SDCC | ‘Breaking Bad’ Panel
As Breaking Bad begins its final episodes on AMC, creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan and castmembers Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, R. J. Mitte, and Bob Odenkirk made what could be their final appearance at Comic-Con International’s Hall H, in a panel moderated by Chris Hardwick.
“Breaking Bad was just nominated for 13 Emmys Thursday,” Hardwick began, “I think it’s safe to say that it will go down as one of the greatest shows ever.” Hardwick said that there will be an aftershow for the final eight episodes 11` titled Talking Bad on August 11, hosted by Hardwick.
Cranston came on stage wearing a Walter White mask, which Hardwick said the actor had also used to walk the floor anonymously. “I tried to use a higher voice, ‘ah, I made the mask myself,” Cranston said.
Gilligan said that, “when we started, I was very much just wanting a job.” He said he could never have imagined filling out Hall H. To which Paul shouted, “Yeah bitch!”
Cranston said that he believes everyone has the capacity to become a Walter White, “out of desperation or greed or whatever,” if “all of their buttons are pushed together.” “He did go from Mr. Chips to Scarface,” Cranston said. “Everyone has different opinions as to when that happens, but for me it was that very first episode, when he decides to become someone he isn’t.”
As Hardwick attempted to ask a question about Walter’s early speech in science class regarding “Growth, Decay, Transformation,” but Cranston could not stop playing with the mask, placing it over his mic and speaking into it so it looked as though he was making out with himself. Paul tried the same, but ultimately picked the mask off the mic toward his lips to continue the gag.
Paul described Jesse Pinkman as “just a kid who’s lost his way” at the beginning of the series, but now he’s “trying to stay away from Walter and stay alive.”
As might be expected from Cranston’s on stage antics, Paul described the set as “comical” despite the show’s dark themes. “[Bryan] is the most immature man I’ve ever seen,” Paul said.
Gunn said that Skylar, like Walt, began the series with “dreams deferred.” “She’s dealing with a lot of disappointment inside herself, but she would never admit that to anyone,” she said, which plays into her reasons for not leaving Walt when she learned the truth. “She thinks she can outsmart it the way he did … but every step she takes just keeps making it worse.”
Skylar still loves Walt, Gunn believes, “and they’re really trying to reach out to each other.” Mitte said that “he still loves his family; he doesn’t know what’s going on, how could he not?”
Asked about the show’s influence on his own life, Mitte said it could not help but be a defining time. “I spent my whole teenage life on Breaking Bad,” Mitte said, noting that he started when he was 14 and is about to turn 21. “Most kids have high school, I had Breaking Bad.”
Norris described Hank as “saddled with morality; maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s a bad thing.” This will be a dangerous trait now that he’s discovered the truth about his brother-in-law.
Odenkirk described himself as “a big fan of Breaking Bad who got a good seat.” Saul Goodman “is a sweet fellah. With a great sense of fashion,” Odenkirk said. He added that everything Saul writes is scripted, though many fans ask if he improvises. “I like that, because it’s different from my regular job.” Odenkirk added that Goodman is “good at his job,” to some people’s horror. “He’s funny, but he gets stuff done.”
Gilligan said he believes “comedy is much harder than drama.” “I would hire a comedian to play a dramatic part any day,” he said, because of their natural sense of timing.
Hardwick congratulated Cranston for earning his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before opening the floor to questions.
Asked about iconic scenes or lines, Cranston noted his line, “I am the one who knocks,” then mentioned the scene when Jesse’s girlfriend Jane died. “Walt had another turn in his character and he allowed this young girl to die,” Cranston said.
Paul told an anecdote about the day they shot the memorable scene where “we’re trying to build something to save us.” “It’s a Friday night, it’s the very last scene,” and the cast and crew had just wrapped when someone told him “man, I wish you would have said, ‘a robot!'” Paul thought that was “a pretty good idea.” “So we faked that there was a problem with the camera, so that they would allow us to shoot one more take,” Cranston interjected.
The panelists also spoke about the scene where Walt throws a pizza on roof. “That scene cost $180,000 in CGI,” Gilligan joked. “That was an enormous pizza that I had to hold with both hands,” Cranston said. “Which is virtually impossible. But I can’t try to throw a pizza on the roof, I have to look like I’m flinging it. I figure the trajectory and angle and everything, and just give it a try. First take.”
Gilligan said that Hank’s character grew once he had once he met Norris, an actor who “allowed us to write Hank deeper.”
A fan asked how Walt physically administered the poison to Brock. “The way we worked it out in our timeline is, he had just enough time to do it—it would be improbable, but not impossible,” Gilligan said, adding that Walt would have crushed up the lily of the valley and put it in a juice box. “It helps to figure stuff out even if you’re not going to put it on the screen,” the producer said.
Gilligan spoke next about Breaking Bad: Alchemy, a new interactive iBook full of “inside baseball stuff from the show.” “It’s really cool.”
A fan asked the actors whether “there was a change in your character you had a hard time accepting.” “It was pretty hard when I lost the ability to walk,” Norris said.
“I think Saul does everything right, and I’ve never had a problem with a single move he’s made,” Odenkirk said. “He’s the most perfect character on the show,” he added, before saying he really enjoys the “violent scenes” when other characters are threatening him or beating him up. When he wanted to get Jesse to visit Brock, though, he said that it would have been difficult for Saul to admit the emotions behind it.
“I think at the beginning it was difficult for me to understand some things about Skylar, because she is a very guarded character,” Gunn said. “For me, being a more emotionally overt person, I had to work to get to that.”
She joked that once she was waiting to shoot, wearing the pregnancy belly and smoking outside a strip mall, to the horror of shoppers.
Paul said that Jesse killing Gail, “the sweetest guy on the show,” followed naturally admitting he was the bad guy after Jane’s death. “He got the chance to prove it.”
Speaking more on Jane’s death scene, Cranston said, “When the script first came in, and Jane started choking, it had Walt pushing her onto her back.” The studio gave Gilligan notes that this was too much of a character turn too soon. “The culpable moment for Walt was, when he realizes this girl is going to die, what does he do then?”
Gilligan spoke about a less iconic but very significant moment when Walt refuses help from his benefactors “and returns to selling crystal meth.” “That was one of our proudest moments in the writer’s room, because it allowed us to ask, who is this guy?”
Gunn said it didn’t bother her when fans villainized Skylar. “In every show, you need a protagonist and an antagonist. And the show’s protagonist is this anti-hero, and the fans need to be behind him,” she said. “It does say some things about the ways that people see women and men, but that’s a very complex subject for a different day.”
Gilligan said he was speaking with a producer friend who said that “people don’t like characters who are powerless,” and despite her strength Skylar fits the bill, as when she “plays chicken” with Walt over his presence in the home. “When the moment comes, she can’t do it,” Gilligan said. “Fans don’t want to identify with a powerless characters.”
Gilligan wrapped by saying, “I’m sad this show’s over,” but “I’m satisfied with how it ends.”
The panel ended with a clip from the upcoming episode. The precredit sequence finds a bearded Walt breaking into the broken-down, grafittied remains of his home to recover a hidden object, while teenagers skateboard in the cement hole of the White family pool.