Bryan Cranston on a Terrible Audition and How a Role on a Soap Made Him a Better Actor


“I think soap operas are unfairly judged as less valued acting experiences. They are indeed extremely challenging.” – Bryan Cranston

Emmy-Award winner, Tony Award winner, and Oscar-nominee Bryan Cranston doesn’t have to look far to find praise of his work — just about every critic has nothing but great things to say about his performances in film, television, or on stage. However, it wasn’t always that way and like most actors Cranston had periods of struggle. In an interview with Variety, Cranston talks about his early career challenges and how that prepared him for his future work.

As Cranston quickly learned, trying to wow a casting director by walking into the room “in character” didn’t come off as professional. He recalls:

“I was 22 years old, and the character was a cocky Southerner. I thought, ‘I’m just gonna go in character.’ The casting director held out his hand, and I pretended I didn’t see it. I crossed my legs and put my boots on top of his desk. At that point he was done with me, and he was right because I was acting like an idiot. He goes, ‘Get your feet off my desk.’ I had a moment of ‘Are you really this character, or are you going to acquiesce?’ I just smirked. He said it again, and I realized we were done. The whole character dropped, and I took my feet off his desk. I said, ‘It wouldn’t really matter if we read the scene, would it?’ He said no, and I left and apologized.”

However, Cranston recalls an early acting experience that pushed him to become a better actor — and it was an experience that may not be considered as valuable or prestigious in the industry as his latter walk. He explains, “I accepted a role on a soap opera called Loving on ABC in 1983. The challenge on a soap opera is how to be authentic with basically no rehearsal. You learn your lines the night before. With that kind of turnover, how do you get to a place that feels honest? That was hard for me. I think soap operas are unfairly judged as less valued acting experiences. They are indeed extremely challenging. It felt like I crossed a threshold from that point on.”

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