Breaking Bad may have finished its run a year ago but, as far as Emmys are concerned, it has all the heat now – and then some. It recently won Best Drama Series from the Critics Choice Television Awards, Program Of The Year from the Television Critics Association and even finally the Golden Globe last January for the show and star Bryan Cranston after essentially being ignored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the length of its 6-year run. The show has really come into its own and continues to be talked about and debated, and has taken a kind of victory tour at all the Guild shows as well since finally winning its first Best Drama Series Emmy in 2013. And it is nominated again, for the last time, for those final eight episodes that ran last summer just as Emmy voting for the previous season was in full force. Some think voters gave it the Emmy then as much for the new shows, that were unspooling as they had ballots in hand, as much they did for the eligible 8 shows from the first half of the sixth and final season. It begs the question whether the Academy is ready to go there one more time even though BB long ago finished its first-run episodes on AMC. But despite three lead actor Emmys in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for Cranston as well as a pair for Aaron Paul and at last a Best Supporting Actress trophy for Anna Gunn in 2013, just one Emmy for Drama Series does not seem enough for what many think is one of the greatest, if not the greatest show in TV history. It is still actually looking for its first writing Emmy believe it or not (and two final chances this year).
Nominated for 13 2014 Emmys, Breaking Bad faces intense competition for Drama Series against House Of Cards, Downton Abbey, Mad Men and especially the uber-hot Game Of Thrones and newcomer True Detective. And after ALL the awards love towards the end of its remarkable, groundbreaking, earth-shattering run are Emmy voters ready to move on past addiction to Vince Gilligan’s unique creation? I would venture to say’no’, and Cranston, in a phone conversation earlier this week, hopes not.
Despite his four winged statuettes (he received one last year as one of the producers), the Emmy recognition still means so much to him as Walter White, a once-in-a-lifetime role of a lifetime. “It means a lot. Primarily you have people in your peer group who are watching this. I look at the nominees (there’s also fierce competition for Lead Actor with Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey etc) and it is extremely difficult in the television world because TV is anything that’s on the internet and elsewhere. It’s not television anymore. It’s gone beyond that. There’s nothing more gratifying than to be able to go out on top and I think story-wise we did that. If we were able to go out on top from an awards point of view that’s the cherry, that makes it so much sweeter. We can all embrace one last time and miss each other already as we turn around and walk out the door,” he said, adding that what happened to Breaking Bad was a matter of catching lightning in a bottle at the right time. “A lot of it had to do with the advent of how the platforms of viewing were created at this same time, the Netflix of the world, the marathon viewing and being able to see it on your iPad or even your iPhone, it’s astonishing where it’s gone. We couldn’t have foreseen this happening but it’s here,” he said giving Netflix much credit (in addition to AMC where it all started) in really widening the audience and driving its popularity with the kind of “instant access” the streaming service provides.
I actually confessed to Cranston that, Breaking Bad junkie that I am, I actually waited until about a week ago to watch the last ten episodes because I just didn’t want it to end. I avoided all plot discussion and spoilers in that time and finally succumbed watching two shows each day while on the treadmill. I may have lost ten pounds, not because of the added exercise, but just the sheer almost-operatic intensity of the show. Does he miss it? “It was a unique experience I will tell you doing it, and just having audiences respond the way they did, not only nationally, but internationally. But I don’t miss it in the sense that because I felt that the story all along came to a conclusion that was just perfect for what we were trying to do. That said, I miss the people. We became a family since we shot the pilot in February/March of 2007. But it came to the right close and I thought the finale was as close to perfect as you can get. I think the whole run was the right amount of time to tell our story and walk away,” he said (SPOILER ALERT) confirming there is no chance for a Breaking Bad movie down the line, as anyone who saw the finale – and the finality of it all – might have guessed anyway. Gilligan is now in the midst of working on an AMC spinoff, Better Call Saul featuring the shyster lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk.
Cranston moved on spectacularly to Broadway, recently winning a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his bravura turn as President Lyndon Johnson in All The Way which Steven Spielberg is going to produce as an HBO project that is currently being adapted by the play’s author, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan. It should go into production sometime next year for airing late 2015 or early 2016, most likely just as the Presidential primaries are getting underway. Cranston held off doing a play until he knew Breaking Bad was actually coming to an end. He put the word out to his agents and they found this one almost immediately. Kismet. “And talk about a character! He’s as big as King Lear,” he laughed. Cranston said Spielberg was involved even before it hit the boards. “He showed interest in it and Robert and I had a meeting with him months ago. He said ‘I need you to commit to it. I need you to be in it. You’re the guy and Robert, you’re gonna write it, and I may direct it’. He said ‘I will see the play many, many times and if after doing that it comes to me, and if I get it and it sinks in and I know how to tell this story visually, then I would love to direct it. And if not, I am fine with finding the director who can’. And so he just decided it was expanding to the point where he felt he couldn’t do it, so he very wisely said he would step aside as the director,” he said.
But before bringing LBJ to life again for HBO, Cranston is about to start work on yet another historical figure, blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in an indie film version of Trumbo. “It kind of has the same sensibility as Capote. In that sense, it is very much of a character at the helm but it is also plot driven , really an expose on the blacklist and the fallout that it had on people’s lives, hundreds of American writers and actors. It was an awful black period in our history,” he said. It sounds like the polar opposite of his current film, Godzilla which has been a worldwide smash this summer, but again (SPOILER ALERT) don’t expect his obsessed character in that to show up in any sequel the studio may be planning. “Why can’t it be a prequel ? ” he laughed.
Right now it seems Bryan Cranston can be in just about anything he wants. He has Walter White to thank for that. And we have Bryan Cranston to thank for Walter White. Whether Emmy voters want to do that one last time is a question that will be answered on August 25th.