Bryan Cranston: “From the age of 25, I became a working actor and never looked back”

Bryan Cranston in 'all the Way'“Heisenberg and Breaking Bad became this avalanche. And I had to step away from it so I didn’t get swallowed up by Walter White.” – Bryan Cranston

After finishing Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston made his Broadway debut playing President Lyndon Baines Johnson in All The Way. Fans who only knew of Cranston as Walter White, the dad on Malcolm in the Middle, or even as Jerry Seinfeld’s dentist thought it was an odd move for an actor who starred in the most acclaimed series on television. Audiences who didn’t see Cranston on Broadway will have the opportunity to see him play President Johnson again in the HBO movie adaptation of the play, which airs on May 21. In an interview with the Washington Post, Cranston talked about the path his career has taken since committing himself to pursuing acting as a career.

Cranston decided to become an actor when he was 21 while on a road trip with his brother. Although he was always interested in acting, it wasn’t until he was in a six-day rainstorm that he decided that he would give up his career path of becoming a police officer and pursue his passion. He recalls, “I had this idea, as I sat there looking at the rain in the dark, that instead of pursuing something I was good at, police work, and hoped that I would fall in love with, my path should be to pursue something that I loved and hopefully could become good at. And that’s what I did.”

While it’s likely that playing Walter White will be the first line of Cranston’s obituary, he did All the Way on Broadway after wrapping production on the final season in order to do something completely different. He says, “Heisenberg and Breaking Bad became this avalanche. And I had to step away from it so I didn’t get swallowed up by Walter White.”

It comes after a long career of playing supporting roles. For years, Cranston resisted the idea of being a star. He points out, “I resisted the label of ‘star’ because I felt it was boasting, and I wasn’t raised that way. But then I realized, I was also resisting praise. I was spending more energy trying to downplay a performance of mine, or praise, than just saying thank you.”

That also means Cranston is very passionate about chasing the roles he wants, even if it means taking less money to do them. Cranston says he asks his agents if they’re happy with a contract, and if they think they can do better he says, “‘Well, try to. Go ahead, you have my permission. But I’m not losing this job. I am not going to take a stand on money or anything — that’s not going to happen.”

He recalls that Breaking Bad was the type of script he chased after without hesitation. He says, “My agent says, ‘There’s a script called Breaking Bad with a guy named Vince Gilligan — you know Vince.’ I go ‘I do?’ ‘Yeah, he wrote your X-Files episode.’ I go, ‘Oh, okay.’ I read it and immediately I thought, ‘Oh, my God,’ and said to my agent, ‘Get me in there right away.’ ‘Well, you’re set up for next week.’ ‘No, this week — get me in this week! This week! I needed to see him right away!’”

Cranston was so intense about getting in for the role because he wanted it so badly. He elaborates, “When something resonates that much with me and I know it is a special piece of material, I want to own it! I want to go in and lift my leg on that thing so that he can only think of me for that role. Because that’s mine. I wanted it. And I went after it. But only because of the depth of his writing.”

That’s not to say that the money isn’t important. In fact, Cranston says that he is proud to point out that he’s been able to make a living as an actor for over three decades. He says, “To date my greatest accomplishment professionally is that from the age of 25, I became a working actor and never looked back.”

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