Dear Mr Bryan Cranston
I had you all wrong. I thought you were a jobbing C list actor, who briefly moved to the B list when you played the crazed and terminally stupid, yet loving father in the Kids’ TV series Malcolm in the Middle. I thought that was a lucrative move for you, but one that probably meant subsequent typecasting and the end of any shot at getting things like Emmys and acclaim as a “serious” actor. With your rather small and inexpressive eyes and weak mouth, the last person you could have acted was a confused and confusing Jekyll & Hyde chameleon of a cancer-ridden High School apologist for a chemist who goes bad. Way bad. For his family.
I was late coming to the first few outings of Breaking Bad; the first series was screened in America in 2008 and you pocketed the Emmy award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series. I caught up with your seminal character portrayal in the show, ready to dismiss all comparisons with key characters in The Wire. But I was wrong. You made Walter White your own. And that was no mean feat. In parts he is mean, aggressive and ruthless. Running over someone and finishing them off with a hand gun. In other parts he is a family man, kissing his daughter, loving his son and the much-maligned Skyler. You did so great in the second series that you got another Emmy the following year and then year after that. You became a “star”.
But for once that tag seems justified in that you have shown what some people forget when wallowing in the glamour, glitz and Gucci grotesqueness that is Hollywood. That fact is that you are an actor who can act. And act the socks off most other actors around. In the space of a series, an episode or even a scene, you can transform the audience’s view of WW from hero to villain and back again. You yourself have said that the writers of the show made it dark and twisted, and to play a character such as WW with his many facets, foibles and fears, must have caused you to bring forth all the skill experience and oomph that you have been storing away in the past while playing all those secondary fiddles to the main violin.
What I also admire you for, Mr Cranston, is that while you have been encouraged to agree that the bitterness and ferocity that sometimes bubbles out from Walter comes from your frustration at being overlooked for lead roles for so many years. But you have humility and honour and said that you had been very happy with your acting career from the earliest days.
One of your favourite actors is Jack Lemmon and I can see there the zest, fire and unpredictability that he could bring to a role in your portrayal of the man who went from Mr Chips to Scarface (as you yourself said!)
Congratulations, Mr Cranston, it’s great to see that sometimes in Hollywood, the truly deserving get the plaudits and the glittering prizes.
Now, let’s cook!