TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Breaking Bad”

Has it truly come to this…? Will I once more actually have to spend money on a DVD set…? Yes, I fear I must, because I’ve been feeling guilty for awhile about not having found the time to watch the first season of “Breaking Bad,” and now that I’ve seen clips from Season 2, it’s clear that I need to just suck it up and buy Season 1 on DVD as soon as it’s released on February 24th. (It’s also clear that I should henceforth put my unconditional faith in AMC, since this is exactly the same thing that happened to me with “Mad Men.”)

Actually, this decision has been in the making for awhile now, starting not long after Bryan Cranston took home the Emmy for Best Actor. At first, I was convinced that Cranston’s win was less to do with his work on the show and more to do with the vote being split so profoundly that his win was simply a matter of mathematics and little to do with his performance, but I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong. I mean, have you taken a look at the guy when he’s in character? I had no idea quite how much he was putting into the role of Walter White…or how much he was taking off.

“When we did the pilot, I was 186,” said Cranston. “And then, I got down when my character started his chemotherapy. I got down to 170. I’ve now started beefing up; I’m ready for a slaughter, because we’ve finished for the season. But I had to go back down to 170 again when we started up the second season.”

In addition to fluctuating his weight for the series, Cranston has also been directed a few episodes of the show, including the second season premiere. “Much to the chagrin of our cast,” he claimed, though their enthusiasm belies his comment.

“Bryan was talking about how he works with actors and he directs,” said Betsy Brandt (who plays Marie Schrader), “and he did this while we were seated just like this, and said how, you know, if he’s not getting what he wants from his actor, he’ll say, ‘Well, give me more of this, you know, give me more of that tenderness.'”

“‘I love what you’re doing with all that tenderness,'” mimicked Anna Gunn (Skyler White). “So, in other words, it’s all a ploy.”

“It’s a ploy,” agreed Brandt, “and he outed himself when we were all, ‘We can hear you.’ And then I said, ‘I can’t wait for you to direct us next season. I can give you more of whatever it is I’m not giving you.’”

“He brought a riding crop, though, one day,” recalled Gunn. “And I liked that. That was good.”

As far as what we can expect from Season 2 of “Breaking Bad,” creator Vince Gilligan offers a tantalizing clue: “In our first image of our first teaser of our first episode this season, we start off with a clue as to how the whole season’s going to end.”

“We have a big slam-bang ending this season that I’m very excited about,” he said. “And we knew where we were going from…well, not from day one, but from the first episode on. There’s certain things implicit in the idea of a character who has terminal lung cancer in the first episode that I probably don’t need to spell out. Certain things were implied by that, that imply an ending of some sort. He’s living, but for how long is always the question. Cancer at that stage…he had Stage IIIA cancer. It does have not a great outlook. It’s possible people do live, and it’s, you know, people do win the lottery, but most people don’t. So what I want to do more than anything else is keep it as realistic as possible and not suddenly, you know, with the success of the show have it be that he magically gets cured. I want to make it as real as possible. There may be a little bit of a ray of light this season or maybe a ray of good news. For how long, we don’t know, but that is often the case in real life with cancer. There’s better months; there’s worse months. There’s moments of sunshine; there’s moments of hopeful outlook. Then it can change in the blink of an eye, unfortunately.”

So, basically, the answer is: who knows what the heck is gonna happen? But either way, you can count on “Breaking Bad” to offer up a hell of a ride.

By the way, for what it’s worth, it’s kind of a relief for me to know that Cranston was just about as surprised about his Emmy win as I was. I’ll close with his comments about what went through his head when the name was announced during the cereomy.

“I had three previous nominations and didn’t win, so I was pretty comfortable with not winning and familiar with that feeling, and I was preparing myself for the same thing,” said Cranston. “My wife, on the other hand, was starting to hyperventilate a little bit and get sweaty palms, which is very attractive, one of the reasons I married her. And I just told her that relax, don’t get all worked up because they’re not going to mention my name. We had seven episodes, and let’s just have fun and enjoy this. And then Keifer Sutherland said, ‘Bryan Cranston,’ and the first millisecond of that went ‘That sounds familiar.’ And then you realize, ‘Oh, my God that’s…that’s me!’ The one thought I had after I was kissed my family and started to walk up the stage was, ‘Please, God, let me put a sentence together with, you know, a nice noun and a verb and adjective, perhaps. I’m not too choosey. And not to say, ‘Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, God. This is so surreal. Oh, God. Oh, times up. Oh, God, oh, God. Oh, wow.'” Because, you know, that wouldn’t be…you don’t want to look back on that and go, ‘That’s what I said?’ So hopefully I said something that was coherent and appreciative, which is how I felt, and it was a wonderful night.”

Season 2 of “Breaking Bad” premieres on AMC on March 8th.

  

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