Vince Gilligan on Banks, Esposito, Bauer and more this season, 'Breaking Bad' interview
By April MacIntyre Oct 8, 2011, 23:07 GMT
Aaron Paul, Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston - AMC\'s "Breaking Bad" RV Tour Ends in Times Square - Times Square, Military Plaza - New York City, NY, USA © Jakes Van Der Watt / PR Photos
Best drama of the year in my book. AMC's 'Breaking Bad' is so smart, and rife with edge of the seat writing and artistic lensing thanks to cinematographer Michael Slovis, the series holds all the other efforts on TV to strive to a higher level.
Jonathan Banks, Steven Bauer, Dean Norris, Anna Gunn, Giancarlo Esposito, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk, RJ Mitte and Bryan Cranston, whose Walter is the sum of all his missteps this season are all so good I just shake my head. These actors are a gift for a gifted writer, Vince Gilligan, who has used the New Mexico locale as a character in itself in this post-modern Western.
The finale airs Sunday (tomorrow) October 9 on AMC.
Exceptional season for Gustavo "Gus" Fring - Giancarlo Esposito, whose villain is so clever, compartmentalized and cryptic, we are not sure if his beloved Max who was murdered in the episode 'Hermanos' was his lover or his best friend.
The tension between Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) have left us with the coming 'holy crap' moment we have been teased by those lucky to see the finale already. Coming together finally in a singular focus to rid their lives of Gus, but Gus senses a schism in the universe, and Walt's chance to blow him up is blown. We are left with many possibilities for tomorrow's end game for the season.
The series stoic anti-Gary Cooper is Jonathan Banks, is recovering somewhere. His character Mike has been an anchor for Jesse all season. We hope he makes it for the last 16 episodes. Another brilliant actor too.
Showrunner Vince Gilligan spoke to journalists on a conference call, and we have the ful transcript below:
What set off Gus to walk away from Walt's booby-trap?
Vince Gilligan: I think itís a good question and I think it stems not from the parking garage itself but I think his spidy-sense started tingling back in the previous scene when he was talking to Jesse. That was kind of, you know, strange sort of subdued behavior on the part of Jesse.
I think that itís that moment I think that it all stems from is when Jesseís sort of eyeballing him very intent with this very controlled but not completely controlled anger simmering underneath. I think that is the spidy-sense that you speak of.
But I think this is an amazingly smart individual who has not come as far as he has without being very cautious and being one hell of a chess player. And I think all of those things contribute to his sixth sense if you will.
As a follow up, are we going to be left to draw our own conclusions as to how the ricin got to the kid or will that be spelled out for us?
Vince Gilligan: You have to wait until next week but I think your answers will be - your questions will be answered, yes.
What are some things in the series that definitely are supposed to be ambiguous?
Vince Gilligan: I suppose what springs to mind is perhaps Gusí background. Certainly as weíve left it up to this point itís kind of ambiguous as to who Gus was before he met Don Eladio and became involved with the Mexican drug cartel.
We see in Episode 10 of this season that his wife is spared even though this kingpin, Don Eladio played by Steven Bauer, is so very angry at him and feel so insulted. Nonetheless, heís allowed to live and the question arises, you know, for the viewer naturally - arises, you know, who was this man back in Chile. And that is a, you know - definitely a bit ambiguous and purposefully.
I guess Iíve got two reasons for it being that way. One of it is we may want to answer it later on in the season - you know, in Season 5 or perhaps we wonít and maybe weíll just leave it to the audience because it seems to be sometimes the audienceís imagination is as good or better than anything that we can think of.
The scene with Aaron and Bryan with the revolver and the imprint that it left on Bryanís forehead? Talk about how you constructed these scenes?
Vince Gilligan: Itís funny, Iíll start with the last one first. I happened - I was the director on the scene with Aaron pointing the gun at Bryan and I was just telling Bryan Cranston the other day because - a few days ago he had not seen the finished episode and I said, I was standing right next to you on this stage for, like, nine hours and youíre acting out this entire scene.
I had to wait until I saw it in the dailies until the cut footage to realize that you had the imprint of the gun left in your forehead. I didnít realize he was pressing that hard against your forehead. And I didnít even see it.
Itís weird because as a director Iím usually not tucked away behind the monitors. Iím up close so I can talk to the actors and I was right next to the man and didnít even notice that until I saw it on film. I donít know why that it that it would work out that way.
But Iíd love to take credit for it, that was just the brilliance and commitment of the actors, that was Bryan Cranston grabbing that gun and pressing it into his own forehead until it left an imprint.
How much of a lucky accident is it that you guys are in New Mexico and not Riverside County where I think you originally planned to shoot it?
Vince Gilligan: You know, itís like you just said, nothing against Riverside and thatíd be a lot closer to home. I could visit the set more if we shot in Southern California but I agree with you. Thereís a series of lucky accidents that add up to this show. I canít even believe this showís on the air in the first place.
I just feel like Iíve been blessed by the existence of this thing and that Iíve won the lottery or something. But that is yet another example in a long line of examples of how despite my best efforts otherwise the show turned out better for the things that I didnít originally intend.
I mean originally this show was written to take place in Riverside and instead we went to New Mexico to take advantage of the rebate offered to film production. And man, weíve never looked back because New Mexico is a great place to work, the crews are wonderful.
I have actually wound up owning a condominium there that we use as a major set on our show when Iím not actually staying in it. And it is - it allows - more than anything else, shooting in New Mexico allows us to make our show look like a modern day western.
I mean it really does take place in what used to be the old west in and around the New Mexico and the beautiful clouds and the amazing Sandia Mountains and the scrub and the tumbleweeds and the prairies and all of that really does add up to a very interesting and unique look for the show that Iím so glad we have. You know, if itíd been Riverside County itíd been a very different show indeed.
Talk about Dean Norris if you would.
Vince Gilligan: Heís a wonderful actor, heís such an interesting person. I guess when I was first writing the pilot I conceived of Hank as being not much more than a foil for Walt in the sense that Hank was supposed to be everything Walt wasnít. He was going to be a hell fellow, well mad, and a guy who could just walk into a room and take it over by sheer force of personality. And he was all the things that Walt was not and perhaps wanted to be.
And I didnít think of him initially as much more than, you know, a logistical component, you know, a necessary story component to the show. But then we hired Dean Norris - and when you first Dean too, if any of you have been fortunate enough to meet Dean or talked to him you know what Iím talking about, heís this guy who - hi buddy, how you doing. Heís this hell fellow, well-met guy.
And yet the more you talk to him the more you learn about him, the more you realize this is a guy who went to Harvard. This is a guy who reads books like most people watch TV. This is a guy who has a lot of layers to him and once I got to know Dean and realized who he really was deep down inside it colored my perception of the character of Hank. And Hank became a much more nuanced character and he became more integral to the show than I ever initially intended him to be.
And all of that is due to Dean Norris and to his wonderful abilities playing this role and to his depth of character and all the interesting facets that he possess as a person. So yes, thereís a lot more to Hank than there would have been if not for Dean Norris.
What sort of goes into the decision about whether or not youíre going to leave people really hanging? And how did you come to the decision for whenever this season ends?
Vince Gilligan: Well, a very good question. I guess it stems primarily from - the thing thatís always constant when we make these decisions is whatís the most entertaining ending we can give to a season. And I guess we work from that desire outward and onward. We just try to come up with a moment that weíll - that will literally leave people talking, that will have them, you know, talking about the show.
Actually, I donít want to talk about this one. I donít want to ruin it for you guys who havenít seen it there but last season we ended with a - obviously ended with Jesse pulling the trigger, that was a definite big cliffhanger. I guess the season before was the plane explosion, which I guess in a sense was a cliffhanger.
I guess we would do it in every season pretty much except the first season we kind of got the wind taken out of our sails a little bit because of the writerís strike, that - the last episode of Season 1 was not - was never intended to be the last episode.
But Iím sorry, I guess Iím being long-winded here. The short answer I suppose is that we, showmanship. Weíre trying to keep things as interesting as possible and give folks a reason to tune in the following season.
The future of Breaking Bad is a done deal. There will be one more season, I think 16 episodes possibly aired in two batches. Are you pleased with the outcome of all that?
Vince Gilligan: Iím very pleased. This show will best be served by its creators knowing when it will end. If weíre to work to a satisfying conclusion or if we have any hope to work towards a satisfying conclusion we need to know exactly when our last episode will be. And we have that now. And I feel blessed to have that knowledge.
And now itís completely on me and my writers to actually come up with a satisfying ending and if we fail in doing that weíve got no one to blame but ourselves. But itís a wonderful thing that weíre allowed here because most TV shows end after a certain number of seasons - in-between seasons.
Very often the call comes when a showís on hiatus that, well, youíre not going to have another year so sorry about that. And thatís just the nature of the beast. And thatís why with the knowledge of that thatís why I feel so lucky to know weíve got 16 more and itís up to us to build toward the most satisfying conclusion we can humanly arrive at.
Do you have the series finale or the final scene written in your head already?
Vince Gilligan: No, I wish I did but then again I donít wish I did because that would leave a lot of invention. You know, thereís a lot of invention left to be done on Breaking Bad. Weíve got 16 more hours to fill and honestly I donít exactly know where itís all going to wind up. And I think thatís a good thing.
My writers and I, when we get back in the writerís room in mid-November, weíre going to do it the same way weíve always done it, which is sort of build it brick-by-brick and sort of very carefully pick our way through the story. And yes, itís a - I guess Iíd love to say I did know where it was all going to end. Iíve got - the best I can say is Iíve got hopes and dreams for the characters but I donít have any solid plot moments for them yet.
I have certain questions that I know I want to answer that the audience probably wants answers to as well. But other than that I would say, no, weíre going to find it when we find it starting in November.
You have people like Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito who have been working for years and years, what do you think it is about the show and about these actors in particular that has created this perfect storm for these guys?
Vince Gilligan: Well, Iím tickled to have any part in a reevaluation of their abilities and a reintroduction of them to the audience. Iím glad to be a part of it. These are wonderful actors who in the case of, for instance, Jonathan Banks, this is an actor who I feel has been overlooked for a number of years, whoís not gotten the work that I would have hoped to have seen him in.
And I say that as a fan, I started off as a fan of Jonathan Banks back in the mid-80s when he was on the television series Wiseguy.
I tell you before I knew the expression, appointment television, I was making an appointment every week to watch Jonathan in Wiseguy, my buddies and I in college, and we just loved that show. And if you had told me back then Iíd be working with him 25 years and I just would have been over the moon. And I am in fact. I love working with these guys.
I guess the sad but true answer ultimately to your question is that there are a lot of great actors out there like Jonathan Banks, certainly like Giancarlo Esposito, who Iím so blessed to be working with who is so wonderful. And Steven Bauer who you guys saw in a couple episodes in the last few weeks, Steven Bauer from Scarface. I never thought Iíd be working with him.
He was fantastic. Steven Bauer, Iím hoping people, you know, sit up and take notice of him and realize heís still out there. And when I see people I mean casting people.
I hope casting people all over the business remember Steven Bauer now because the sad answer, I think, is that there are a lot of actors and actresses out there whoíve been around a long time and maybe itís the expression familiarity breeds contempt or I donít know what it is but thereís a lot of real talent out there that often gets passed over for roles like this in favor of the next new thing.
And thatís a shame because folks like Giancarlo and Jonathan and Steven and so many other folks weíve used on our show are just the tops and are capable of really delivering the goods in an acting sense and are just charismatic as all get out. So Iím hoping we could start a trend here with using actors who havenít necessarily been in the public eye as much in recent years.
So what tease can be squeezed out of you about maybe this showdown that we should be expecting for the finale this week?
Vince Gilligan: Gee, if I ruin anything for you youíd be bummed. Let me think, what can I say? What coy thing can I say that doesnít ruin anything? The title, Face Off, is strangely appropriate and thatís about all I can say. Iím really looking forward to everybody seeing the last episode. I came out really well and I think - Iím hoping, as I said a littler earlier Iím hoping, the main thing people say when itís all over is wow.
Itís the culmination of a lot of chess playing, a lot of gamesmanship over the course of not just 13 episodes of Season 4 but gamesmanship that occurred between Walt and Gus prior to Season 4.
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&CAaron Paul Biography -
Aaron Paul Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesBryan Cranston Biography -
Bryan Cranston Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesSteven Bauer Biography -
Steven Bauer Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sites
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