Bryan Cranston stars as Walter White, a high-school teacher turned meth dealer, in the AMC drama Breaking Bad.
Bryan Cranston stars as Walter White, a high-school teacher turned meth dealer, in the AMC drama Breaking Bad. Ben Luener/AMC
The actor Bryan Cranston might be best known as Hal, the childlike father on Malcolm in the Middle. He also played Jerry's dentist on Seinfeld and a guy with a severe headache problem on The X-Files. Two years ago, Cranston got his role as the lead in a dramatic series in Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad, which starts its third season on AMC at 10 p.m. ET Sunday.
Cranston stars as Walter White, a shy high-school chemistry teacher who can't quite make ends meet. When he learns he has inoperable lung cancer, something in him snaps, and he decides to use his familiarity with lab equipment to provide for his family: He teams up with a former student to make and sell crystal meth.
Cranston tells Fresh Air's David Bianculli that he started daydreaming about what Walter White would look like immediately after Gilligan told him about the character.
"I [thought White] should be a little pudgy. I [thought] he should be pale," Cranston says. "I [thought] he should be colorless. I [thought] his clothes should be this way. I [thought] he should have this silly mustache that doesn't really convey anything, except that it conveys impotence to me. It was unnecessary. And it sort of was a manifestation of what I thought his life was like at that time — basically unnecessary, that he felt useless, invisible to the world, to society, even to himself."
For his performance in Breaking Bad, Cranston has won back-to-back Emmy Awards. He was previously nominated three times for Malcolm in the Middle. His film credits include Little Miss Sunshine and Saving Private Ryan.
This interview was originally broadcast on Feb. 6, 2008.