and that she had to be in charge and she had to grow up very quickly. That was very formative to her personality and to her character.”

[On the internet’s love for Walt, and hate for Skyler]: “It was an interesting thing that happened, in that Walt was doing all these terrible things and she was saying, ‘These were bad things and please don’t bring this danger to our house, you’re endangering our children.” But the fact is that the audience was rooting for Walt, and they were behind him. And the reasons for that is that it touched things within the viewers and within a lot of the audience that made people say, ‘I feel that way. I feel like Walt. I feel like telling my boss to screw himself, I feel like telling my spouse to get off my back, I feel like being a badass and going rogue.’ And so when the person in the show is most consistently saying, ‘You can’t do that,’ and is opposing that, then of course those people who are rooting for him are going to be angry about it.

And then there are other factors that come into that, which are maybe gender-based and have a lot to do with all sorts of other things… I don’t go into [internet comment sections]. But I was told about it, and I thought it was interesting and I did a lot of thinking about it. But I always think it’s good when there’s a debate like that that comes up because it means that people are thinking about it, and it means that people are raising the question, and if they’re raising the question, that’s a good thing.”

3. Bob Odenkirk: Saul Goodman

“I read that script over and over and over. I asked myself, who talks this way? Who talks this much? What’s he trying to do?” said Odenkirk. “He’s always trying to manipulate people with words. It’s a little bit like magic, he moves his hands a lot. It’s sleight of hand — don’t look here, look here, don’t watch my lips. So it was just studying that, thinking about it, and taking it apart and putting it back together again.

I thought about agents in Hollywood. Many agents, they do talk fast. Sometimes they’re full of hot air, or worse. And I thought about my father, who was a funny guy and a cynical guy. And I thought about Robert Evans, the film producer, whose book is so enjoyable to hear on tape. He’s a guy who can talk and spin a tale and take you somewhere and be entertaining the whole time.”

4. Betsy Brandt: Marie Schrader

“I always wanted to meet Skyler and Marie’s parents,” Brandt said. “They have got to be freaks of nature, because these two seem like war buddies, like, ‘I will be there for you through anything. Because we’ve been to bad places and back and survived it.’ They’re both so weird in different ways. I would have liked to met them.

Skyler is her older sister and it seemed like she always did everything right. I’m guessing that Skyler did better in school and married this smart chemist, really promising chemist. I would say, I think Marie likes to show Skyler that we have more money. I think she was like, ‘Look at me now.’ There was always some of that. There’s always, ‘I’m really happy for you, but I’m also really jealous,’ which I think also comes from a place of fear. Marie is so tightly wound.”

[On why Marie and Hank didn’t have kids]: “I always thought they wanted to, and they couldn’t. That just felt right to me; I felt like there was a kind of undercurrent of sad when they’re with Walt and Sky’s kids.”

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