It’s been 10 years since Breaking Bad premiered on AMC and five years since it ended. With two big reunions on the books, Entertainment Weekly reunited the cast for a special anniversary cover story and photo shoot. The series went off the air in 2013 after five dynamite seasons that, according to the cast, challenged and changed the way stories are told on TV. But the other things they told EW about working on the show — the secrets, the untold anecdotes — are also really incredible.
“I was very desirous of creating a show where the main character changed,” show creator Vince Gilligan told EW. “I didn’t necessarily think of it in terms of being groundbreaking. I mainly worried that because it was a different take on the structure of a television show that that would be a ding against it and that it would make it harder to get made.”
In their interview with EW, the Breaking Bad cast spoke highly of not only the series, but of Gilligan and what he did with the story and their characters.
Bryan Cranston, who played good-gone-totally-bad-guy protagonist Walter White (aka Heisenberg), said, “It was the best script I’d ever read, but nowhere in the pilot’s script does it say where that journey is going to go or how far it’s going to go. Is [Walter] just going to dabble in it for a little bit and then get out or what? And when [creator Vince Gilligan] told me he wanted to change this character from good to bad, completely, we realize that this has never happened before.”
Cranston added, “So what Vince Gilligan did was change the construct of what was possible in series television. He changed it. It was all about stasis before. Whether you’re Thomas Magnum or Archie Bunker or Ross and Rachel, you are those people — or Tony Soprano — you are those people and you are reacting to different stimuli. But this is completely different. And he gave every one of us our own individuality.”
When Breaking Bad first started filming, Cranston wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what would happen to his character. Aaron Paul, who played Jesse Pinkman, revealed that his character was supposed to die at the end of the first season. Say what?
“We all had these beautifully complex arcs that we didn’t know where our characters were heading,” Paul said. “And Jesse, I really love this kid so much, but when I first read the script, I had no idea where he was going. I mean, he was supposed to die at the end of the first season. But where they took him was just such a brutal struggle — this journey that he went on, that we all went on — it was incredible.”
Dean Norris, who played Hank Schrader, had similar thoughts on how his character went from being a clown to being a much more serious, tragic character about halfway through the series. He told EW, “It’s rare that you get to do that kind of an arc anywhere, to be honest with you. I think I might have asked Vince at some point, ‘Do I need to audition again for this?’ Because it’s a totally different kind of character.”
For some members of the cast, like Betsy Brandt, who played Marie Schrader, Breaking Bad was their first experience playing a character for such a long period of time. “[T]hat right in itself is a gift, as an actor to be able to take a journey like that,” she said. “I love Marie — to this day, I love her, and I’m so thankful for the wonderful things about her and I’m so thankful for all her faults too because it was just ridiculously fun to play.
When asked what she misses the most about the show, Brandt recalls, “[H]ands down, it’s the people. To get to make this kind of show with this group of people — I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”
Although it’s been 10 years since Breaking Bad premiered and five since it left the air, some of the cast members are still heavily invested in the story — literally. Bob Odenkirk currently stars on the spinoff series Better Call Saul, which is a prequel to Breaking Bad.
Odenkirk said, “The story is still going on for me. But there’s a pretty big leap there, between the Saul in Breaking Bad and the Jimmy McGill-Saul of Better Call Saul. It was a blast and a challenge to play Saul in Breaking Bad. It was a very energized character. It was also a challenge to get in a room with these actors, on this level.” He added, “You only saw one dimension of him pretty much in Breaking Bad, so this show was a setup. And then this has been a massive journey, where I can relate to the many sides that they brought to this character, in this second show.”
As per the standard for Entertainment Weekly cast reunions, the outlet released several articles on the series and the cast. It’s been a while since we’ve revisited this drama, but after reading through these quotes, we think it may be time.