TCA press tour: ‘Breaking Bad’s’ Walter White had a hot-dog past?

Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul, cast members in the television series "Breaking Bad," share a laugh onstage during AMC's Summer 2013 TCA press tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Friday, July 26, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul, cast members in the television series “Breaking Bad,” share a laugh onstage during AMC’s Summer 2013 TCA press tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Friday, July 26, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

Life is a series of domino effects. For “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White, the road to becoming ruthless, drug-dealing Heisenberg goes back way before the troubles that come to light in 2008’s pilot episode.

It all started with a dashed dream.

“The turning point was July 4, 1978 in Coney Island, N.Y., when [Walt] actually entered a Nathan’s hot-dog eating contest and consumed 38½ hot dogs and seriously considered entering the professional eating circuit before he became a chemist,” joked his maker, Bryan Cranston.

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Cranston took the stage Friday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills alongside his “Breaking Bad” costars (minus Dean Norris, we’re guessing because he’s still stuck “Under the Dome”) and creator Vince Gilligan. Sure, good writing informs an actor when bringing dimension to complex characters, but everyone has a back story.

Before slimy attorney Saul Goodman was hawking his services with “Better Call Saul!” ads in New Mexico, Bob Odenkirk (who plays the character) imagines that Saul had been living in Chicago.

“I’m from outside Chicago,” the actor said. “Lots of Chicagoans like to go to the Southwest to get away from the weather. Everybody west of Chicago is easy to manipulate. You can sell granola to those people! They eat raisins and crap that grows on trees. That’s why [Saul] would be attracted to that part of the country.”

Betsy Brandt had a few thoughts in playing the dynamic between purple-loving Marie and husband Hank (Dean Norris).

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“I always felt like [Hank and Marie] really wanted to have kids and they couldn’t,” Brandt said. “I would think about that every time I would have a scene with Walt and Skylar’s kids.” Also, ‘What the ... were her and Skylar’s parent’s like?’”


It was a frequent topic of conversation for Brandt and Anna Gunn, who plays Walt’s wife Skylar, in hair and makeup.

“I always felt that these two did not have a happy childhood,” Gunn said. “They were like war buddies. They had to stick together no matter what. I always felt that Skylar had to be the mother figure. Skylar learned to take care of things and deal with problems and just put her head down and get through things.

RJ Mitte drew from his own dealing with cerebral palsy in playing Walt Jr. to get into the mind set of a character with the disease. Aaron Paul says he really didn’t rely too much on a back story for Jesse Pinkman, except to say his character was on a constant search for guidance in his life.

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“Even though he maybe didn’t want to admit it, [Jesse] was searching for a father figure in a way,” Paul said. “I think he found that in Walt. His parents gave up on him years ago. That sort of comes with him wanting to protect kids.... He wants to protect children because he didn’t feel he had that protection.”

That father-son relationship between Walt and Jesse has had its share of screaming matches and silent treatments, but will it all end on a happy note when the show wraps its run?


“I think everybody will be satisfied with the ending when we hug it out,” Cranston joked.

We were hoping they’d split a hot dog.


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