The changes that anti-hero Walt (Bryan Cranston) of AMC’s excellent series “Breaking Bad” has gone through in three years is nothing short of astounding.
When we first met him, Walt the high school chemistry teacher was making extra dough at a car wash cleaning the rims of a fancy car belonging to a sneering student.
Cut to three years later, our chemistry teacher can buy and sell most everybody he meets. “Money changes everything,” sang Cyndi Lauper.
Oh yes it does.
Through much of the third season of “Breaking Bad,” both Walt and his Meth aide de camp in production, Jesse (Aaron Paul), have been estranged. Walt has beaten cancer for the moment, and Skylar (Anna Gunn) has left him and now is slowly coming back; the power of money in action.
Jesse wrestles with his morals, but ultimately is ruled by his emotions and addictions and is less of a thinker as Walt.
Walt and his drug overlord Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) are cut from similar cloth, both analytical, unflappable men.
Hank (Dean Norris) is recovering but without his knowledge, he has become complicit in Hank’s drug fortune, and Saul (Bob Odenkirk) would still sell his mother for a dollar.
Cranston is a a two-time Emmy winner who has blossomed and made an enormous impact on TV playing the teacher, who faced with the big C, makes Meth for money and does very well for himself until his success complicates his personal life.
It is the master-apprentice relationship of Paul and Cranston that makes the series percolate and creates interesting sub-plots for Vince Gilligan and his writers to dive off of, aided by such an immensely talented cast and crew.
Monsters and Critics participated in a group conference call with Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Vince Gilligan to discuss this season and finale.
The “Breaking Bad” Season 3 finale episode airs this coming Sunday, June 13 at 10:00 pm on AMC.
BullsEye: My first question is what percentage of the Breaking Bad budget goes toward replacing the windshields of Walt’s vehicles?
Vince Gilligan: That’s a good one. It’s probably the large part. It’s probably a substantial percentage. That has kind of turned into a running gag hasn’t it? It was not intended to be that way at the start but it a – that was not any long term plan on our part to keep breaking poor Walt’s windshield but it sure does happen an awful lot, so. And we keep the tape on there too to remind everybody.
Bryan Cranston: Yes he loved the tape.
Vince Gilligan: Yes.
BullsEye: This has been a fantastic season for everyone but Aaron you really soared with Jesse getting clean trying to go it alone. Finally got his new girlfriend’s brother killed one of his associates. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the challenges of adapting your performance to meet each of these challenges?
Aaron Paul: Oh man, thank you so much first of all. But, you know, I really – I thought I had a grasp of who this kid was by the end of the second season and I had an idea of where he was going before we started the third season but then of course as always it goes completely the opposite direction.
And it was a little tough. I mean, you know, I thought I had a grasp of who this kid was and now he’s, you know, he’s convinced that he is officially the bad guy and he has all this guilt on his shoulders. And he’s making a valiant effort to try and stay clean on a – clean, you know, clean and sober path and so it’s like almost playing a different character within the character itself. And it was definitely a challenge but, you know, it’s so much fun to play.
E! Online: Hey, my question actually goes with the first question about the windshield. Last season – last season ends with plan crash and then this season just the storyline seemed to center around cars so much, not just the violence but also with like Walt, Jr. getting his driver’s license. I wondered if this was a deliberate choice or did this happen organically?
Vince Gilligan: I think it’s because cars are cheaper and we blew all our budget on airplanes last year. That’s an interesting question. I hadn’t thought of it myself in that – I hadn’t thought about that myself but now that you mention it, there is kind of a – kind of a unifying perhaps a minor but unifying theme with cars.
I hate to say that was not intentional but I guess as far as Walter Jr. goes, you know, he’s, you know, at the age of 16 as with any young man or young woman at that age thoughts turn to getting ones drivers license. And I think we thought we’d better deal with that at a certain point. Yes, do you guys have any thoughts on that Bryan or Aaron?
Aaron Paul: I just hope he gets a Mach 1 next season.
Vince Gilligan: I know. The Mach 1 fastback. That’s right. I know.
Aaron Paul: Yes. Yes. He wants the Mach 1 fastback. Yes.
Vince Gilligan With the (shaker) hood.
Bryan Cranston: It does make an issue. When we start exploring what Walt is going through and his changing attitude and his ego getting involved in this and he’s being seduced by this criminal behavior. And the fact that he’s got a pocket full of money now in his pocket he might – he might go out and splurge on some fancy little thing maybe, hug Vince?
Vince Gilligan: We might be back to planes in season four, yes. He’s making 15 mil a year now. Yes.
E! Online: Maybe I’m reading too much into it but I just thought like in Episode 2 Bryan gets pulled over in the middle of singing this wonderful song. And to me that just goes to, well it’s control issues and I thought maybe the cars were more about like moving forward with his life, taking control of his life?
Bryan Cranston: Okay. Let’s go with that.
Vince Gilligan: Yes. That’s – I like that. No, I like that. That’s very insightful. I would be in disingenuous if I said that that was on purpose. But, you know, it is really for the folks who make shows to make them and for the folks who watch them to interpret them and to tell the folks who made them what indeed they were talking about.
I really believe that. I really believe that there’s so much that we do on our show that is really best interpreted by an audience and perhaps not by us. So I think that’s a very interesting take on that.
E! Online: : So Aaron what does that say about your car?
Aaron Paul: I have no idea.
Vince Gilligan: Well, you know, I think there is something to be said about, it seems to me. I’m sorry to jump in…because you had that cool but sort of, immature-ish bouncing Monte Carlo in Season 1 and Season 2. And then you had a more grown up staid Toyota hatchback and perhaps that says something about growing up a little bit.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette This season wraps up with what seems like a very definitive cliffhanger. It’s not even a questionable cliffhanger. It’s literally what happened there. Do you know where you go after that?
Vince Gilligan: Sure. I’m sorry you’re talking about Episode 13 that airs this coming Sunday. You’ve already seen that one? I am very nervous because it is a very definitive ending for a season. It’s ending with a bang both literally and figuratively ending our season with a bang. And it is a very exciting and yet scary prospect for my writers and myself to proceed after that scene with Jesse.
In the aftermath of that scene, I would imagine Jesse’s life is going to change very – or his outlook on life at the very least is going to change very substantially, very fundamentally. And his perception of who he is is going to change. And I think that’s a good starting point for us but we do not know what happens next.
And that is not really a new feeling for my writers and myself. That is kind of how we’ve been playing it for quite awhile. Season 2 was a bit of a change up for us because we knew at the beginning of the season how we’re going to end the season. But for the most part we try to write in an improvisational Jazz sort of sense.
We try to have an idea of what it is we want to do and yet we want to stay loose and let the characters tell us what it is that they want or what it is they desire. What it is they fear. We try to stay as open to the characters wants and desires and fears as possible and let the plotting and the story proceed from there.
And this will be a no different scenario when we launch into Season 4. We will – wing it sounds a little loose and a little glib but in a sense that is kind of what we do week in and week out. We’re letting the characters tell us where to head and we will continue along that path in Season 4.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Is there a theme for the next season?
Vince Gilligan: The theme of the season really is something my writers and I tend to nail down in the first three or four weeks in our writer’s room in the beginning of every season. And no, at this point we do not.
And if I were smart I would spend these few weeks I have off to do some advance work along those lines. But I ‘m just kind of lazy so I’ll probably wait until I get together with the writers in the room. And wing – and go from there. But that is – really this is a – I should say this is such a collaborative medium in general.
And in Breaking Bad this is such a collaborative effort starting in the writer’s room. I have six really wonderful writers who are indispensable to me. And we really do create the episodes, the stories of each episode as a group effort. And then we give it over to the best cast and the best crew in television.
And the cast starting with Bryan and Aaron and the rest of our wonderful ensemble really brings these characters to life and adds shadings and depths and elements to these scripts that we would have – that we writers would have never even thought of and really (enrichen) and deepen the show.
And then we got the best crew in TV executing all of this and putting it on film. And I’m just very blessed and lucky to have such a group of people, such a family.
Monsters and Critics: This has been a really tough seasons for Mexican bad guys. Hank to me is like the third leg along with Walt and obviously Jesse. And I’m really curious to know where you’re going to take Hank, as far as his moral compass and the way Skyler’s sort of been lured into Walt’s ego and hubris with regard to the power of the money?
Vincent Gilligan: That’s a very good question and not to sound glib but I don’t know myself. And, you know, referring back to that previous answer I – we really do – we really do our best to be as honest as we can. I’m talking about the writers and myself to be as honest as we can and to be as open as we can. And let the characters in large part dictate where they should be headed.
Having said that, to me Hank- he’s not the guy we first thought he would be when we watched the pilot. In that pilot episode he’s kind of, you know, he’s a frat boy and he’s a bit of a blow hard. And he’s a bit of a, you know, he’s got kind of somewhat racist sounding tendencies.
As the show has progressed, he really – and this is sort of to my mind the benefit of being open to not only the characters but the actors themselves playing the characters. As the show has progressed, Dean Norris has informed the writing of the character as does Bryan Cranston and the writing Walt as does Aaron Paul on the writing of Jesse and Anna Gunn and Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte. They really do – and when I say inform, they don’t sit there and say this is what you should be doing.
But their wonderful abilities of which, you know, their abilities to me seem limitless and their individual personalities and their depth as human beings kind of does inadvertently or purposefully dictate to us where we go with these characters.
And Dean Norris in answer to you specific question here is – there’s so much more to Dean Norris than simply kind of a frat boy hail fellow well met character that me being around him and my writers being around him has deepened our understanding and our realization of who Hank could be as a character.
And that has really as I say happened with all of our actors. And all of this to say in some ways he is a moral center perhaps not, you know, at least in the straight world of the non-criminal world, he is very much a moral center of our show as is…
Bryan Cranston: As opposed to the gay world.
Vince Gilligan: …as opposed to the non-criminal. He’s in the non-criminal world. He’s kind of a moral center and in the criminal enterprise that Walt and Jesse find themselves in. I think Jesse’s kind of a moral center as well or at least he certainly has been.
Now maybe this season end or Season 3 will tip that on its head. But all of this to say the evolution of this character, Hank in this particular case is something that I didn’t foresee way back when I was doing the pilot and writing the pilot. And that’s why it’s really best for my writers and myself to remain as open as possible and kind of, you know, remain flexible and open to these different, you know, possibilities that the actors and the characters allow us.
So as to the future, it remains to be written. It remains to be figured out. But, you know, I think Hank is fundamentally the character who you’ve seen him to be. And I, you know, how he will deal with his injury and his infirmity is I think going to be a big challenge. I would imagine that’s going to be a big part of his life going forward.
I don’t know that it’ll fundamentally change as a person, but I think the answer probably lies somewhere in, you know, in what’s already come down the pike as far as his characters concerned.
Monsters and Critics: Bryan you’ve been a wonderful human buffer as Walt between Skyler and Saul who they just despise each other right off from the go and between Gus and Jesse. And I was wondering if you could talk about your diplomatic scenes as Walt just sort of negotiating these characters that are in your lives together?
Bryan Cranston: Well I think he has a maybe a more pragmatic point of view than certainly than Jesse does. Jesse is an idiot. And so he doesn’t have the decorum to be able to handle intricate conversation. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m very fond of that Jesse boy. But, you know, he gets himself in all kinds of predicaments. And so it seems that Walt has to extricate him from those and trying to use, you know, diplomacy in order to attain that.
And he has struck a chord with the Gus character. I think they understand each other on a father level, you know, much closer to the same age as Jesse is with Walt. A businessman level, you know. And so I think they’ve made some agreement, some sort of bonding level that they can convey their thoughts with, you know, conversely with (Sol Grossman) (Sol Grossman) – not (Grossman), Saul Goodman.
Vince Gilligan: You’re thinking of (Les Grossman).
Bryan Cranston: (Les Grossman) with Saul Goodman, he’s just an opportunist.
And you have to – you have to continually tell him no because he’ll keep pushing for what’s best for him as opposed to what’s best for you even though he represents me, you know. So Walt finds himself surrounded by these kind of, you know, and I think he’s just trying to make sense out of all of it and keep some sanity some level of understanding.
Movie Web: Talk about the pizza scene. So I want to know was that a happy accident or was that something that was choreographed that you guys had to do like over and over again?
Vince Gilligan: Well it was definitely scripted but I’m going to let Bryan tell the story of how it worked.
Bryan Cranston: Well, would you believe one take that I threw that pizza up on the roof and it stuck in that position. It was the type of thing where I felt the heft of the pizza and it was a real pizza. And it was huge and it weighed a lot. And so I just guessed about how far I’d have to be away from that in order to heave it up there. And I still wanted it to be out of his anger and frustration as opposed to I’m going to throw this pizza on the roof and show you.
He didn’t intend to throw it on the roof. He just intended to just throw it up in a fit and it happened to go on the roof. I thought that was a funnier way to do it. And so we just guessed and it landed. So that was it. Bang.
Movie Web: I want to know about the color scheme for the show and you may have talked about this before. But it seems like it’s getting more pronounced as these episodes go on. And I’m wondering for you what does the green and the purple mean when we see that constantly repeated throughout the episodes, if there’s a purpose or a meaning behind that?
Vince Gilligan: There is definitely thought behind it. I love that question. Ever since our pilot I’ve – I don’t – to be honest with you I’m not exactly sure sometimes what it means but I do like the idea. I’ve always liked the idea of all of our characters having a somewhat separate color pallet.
And going back to the pilot, I’ve had just absolutely wonderful help from our – back on the pilot our production designer Robb Wilson King and now as we move forward our production designer Mark Freeborn have a lot to say about the colors of the show and our wonderful costume designer Kathleen…
Bryan Cranston: Kathleen (Jesus) Detoro. That’s what we call her.
Vince Gilligan: Kathleen Detoro, our wonderful costume designer also has quite a bit of input into these color choices. All of this to say that for instance dating back to the pilot Walt starts off, you know, in beige colors, very mono chromatic beiges and straw colors and stuff like that.
And then goes a little green in his color pallet toward the end of the pilot. You know, we have – we kind of do that throughout and we actually had a meeting at the beginning of every season with Kathleen and Mark Freeborn and previously with Robb – have a meeting at the beginning of every season where we talk colors.
We talk, what color are we going to move the characters into. And we’re always kind of on the move with them except for the case of Marie. The character Marie has sort of got this fetish for the color purple and that really hasn’t changed. So in some sense she’s the most constant of our characters at least color wise. But everybody else…
Bryan Cranston: But that also happens to be her favorite novel.
Vince Gilligan: The Color Purple yes.
Bryan Cranston: Yes, there you go.
Vince Gilligan: And (ba dump bump), and they…
Bryan Cranston: Let’s go with that.
Vince Gilligan: …and so the characters, Walt has gone from beige to green into black tones now. Jesse has gone from yellows and reds into, you know, into a darker pallet. And yet also we, you know, it gets a little complicated but there is thought behind it.
We had Walt go a little into blue colors this season, which was previously Skyler’s colors. And then we had Skyler go from blues into greens, which I guess if it meant anything the idea behind it was how they’re moving apart rather than moving together. He’s going after her chasing her into her color pallet and she’s going into yet another.
It sounds like a lot of artsy-fartsy bulls**t perhaps, hopefully not. We do put a lot of thought into it and its not, in your face as a viewer hopefully. It’s just a subtle little something or not.
Your appreciation of the show as a viewer doesn’t in any way rely on noticing these things but they are there to be noticed nonetheless and it’s for the viewer to pickup on or not. But it is fun to spend time thinking about this stuff and I do confess we spend a lot of time thinking about the color pallets of each character.
IGN: Where’s Walt’s money going right now? Is it all going into windshields?
Bryan Cranston: Yes.
Vince Gilligan: He’s putting a lot of money into windshields. That’s for sure. He’s keeping…
Bryan Cranston: And hospital bills.
Vince Gilligan: Yes. I think it’s mostly going into hospital bills. Yes.
IGN You mentioned Jesse saying he’s the bad guy but that’s not necessarily true and he becomes morally indignant when he sees, you know kids slinging. Is he really a bad guy or does he just not understand himself?
Aaron Paul: I think he’s still very much lost. I think he’s still trying to figure out who he is. I think at the beginning, you know, after coming out of rehab and learning about, you know, self-acceptance and, you know, he’s just gone through probably the most intense thing that he will ever go through in his entire life.
And he’s just kind of battling through those issues. And so I think he’s tried to convince himself that, you know, through self-acceptance that he is the bad guy. And he’s just battling his own inner demons. But then, you know, slowly but surely as the season goes on, you know, his heart is coming through.
And I personally don’t think necessarily that he is the bad guy but he’s definitely made some bad horrible decisions in his life. And he’s just trying to pick up the pieces and move on. But we’ll see. Who knows? That could all change by the end of this season but I don’t know.
San Antonio Express News I was wondering of that symbolized anything like washing your lives clean in the future or something?
Bryan Cranston: All right. Let’s go with that.
Aaron Paul: Let’s do that I love it. I love it so much.
Vince Gilligan: That’s an interesting – well that’s interesting. See I love it when – this is really – it really is for the consumers of a story to interpret because, speaking for the writers and myself, we can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes.
We’re deep in the middle of plotting out a season and we have ideas about things but sometimes you’re lost in the forest and you’re hacking your way through, you know, figuratively speaking with a machete and you’re – you don’t quite know exactly where it is you’re going to wind up. So it really it is for the viewer to see things in a different and perhaps more complete light than we do.
But I tell you the carwash it’s certainly – on a very basic level, I think it represents going backward in time. It represents going back to a previous life that perhaps Walt no longer lives, you know, which is another way of saying, you know, back in the pilot when he worked at this carwash he was not the current Walter White that he is now.
He was not a criminal. He was not a drug kingpin. It’s perhaps some sort of a flight towards innocence. It’s – but, you know, it’s also interesting because you’re right it’s, you know, carwash gets a car clean. It washes away dirt and crud and, you know, I guess symbolically it could be all those things. I like that – I like that thought.
San Antonio Express News Is there something about the finale, how it will affect the cast?
Vince Gilligan: Thematically is it…
Bryan Cranston: Well this – what has happened – I think if you look back on the seasons, it was the decision that was made in haste. Season 2 was the ramifications of that decision, the penalties that you pay on a human level. And I think the theme for Season 3 has been for all of us – the earlier question was that Jesse accepting who he is as a criminal. And I think it is that. I think Season 3 has been facing the mirror and really accepting who you are.
And that from my end of it, Walt is capable of doing this. He is able to see himself as a bad guy ultimately and near the end. And he is capable of doing some things that he never thought he was before. And I think he can justify it by saying there’s some very pragmatic reasons why he had to do that is to survive.
In order to survive in the criminal world, you have to – you must stink like a criminal. You will not survive otherwise. You have to know how to be guarded and cautious and protect yourself. And he’s not from that world but he’s learning quickly. And I think by the end of this season all innocence is lost as far as Jesse and Walt in that sense and we’re growing and changing.
And where we go we don’t really know. It’s the most unusual experience I’ve had because these characters are transforming before our eyes. I was going to say season after season but sometimes within the season they’re changing. And so it’s fascinating for us to just, you know, buckle up and hold on.
Vince Gilligan: I would – that’s very well put what Bryan just said. I think the takeaway – I love the way he worded it. It really is – it’s perhaps that last episode of this season really is about what is perhaps a final loss of innocence.
BullsEye: Was that development planned way, way in advance or was it something that came about as a result of you deciding to have her discover Walt’s secret at the beginning of the season?
Vince Gilligan: I guess we try very hard to let, you know, I mean there’s always an exception to every rule and we – this is going to put the (line) slightly to what it – some stuff I was saying earlier. But we try very hard to keep our storytelling organic and to let the characters let us know where they intend to head.
Having said that, Anna Gunn is such an integral part of our show and the character Skyler is such an integral part of our show and is a character that I would surely hate to lose from our series.
And there was a crossroads early on this season when we realized that, you know, she had to find out about her husband’s illicit activities. We couldn’t keep that lie going very much longer because she’s a very smart character and she knows he’s up to something.
So we’re at a crossroads at a moment like that. My writers and I are at a crossroads story wise because she has three very believable roots, forks in the road she could take.
She could call the police and that would be very believable and, you know, definitely and option once you find out your significant other’s dealing large quantities of meth and putting your whole family at risk that way or she could divorce him or she could, you know, take – I mean she could divorce him definitely. She could take the kids and flee, you know, and get the hell out of dodge. I mean these are all possibilities but we wanted to keep her around.
So in a kind of a moment of wanting the character to tell us where she wanted to go but also trying to steer her a little bit into sticking around and not leaving the show entirely. We decided at that point we want her to go through sort of a process this season of if not coming to sort of an understanding or if not coming to a sympathy for Walt throughout the course of the season, at least she comes to some sort of an understanding whereby she doesn’t side with Walt necessarily.
She doesn’t think he did the right thing here but she gets to kind of a pragmatic place where she says to herself well there is this money. We are going to need it for Hank – Hank’s rehabilitation and recovery, you know, now that he’s been shot four times. We’re, you know, lets be pragmatic about this, let’s make the best of a very bad situation and that is sort of what we were working toward with Skyler all season.
The idea of her slowly, organically as possible, believably as possible getting her head around a very big concept, which is that her husband is a criminal. And it took 13 solid episodes to get there and, you know, it will perhaps continue in Season 4 because she’s a wonderful character and, you know, at very mercenary level I want to keep her around. You know, because she’s a great actress and a great character so that was – that my long-winded way of saying yes that was intentional this season.
BullsEye: And then just one last one and this can be either for Vince or for Bryan. Obviously Walt is no longer Mister Chips but nor is he quite at Scarface yet. Where are we on the sliding scale and will the final Scarface transition occur in Season 4?
Bryan Cranston: Oh you’re dishing off and I’m going to, you know, put it back to you because I’m kind of along for the ride just like Walt is. Walt has no idea that this transition is happening to him. He’s just experiencing as it goes and that’s what so much fun for me as an actor to play this because it’s so immediate. It’s so in the now.
He has very little thought on the future because he doesn’t have much of a future. The past is completely destroyed to him. All he has is the now. So he’s living right here and now. And so as an actor approaching that I like to do the same thing.
I do the larger picture just as all of you have from Vince’s very colorful way of explaining what he wanted to do four years ago when we first start talking about this journey. And that fascinated me because I know it had never been done in the history of television.
But that being said, as the actor I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know what’s in the back of Vince’s brain. It’s dark and ugly. And I would rather – I would rather have him delight me with his story as we go along because in this case it just it couldn’t help me.
And, to me it’s like someone telling you the ending to a movie and then let’s go see the movie. And I’m like well it’s kind of blown for me now. So in that sense I like not knowing and wherever that line is, we don’t know.
I think it’s safe to say that this is not a series that was constructed to last like Gunsmoke. It’s not going to be wow you’re in remission. Yes it’s been 20 years now, you know. Nor do we want it to be. I mean I think we’re all very proud of this show and proud of the collective work that goes into it from all fields.
But like the (brightful) athletes that we see, I think Vince and I and Aaron and everybody else connected would rather have a, you know, an amalgam of years that makes sense. And end it at the right time as opposed to going and, you know, extending our welcome and having people wondering when we’re going to die already, you know.
I think we’d like to wrap it up in – it’s hard to say because it’s kind of a moving target. The right amount of episodes to tell the story and do it justice and then go home.
Vince Gilligan: That’s actually that’s a great answer. And to add to that I – it really and I’m not being coy here. It is very well described by Bryan. It is a moving target. I don’t quite know exactly of where we are along the spectrum of between Mr. Chips and Scarface myself.
I’m not being coy because I don’t know how much father we can take it. In some sense we’ve already taken it further than I would have thought possible way back when I was writing the pilot. And it’s a credit to our actors and certainly first and foremost Bryan when we’re speaking about Walt as a credit to Bryan’s ability to continue to let an audience sympathize with his character’s – with his character despite his character’s terrible behavior.
You still sense the underlying humanity. You realize he’s not a monster even though he very often does very monstrous cold evil things. It’s not – it’s he behaves that way and yet he is not necessarily that person. That, you know, he hasn’t lost completely his moral compass. Yet he continues to remain – his character continues to remain interesting and relatable or at least understandable if not (sympathizable) and so much of that credit goes to Bryan and it is very much a moving target.
if you held my feet to the fire right now, I can’t really see beyond one or two more seasons. But having said that, there was a time way back when when I thought three would probably be the total amount we could do. And I think we easily could do another season if not more.
But as Bryan said, this will not be Gunsmoke and I can’t foresee it – you know, it’s better to leave the party early rather than late. You’d rather leave people wanting more from you than saying Jesus is that show still on the air. You know, so that it’s a tricky – it’s a tricky equation and one I hope we will get right as far as, you know, when’s the time to take your final bow with a show like this.
Movie Web: Aaron how do you feel how Jesse’s relationship with Walt is going to change after what we saw this last Sunday and how that change is going to flow through the next season coming up in Season 4?
Aaron Paul: Oh man. I mean I have no idea. I mean obviously I think Jesse’s very shocked by it. I think Jesse’s feelings towards Walt’s, you know, definitely go up and down as episodes go on and as a love hate like constant battle they have for each other.
But after that I think Jesse’s very thankful. I don’t know where Jesse necessarily saw the shootout going. I mean it might have just been, you know, almost like, you know, walking into like a death battle. You know, he’s like I’m just going to go out, you know, I’m going to try and do this for my friend and if I live, fine; if I don’t than, you know, I went out guns a blazing.
But I don’t know, I mean, I think there’s a huge respect that he sees in Walt. And also I think he might be a little questionable like whoa, you know, Mr. White is definitely a changed man but who knows. I have no idea.
Movie Web: How do you orchestrate that over the course of a season with 13 episodes and where those moments go and where you think you need to put those moments?
Vince Gilligan: It’s a good question and it’s a very tricky – very tricky – there’s a very, I mean, we’re not rocket scientists here in any way, shape or form in the writer’s room but they’re – having said that, there’s a sort of a tricky geometry to it that we try our best to attain which is to say, you know, you want those ups and downs.
I’m trying to think of a right analogy but it’s perhaps it’s sort of the way you design a roller coaster if you are a roller coaster designer. You have that first big hill and then you’re downhill for a while and then you’re careening around a turn and you can’t have – you’ve got to – you’ve got to have the ups and the downs. You’ve got to have the twists and the turns and then you’ve got to have the sort of the recovery spots on a roller coaster I suppose too.
You have to have those moments when you’re rolling along with the next hill in site and yet you’re at a more leisurely pace. You know, and it’s maybe a weird analogy but perhaps appropriate in the sense that we can’t have every episode of our series be like last Sunday’s episode and that by the way is one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever done.
But having said that, if every episode were that big and fraught and filled with high stakes moments and huge action beats, you know, we would just exhaust the audience. It would be too much.
I love hot fudge sundaes but I don’t want to eat them for every meal breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They would suddenly become less than palatable.
And so having said that, we try our best early on in the season to have a bold strokes kind of an understanding of where the season is going. And yet also, you know, keep things loose in that sort of improvisational jazz sense I spoke of earlier.
But we try to keep things loose but we try to have a vague understanding of or a placeholder kind of moments that we try to write to and, you know, the big crescendo moments and we try to parcel them out throughout the season so that we keep things interesting.
And, it’s as with anything – as with anything else, it’s kind of a situation where, you know, the moments of quiet actually enhance the moments of high stakes tension. If you didn’t have the one, you couldn’t truly have the other. So we try to mix it up in the best proportions we are able to calculate if that makes sense.
Movie Web: It does make perfect sense and Bryan I want to know what does it feel like when you put on Heisenberg’s hat for you personally?
Bryan Cranston: It changes things for me. We hadn’t had the opportunity to wear it all throughout the third season or mostly through the third season. And when I read this episode that aired last Sunday, the twelfth episode, I thought here’s a genuine opportunity where he needs all the power he can get going into this negotiation with Gus to try to convince him not to kill me.
I pitched it to Kathleen Detoro and Kathleen I think took it to Vince because I’m not allowed to talk to Vince directly. He has a rule about that, so no. And no eye contact. So it was one of those things where if it fit and Vince thought yes that’s a good place to have it so that’s where it came back in. And it’s much like if a man is wearing a tuxedo, you sit differently, you act differently, you present yourself differently because of how it makes you feel. And so it’s the same thing with the Heisenberg hat and glasses. It has that same affect.
Vince Gilligan: I want to reinforce a point that Bryan just made which is that this really was his idea to reintroduce the hat and I say that wishing that I had thought of this myself. This again points out something I was saying earlier how this really is a group effort. You know, the writers and myself try to think of all these things ourselves but obviously we’re not that smart and there’s no way we’re going to – we’re going to figure everything out.
And that hat was such a perfect touch and such a perfectly timed reintroduction of that imagery, of that symbolism, that really hats off no pun intended to Bryan for coming up with that one.
Bryan Cranston: And, you know, I think I made a little mistake there. I think the episode that I’m referring to is the one coming up. Am I right?
Vince Gilligan: But you also – you were wearing the hat – were you not wearing the hat at the end of – didn’t you wear it too at the end of last week’s episode? Someone told me that the other day and frankly I hate to say I’m drawing a blank.
Bryan Cranston: I don’t think so. When I get in the car and go to where Jesse is, no I don’t think I’m wearing – I’m not wearing…
Vince Gilligan: Okay. Got you, but whenever we reintroduce it here at the end, it was definitely Bryan’s idea and it was a really good one. I wish I had thought of it myself.
IGN: When you started the show did you foresee it being received this well?
Vince Gilligan: God no. Not at all. I’ll take – I look back on it, I feel like I just – I feel like Kramer on Seinfeld just falling ass backward into good fortune. You know, through no real, you know, achievement of my own.
I’m not being falsely modes or whatever. I look back on it. I don’t even know why I bothered to pitch this thing. It is such on paper, I mean, I love this show it’s the greatest achievement of my – it’s the thing I’m most proud of in my career. I’ve been doing this 20 years now it’s the thing I’m most proud of.
But I look back on it on paper it’s like why would I even bother. I mean it’s so not what television does.
Bryan Cranston: I know.
Vince Gilligan: It’s so not the kind of show that anybody in their right mind would buy. And I can’t honestly remember why I thought we had a snowballs chance in hell of getting this thing on the air. But hats off to Sony television who believed in it from day on and then from the AMC network who signed on and have been utterly courageous throughout this whole process.
I was waiting for the shoe to drop but it never dropped but I was waiting all these years for them to say, you know, are you sure it has to be meth? Gee he’s so unlikable. Can’t we make him a little nicer? You know, does it have – does he have to be dying of cancer?
All the things that you grow to expect when you do this job long enough, you grow to expect to hear from network executives and studio executives. We never heard those concerns, those fears, from either AMC nor Sony and I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
And of course first and foremost the luckiest in the world to be working with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte. This is the greatest ensemble on TV, the greatest crew. And I can’t even believe the shows on the air.
I certainly also thought we’d get hammered for having a protagonist who cooks meth. But thankfully the audience from day one got that we are in no way, shape or form condoning or certainly romanticizing meth and the outlaw lifestyle of cooking meth for sale.
And everybody gets, who watches this show, in a way that I never thought they would. Everybody gets that this is not in any way, shape or form romanticizing this lifestyle and we’re not saying there’s anything good about it. And people were just – people were just onboard from day one in a way that I never thought would happen and I am so eternally grateful for that.
Bryan Cranston: I’d like to make a distinction between being well received and being popular. Just like when you say well – when someone’s successful, we immediately conjure up the idea that some makes a lot of money. But it doesn’t necessarily equate to that. They’re not mutually exclusive either. I knew when I read this script that this could be a terrific show.
Now whether or not that translated into being a popular show enough to stay on the air, that’s what I – we have no idea of that. I mean the stars have to align in some miraculous order for that to happen. But it was gutsy and brilliantly crafted.
And so I would be able to look back all of us on this show even if it lasted, you know, three episodes before the six people said, you know, we love this show and they said oh, we can’t keep it on the air. If that was the case, I would still look back and say we were successful in producing something that was really good. And I like to just focus on that and be proud of that. And all those other things that are out of our control they’re out of our control.
But maybe perhaps the last thing I’d like to say is a thank you to all of you, the journalists, who have been the conduit to our audience to let them know about this show. And without you it’s – I doubt that we would have lasted on the air even this long because it’s not a show that gets around by popular.
So it’s a very pungent taste that we deliver and it’s not for everyone. So thank all of you for your contributions for helping us get the word out about Breaking Bad to the public we really appreciate it.
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