Few actors have the career trajectory of Bryan Cranston, who, after decades of supporting roles has suddenly, in his mid-fifties, found himself the star of a critically acclaimed television series, Breaking Bad, and roles in several high-profile movies, including Drive and Argo. In a lengthy interview with The Guardian, Cranston talks about the affect Breaking Bad has had on his career and how he looks at his current success.
Though Cranston has been working solidly for three decades, he has finally received wide acclaim for playing Walter White — and has put him in demand as an actor. He says, “Breaking Bad has certainly raised the bar. There’s been an effect on my career, there’s no question about that. I can’t just accept anything that comes along. It has to be at a level that’s different but matches the level of writing of Breaking Bad. It takes a tremendous amount of work because you read massive amounts of product in order to find the nugget of gold.”
Nonetheless, Cranston says he wasn’t disappointed by his lower level of recognition prior to Breaking Bad. He reveals, “I was very happy with my career. If you have a level of expectation in your life that you have to be a quote-unquote star, whatever that means, you might be setting yourself up for failure. But my expectations were that I would be a working actor, that I could honestly say that I make a living as an actor and that was achieved when I was 24. Above that, the world doesn’t owe me anything, the business doesn’t owe me anything. Anything that is gained is through hard work.”
But Cranston explains that he only got to be successful because of his drive, something which he believe all actors need to have. He points out, “In order to be an actor you really have to be one of those types of people who are risk-takers and have what is considered an actor’s arrogance, which is not to say an arrogance in your personal life. But you have to be the type of person who wants the ball with seconds left in the game. The masses don’t want the ball. They don’t want to be responsible for not making the shot. Actors need to want that chance. Give me that chance.” However, he doesn’t think it’s all up to the actor himself or herself — there’s a certain necessarily element of luck. He adds, “Luck is a component that a lot of people in the arts sometimes fail to recognize: that you can have talent, perseverance, patience, but without luck you will not have a successful career.”
Jokingly he talks about his earliest days as an actor too, and Cranston reveals that one of the main reasons why he ended up in acting classes was, well, the classes had the prettiest girls. He confesses, “I was also taking an elective theatre class at college and the girls in theatre class were far prettier than the ones in police science class. In my job as a young actor I was supposed to kiss this girl. That was my job. I’ve been trying to do this all my life and now you’re telling me I’m supposed to do this? I love this. It’s like you stepped into a fantasy. So at 19 years old this was the basis of my decision-making. No more police work, I’m going to be an actor.”