“When we put the bald cap on and glued on the facial hair, it was like, ‘Wow.’ I look in the mirror, and it’s so helpful as an actor to say, ‘This is what I’m presenting.'” – Bryan Cranston
(This post features spoilers for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t read any further!)
Netflix’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan’s follow-up to his award-winning television series, follows Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the aftermath of the series trying to rebuild his life. Even before the project was more than a rumor, fans hoped that a Breaking Bad follow-up would include an appearance by Bryan Cranston playing Walter White.
Cranston indeed made a brief cameo in a flashback sequence. Cranston spoke to Rolling Stone about his return to his signature character and how he got back into the role.
Though that this was Cranston’s return to his most critically-acclaimed role after several years, he says that it didn’t take him long to get back into White’s character. He explains, “It really didn’t. There are so many talismans I was using on a day-to-day basis during the shooting: his glasses, his shirt, the Wallabees. I immediately popped back into that character. Being in Albuquerque, being around a lot of the same crew, having Aaron there, and Vince, and [producer] Melissa Bernstein, I tweaked a little bit, because it’s like, ‘Oh my god, six years, and we’re back!’ It felt a little eerie. In a good way.”
The scene takes place during the Breaking Bad Season Two episode “4 Days Out.” The interviewer asked Cranston if he re-watched the episode to remind him of White’s mindset at the time. He replied, “I did. I hadn’t seen it since it aired, so I did want to go back and get a sense of what my relationship with Jesse Pinkman was at that moment, what we had gone through. Just to get my head straight about how I felt at that time, and the level of despair and anxiety that the character was involved with. It was literally 10 years ago that I had last seen that episode, so it was extremely helpful.”
Curiously, because this scene was shot while Cranston was starring in Broadway’s Network (which required a lot of coordination to get Cranston from New York to New Mexico and back), he had to wear a bald cap instead of shaving his head to play White. However, Cranston said that it didn’t affect his performance. He recalls, “As a matter of fact, when we put the bald cap on and glued on the facial hair, it was like, ‘Wow.’ I look in the mirror, and it’s so helpful as an actor to say, ‘This is what I’m presenting.’ This look represented so much to me back then, and it just transports you to that time and your ability to drop into that character.”