“The character starts outside of you and [you use] your imagination and own personal experience.” – Bryan Cranston on his actor preparation
Any role Bryan Cranston decides to take is big news, so when he signed on to play blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo, people naturally got excited. In an interview with NPR, Cranston explains how he prepared himself for playing such a notable Hollywood figure and also answers why he feels reviving his career-defining Breaking Bad role for a future project would be a mistake.
Cranston, who has gained a reputation for being so good at inhabiting his characters, explains that to him so much of acting comes down to preparation. He says, “Well the bulk of that work happens before any cameras roll. The character starts outside of you and [you use] your imagination and own personal experience. And the amount of research you do and just allowing that essence to come into you — once he comes into you, then you start letting it grow and grow. And you know I had the advantage of videotapes and audiotapes, and I knew certain habits: He was a chain-smoker and … he would rise in his voice and then come down and then rise again. He had that nature to him. And I thought that was an interesting thing — a speech pattern that came into me by watching his interviews and such. But that alone doesn’t do it. … It’s an actor muscle. … You use certain talismans, perhaps, that get you there: his glasses; when they put on the mustache and I put on his wardrobe and I look in the mirror and I start to see that man. And I welcome him to come out, warts and all.”
Of course, Cranston’s meatiest role of his career was playing Walter White. While many actors feel compelled to return to their most famous characters, Cranston says he doesn’t have the urge to play the fan favorite villain again. He says, “Most people ask me: ‘Don’t you miss it? Don’t you want to go back? Wouldn’t you like to start up again?’ And I say I don’t miss it. I lived through a wonderful arch of storytelling — a beginning, middle and end that was so satisfying to me as an artist and as a person. It gave me so many things … and I’m grateful. But to go back and start it again would be like having a second or third dessert after a wonderful meal. And it just kind of ruins the meal. So no, it’s best to allow the ephemeral nature of storytelling to take its natural place.”