THE INSIDE DOPE ON BREAKING BAD
An enthusiastic crowd packed the house for the LA Film Fest panel Cooking a Contemporary Classic: A Conversation with Breaking Bad – arguably one of the more cinematic shows on television. The panel featured series creator Vince Gilligan and seven of the show’s leads, including Emmy winners Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte.
“This feels like the origin story of a super villain,” said moderator Robert Abele to Gilligan. “What surprises you most about how this show has gone?”
“The fact that it’s on the air,” he answered. Gilligan wanted to do a show that dispensed with the “stasis” of typical television, “where the character is the same in show number one and show number 100.” Instead, he’s created a show that is “as surprising to the ‘insiders’ as it is to the viewers,” according to Cranston.
“What TV show can you name where the character changes?” asked Cranston, who said Gilligan hooked him with “page one of the pilot,” and described Walter White to Cranston as someone who changes “from Mr. Chips into Scarface.”
Every actor commented on the strength of the writing, and Gilligan praised the cast for their ability to fill in the difficult moments and subtext with a look. Odenkirk said, “You can’t mess with these scripts, because there’s something going on.”
Gilligan attributes some of the show’s success to long sessions in the writers’ room. “We have a vast amount of lead time,” he said. “We have time to figure out the story.”
“People who are into story love this show,” said Cranston. “We don’t have a huge audience – all of you are sick people,” he said to the crowd. “There’s an investment in the show. You can’t miss an episode of a show like this.”
Many of the audience questions were about favorite episodes and biggest challenges. Paul said that waking up with Jane dead beside him was “probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
The episode Paul said he had the most fun filming was “Four Days Out” from Season Two, when Jesse asks Walter if he’s going to build a robot to save them from disaster in the desert. That line came from the show’s focus puller.
Another question was, “How can a show with so much violence have so much humor?” Gilligan said, “You’ve got to leaven the darkness with light.”
As to what do the actors know and when do they know it, Gilligan said, “It’s up to them.” Cranston said he didn’t want to know. “It doesn’t help me in episode one to know what happens in episode two, three, four. It confuses me.” Cranston prefers to “take them one at a time.”
On the topic of why we seem to be experiencing a new Golden Age of television, the cast had some possible answers. Norris said, “Huge TVs have taken home viewing to a cinematic level.” Cranston said that as studios have reduced the amount of low- and mid-budget features they make, cable has expanded. “When AMC went looking for content, in so many words, they said, ‘Don’t bring us what will work on ABC.’ We need to create a brand.”
“In the ‘70s, there were all these interesting movies for grown-ups,” said Gilligan. “Now, the studios are busy making Blah Blah II and Blah Blah Blah III.” Lucky for television viewers that these writers and cast members are committed to bringing challenging, independent storytelling to Breaking Bad.
—Pamela Ezell for Film Indpendent
Check out more events from the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival at lafilmfest.com.
June 17th, 2012 • No Comments