INTERVIEW BY TERRENCE HOWARD
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUSTIN TYLER CLOSE
STYLING BY JENNY RICKER
GROOMING BY ROSIE JANE JOHNSTON
TERRENCE HOWARD—My daughter’s heading off to college in a month also.
BRYAN CRANSTON—No kidding! What major does she want to do?
TH—She wants to do something with medicine, but I think she’ll end up becoming a publicist. What does your little girl want to do?
BC—She wants to act. And she’s got it; she’s got that something. She’s very sincere about it, even though she’s been around the environment and Hollywood and the trappings of all that. That’s why she wanted to go to a liberal arts college as opposed to a conservatory so by the time she gets out she’ll have a well-rounded education and I’m thrilled.
TH—There are a lot of pitfalls associated with this business. Your daughter has watched you be successful in front of millions of people. How does she feel when she deals with you in public? Are you able to be Bryan, private Bryan, in comparison with having to be the public Bryan?
BC—No, not always. Sometimes she sees the public Bryan and I have to reconcile with that. She’s obviously in my life deeply and she’s going to see aspects of it that I don’t necessarily want her to see: the state of fandom and the superlatives that are thrown out easily. The attention is not a normal activity. And I think that’s why even though she showed an interest in acting I didn’t want her to be a child actor. Robin and I decided early on that that’s what school plays are for. I wanted to empower her choices by making that available to her and encouraging her but I never wanted to encourage it from a professional point of view. That being said, about a year ago in the last season [of Breaking Bad] I directed one of the episodes and there was a call for a 16-year-old girl and she was 16 at the time. I didn’t want her to resent that I bypassed her, so I brought her in to the conversation and she decided she wanted to audition. So I sent her off to the casting director and they sent tapes to our studio and our producers and they all came back saying she’s terrific, and so she won the job. I tried to teach her that if you did what you wanted to do in that character then that’s a success story. Own that, but don’t attach yourself to a result. You have to know that your job is to create an interesting character and present it to them and then your job is done and you walk away. If she learned anything, I hope it was that.
TH—I see you as an emotional engineer, if it’s alright for me to refer to you as that. And when I’ve watched the show I’ve watched the emotional engineer that appears to me to be feeling and living through everything that’s going on. In the line of walking away, how do you avoid those pieces of your character from invading and taking over your life? How do you avoid carrying those anxieties off the set?
BC—There’s a price that you pay for getting close to that flame. We can and often do exhaust ourselves. There’s that risk-taker in us that I think is a prerequisite to being an actor in the first place. You have to be willing to get close, to feel the anxiety, the paranoia or the threat of imminent demise as the case is with Walter White on Breaking Bad. You have to get close and just jump in and then you pay the emotional toll. I remember one time I was doing a very emotional scene, where I let my partner Jesse’s girlfriend die before my eyes. And going through that all of a sudden, unwillingly, I pictured my own daughter dying there and that made me jump. You allow it to take a piece of you, but for me it’s renewable. It’s a deciduous emotion. Through rest, and friendship and fresh air you can renew yourself and come back the next day and do it all over again. You go to those extremes and you hopefully have a caring partner in whoever you’re acting with and also your director to gently bring you back to an area that you can actually function. That’s the scary part about acting. It’s fun but it’s also emotionally exhausting.
TH—Do you ever feel you’re becoming a split personality? When you go out in public and you look into a fan’s eyes, and they see Walter, or they see Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, do you find you have to stop yourself from behaving like their expectation of you?
BC—When I’m out in the public promoting my work or if someone wants to talk about the character then it’s not hard to stay in that character a little bit. I think that’s fun and I think that’s fair. But as you know we don’t want to stay in character all the time; we have our own lives to lead and our own issues to deal with. Perhaps, as a young actor you’re more likely to take it home with you but the older I get the more I allow it to go away; I leave it in the dressing room. I go into the hair and make-up trailer after work every day and I take the make-up remover and I put it on my bald head and my face and I take two hot moist towels and I just wrap myself up like a mummy. I sit in the chair for a while and the heat and the moisture bucks all that energy out that may be unwanted or unnecessary. And then I wipe that all off and take the clothes off that represent that character, put on my own clothes and I go home as Bryan. I don’t want to take the character home.
(Excerpt from Issue 04)
Enjoy more of this on thelabmagazine.com, coming summer 2012!