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There are just 10 episodes remaining of AMC‘s hit drama Breaking Bad, and so far this season is the darkest the series has ever been. Children have been murdered, death threats have been made and main character Walter White has gone from antihero to full-on villain. But, if anything, that’s just made viewers more invested in watching the story of a high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook come to a close.
In anticipation of the Season 5 finale (Sept. 2), Spinoff Online caught up with actress Betsy Brandt to talk about the series so far and what’s in store for the show’s final episodes. Brandt’s character Marie Schrader hasn’t always been a fan favorite, as she tended to create more problems than solutions. During the past four seasons, she developed an issue with kleptomania and often pried too deeply into the lives of her sister Skyler (Anna Gunn) and brother-in-law Walt (Bryan Cranston). But this season Marie has become a voice for good, proving that the reason for her prying is because she cares deeply about her sister. Marie also ends up being the person to come closest to figuring out Walt’s secret life, a moment we’ve found ourselves anxiously awaiting. Breaking Bad could go anywhere from here, but Marie is one of the many characters poised to potentially bring down the One Who Knocks.
During our conversation, we talked with Brandt about all things Breaking Bad; from Marie’s renewed love of the color purple to who is interested in directing the potential Breaking Bad movie. If you aren’t caught up on the fifth season, some spoilers lie ahead.
Spinoff Online: We aren’t done with this season yet, but so far it seems like it has just gone off the deep end. It is dark now.
Betsy Brandt: I don’t know what happens after the next two episodes, and I haven’t seen them yet, I’ve only read them and shot them, but oh, my God, just wait. I feel like we’re already experiencing amazing things that are payoff from the end being imminent.
My theory is that Marie is going to be the one to crack Walt. She’s just going to keep prying until she figures it out.
Do you think there’s any way any of them can get out of this alive?
I don’t know. I mean, there’s been some talk about doing a movie after, and there’s actually a really big fantastic director who’s interested in directing a Breaking Bad movie. I know [creator] Vince [Gilligan] will do the finale of this series, and I can’t imagine anyone but him directing it. But as far as like doing the movie afterward, I don’t know. It could be possible, or there could be no one left.
The whole movie is just a still shot of the desert.
Yeah, for two hours, [laughs] which is like an Andy Warhol film. I mean, we’ll see. Really I have no idea.
Can you tease anything about the director? Is he a name people will freak out about?
He’s a big name and he’s fantastic.
Is it Steven Soderbergh? I know he said he hired you in Magic Mike because he’s such a big fan of this show.
[laughs] All I’m going to say is, he’s a big name and he’s fantastic and I would be over the moon. There’s just been so many things about this show that just aren’t questions for me. Like, when I read the pilot, I said to my husband, “This is the best pilot that I’ve ever read.”
Fair enough. I’ve noticed this season that even in some of the marketing there’s been a big push with Marie’s love of the color purple. Can you talk a little bit about that funny part of the show?
That has always been there. [laughs] I think because we’re seeing a better side to Marie and not just Marie’s, you know, not-great side, that people are open to her a little more now. I mean, I love her either way. I really do. Someone actually just tweeted to me that “You’re the most annoying character on Breaking Bad. I hope Marie goes next.” I’m like, do I re-tweet that or not? I’m like, “Well, you’re my biggest douchebag follower!” [laughs]
You’ve said in the past that it’s not the characters who have changed, it’s just how we perceive them.
Totally. I still completely stand by that. And that’s what I think is going to happen — and again, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the last eight episodes — but I think it will be that. My guess, total guess, is at least in some way shit will hit the fan, and then these people will have to deal with it the best that they can. But I feel like this season we’re already seeing who they really are and what they’re made of. This blows me away: If you think about Walt, who he is now, what we see of him now, and what we see in the pilot of Season 1, it’s completely believable because he’s still the same person, he’s just had a taste of this power and something he’s never tasted before.
It’s so true, and yet now he just seems to be pure evil. It’s not even fun to root for him any more sometimes.
It’s funny, though — and this kind of freaks me out about myself — I still root for him. Not all the time, certainly, but there are moments like when Skyler — and I thought this was a great scene, and they’re both so great in it — when she says, “I’m waiting for the cancer to come back,” I was like, “That is not nice!” It was just a reaction. That’s all I can say. I’m not trying to defend it, I’m just acknowledging it. I’m not even proud of it. It was just a reaction. I’m like, “God, he’s had such a hard time!” I made excuses for him in my mind. It surprised me. It surprised me that it was a gut reaction.
I feel like now that Vince’s overall plan to chronicle this character going from good to evil — choosing to break bad — is out in the open it has changed the dynamic of the show for the viewer, but has that changed it on set as well?
Not for me, because my character doesn’t know. And Bryan is Bryan. He’s great. Season 1, in the pilot, I felt like he was always happy to have a great job to come to, and even after three Emmys he’s still that guy. So he’s the same, the actor is the same, but I don’t see that in the scenes that I shoot with him. Marie doesn’t know. I think he’s just this gambler. I tease Bryan, I’m like, “Marie thinks your gambling is very sexy.” [laughs] “Where you going, Walt? You look nice in that shirt, Walt.”
It’s interesting because Marie is one of the people who has come the closest to figuring out what is going on. That scene between you and Bryan in “Hazard Pay” is really one of the most charged scenes of the season, and even the scene in “Buyout” where Skyler knows Marie is so close to figuring it out –
Marie would be the only one she could tell. If Skyler were to tell anybody, it would have to be Marie, because there would be no one else for her to tell.
Do you think that Marie would push that far if she realized that she didn’t have the whole story?
I think at this point that she’s so worried about her sister that she wants to know what’s going on. She thinks she knows, so I think for now she’s going to let it go, but I don’t know if or how long that will last. I just don’t know. It’s not even like I know and can’t tell you. I really don’t know.
Have you seen any sort of script or rough outline for the last eight episodes yet?
They are in the [writers’] room right now coming up with what’s going to happen, figuring out what’s going to happen. Vince always said that he didn’t see this going more than three seasons, so I assume that up until Season 3 he had a different ending. I don’t know. I say that, and I asked him recently about when the whole seed for Germany came into his head, and it was Season 2. He always said there would be no miracle cure for Walt, that the fact that he’s in remission but that he had cancer would always be looming. He just had no interest in dragging this on forever, which is why we’ve moved so slowly. But I’m thankful for that because I feel it gives our show time to take time, to have moments, that a lot of time people don’t do on other shows.
I think that one of the reasons that Marie is arguably one of the more sympathetic characters on the show now is that we’ve seen her at her lowest, and she chose to be good. I feel like all the characters on Breaking Bad have had to make that choice, but do you think there’s anything that could cause her to go back to the bad Marie days?
I think that even when she’s at her best she still goes to open houses and steals little shit and is a weirdo, because it would be crazy to have an entire family full of wonderful people that you have no issues with. That’s a different show. But I feel like we saw, I don’t know if it was her lowest, but her not-flattering side of herself right away. When she steals the shoes, it’s like she’s pissed at the salesperson, she thought she was rude, so she steals these shoes and she leaves the hospital shoes that she hates. And then, as time goes on, again, I think the character is still the same but there are opportunities to see a good side of her.
So I think, with everything that Hank has been through, we’ve seen this much better side to her, but the other stuff is still there. And I think that’s for all of them. I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but to me that’s what makes the show real. Even in the plot, it’s not all good or all bad. It’s always this whole dichotomy of good and evil. Everybody has that side to them; both sides of them. Sometimes you try and be your best self and the demons beat out your angels sometimes, and sometimes the angels win. For me, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the last season, but that’s the struggle for Marie is how she can deal with it.
Would you want to see some of her shoplifting tendencies return?
I’ve got tell you, I love playing that stuff. Someone said to me, “I hate it when Marie steals things.” I’m like, really? That’s like my favorite thing to play, because it’s really fun to do. When she’s really narcissistic, it’s fun. It’s just fun. But I don’t know. I think it just depends what happens. I think it’s really interesting, and I don’t know how this is going to play out, that Marie and Hank have Walt and Skyler’s kids right now. And it’s beautiful, they’re happy to have them, but there’s also kind of this undercurrent of sad there because they don’t have their own.
You and Dean [Norris] get to spend a lot of time with RJ Mitte this season. What do you think the return of “Flynn” means for when Walt Jr. finally finds out his dad’s a meth dealer?
I feel like Walt Jr.’s character, even in Season 1, he won’t say much but then when he does it really means something. He’s an interesting catalyst for the show because he’s the one who’s living through his parents having problems and he doesn’t know what’s going on and he feels he should know what’s going on. When Walt said he didn’t want to go through treatment and Walt Jr. said, “You’re a pussy. Look at what I have to deal with, and you don’t want to do chemo? Really?” Kids are really honest, which you — something where you’re like, “Oh, man, not the honesty,” or it can also be really beautiful and great. That’s really interesting to me in the show. I don’t know what will happen next for his character, but there is always that element to Walt Jr., which I love, and RJ does such a great job with him.
Are there any other elements of the show that you wish you could be more a part of?
The action, hands down. I ask Vince for Marie to have a gun every year. And we are allowed to say “fuck” once a season, and I also lobby for that every year, too. This year we wrote it. That’s when Mike wrote “fuck you” on that note, but I ask for it every year and give demonstrations of the ways in which Marie could use it. [laughs] It could be so effective. I don’t know if I could ever get it but I’ve got one more season left. I’m hoping. Knock on wood.
This season has also gotten a lot more brutal. Like two episodes with Jesse Plemons shooting that kid –
Oh, my God. And Jesse Plemons is just kind of this sweet kid, and then he just doesn’t even flinch and like, you know, shoots this child. I had read the script, and so when I watched it I knew that was coming and it just happened so quickly, but I didn’t want to see it. And, oh, God, the next episode, when they’re [disposing the kid], it’s tough.
Listen, I look at our fans for Breaking Bad, I think they’re the best fans ever. I look at them as part of the chain because if it weren’t for them we’d have no show, and if we had different fans, we’d have to have a different show. But that just blew me away. But I definitely don’t tell people, “I’m on the show, you have to watch it.” I just don’t do that, because it’s not for everybody. Sometimes it’s really hard to watch. I love it, but sometimes it’s really hard for me to watch.
I watched that and I was like, what are they going to do for the season finale if that is just a midseason episode? Nothing good can be coming.
Even if I could give something away without getting canned I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you or anybody else, but the last episode this season, Episode 5.08, is definitely a game-changer.
With Breaking Bad wrapping up, what do you think it needs to accomplish before it goes off the air?
Oh, that’s a great question. No one’s ever asked me that, and I’d never even thought of it. I would say I don’t think we need to accomplish anything else, I just think we just need to be true to what we’ve done already, which I have no doubt will happen. We were wondering, because we didn’t know if we’d get picked up after Season 4, and there was all this negotiating between AMC and Sony, so I was really glad that they were able to give Vince an end date so that he would be able to write the ending that he wanted to. And I thought that once we had that and we knew that we were going to do at least 16 more episodes, I felt like, okay, this will go out the way that it should go out.
You have a new film called The Professor that you start filming this week, and it seems like it’s your chance at an action movie, right?
It’s totally some action, and the people that are making, I just met with them and just fell in love with them and just felt that this would be a really great experience for me. It’s funny, I feel like I’m so spoiled on Breaking Bad, it makes it really hard to go in on other stuff and find other things. I told Vince, “I don’t want another job because I like this job and I like working with you and I love the people I work with and I don’t want to do anything else!” And he was like, “Oh, this is great, are you kidding?” I’m also really relieved that we’re going out the way that we’re going out.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.