The final season of "Breaking Bad" is upon us and the stars and creator of the AMC drama took the stage Friday at the Television Critics Association Summer 2013 press tour. Series creator Vince Gilligan, and stars Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, and Betsy Brandt took questions from the media and talked about the meth drama's highly-anticipated final eight episodes.
Follow along with HuffPost TV's Maureen Ryan here.
That's a wrap for the "Breaking Bad" TCA panel. We'll probably do the same thing for the "Homeland" panel next week, so come on back to check that out in a few days.
The actors are asked about the backstories they've imagined for their characters, and they all give thoughtful answers. R.J. Mitte talks about how his own journey with cerebral palsy affected his interpretation of Walt Jr., and both Anna Gunn and Betsy Brandt discuss how they think both Skyler and Marie had really difficult childhoods. They said they used to talk about that when they were in makeup before shooting scenes.
Ever the jokester, Cranston says Walt's turning point occurred on July 4, 1978, when Walt entered Nathan's hot dog-eating contest in Coney Island. Having consumed 38.5 hot dogs, Walt thought about getting into the professional eating circuit instead of being a chemist.
"Why did you have to ruin the ending?" Gilligan said.
"I assumed they knew," Cranston said.
Gilligan "fervently wishes" there could be a Saul Goodman spinoff in the future, but he has nothing to report on that front. He said people above his pay grade would have to decide whether to make it happen, but he hopes it will come to exist, and he and "Breaking Bad" writer Peter Gould continue to develop the idea.
Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul, says he hasn't shared his thoughts about Saul's backstory with Gilligan, but he does think that the lawyer is from Chicago. Given that there's so much government corruption there, he's clearly comfortable with backroom deals, Odenkirk explained. Also, he thinks Saul is of the opinion that those out West are "easy to manipulate."
As he jokingly said, they eat too healthy to seem normal to a "Chicago guy." Perhaps channeling Saul's opinions, Odenkirk exclaimed, "They eat raisins and crap that grows on trees!"
"I am very cautious" about predicting reactions, Gilligan said, but he's hopeful about the response to the end of the show. "I hope I am not wildly wrong, but I think most folks are going to dig the ending."
Vince does not Google himself or read any reviews or recaps of "Breaking Bad." "Unless it's really good," he jokes later. He does hear things anecdotally here and there, but he does not fall down the "rabbit hole" of reading all the coverage of the show.
When asked how much good and bad are in the characters, Paul said that at the end of the last season, Jesse was simply drained and wanted to get as far away as possible from the business.
They get to talking about how it will end between Walt and Jesse and Cranston jokes, "We hug it out!"
More seriously, Cranston said we all have good and bad in us and that depending on the right circumstances, "The best of you can come out and the worst of you can come out. Given a dire situation, any one of us can become dangerous."
The cast is asked why there is less sympathy in some quarters for Skyler than for other characters.
"Jesse is a drug dealer, he's a murderer, but for some reason you really care for him, you want to protect him," Paul says. "When I watch [Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler,] I feel for her so much, she just obviously wants to protect her I think."
Gunn refers several times to a similar answer she gave to this question at Comic-Con.
"When this first came up, Vince and the writers and I talked about it. I think that my feeling about it was, that because people got so behind Walt and the reasons for him doing these things, they really sided with him and felt in a way, 'What if I were in that position?'" Gunn replied. "There seemed to me to be a sense of putting their frustration and their feelings of dreams deferred perhaps into the character of Walt, and the person who stood in Walt's way consistently was Skyler ... She was the one who most consistently said, 'You can't just do these things and not have consequences' and therefore she became a villain to people" who rooted for Walt, Gunn added.
More on that documentary Cranston mentioned: When the Blu-Ray of the show comes out, Gilligan said it will contain a two-hour documentary on the history of "Breaking Bad."
"There is a lot of footage from the early days," things that were shot going back to the first week of the pilot, Gilligan said. The documentary was made by Stu Richardson, who's done all the extra video content for the show for years.
Did they really succeed in taking the show from "Mr. Chips to Scarface"?
"A good argument could be made" for whether or not Walt's particular road to Hell changed him or revealed things that were already within him. "The more we do the show, the more I subscribe to the latter thing," Gilligan said.
Cranston enjoyed the scenes that showed his teaching acumen. "He truly had a gift," Cranston said. But he noted that the apathy that teachers face every day "has to chip away" at that passion for teaching.
"He was at that point where he was beaten down ... he was in a depressed state when we started the show. He could have been Mr. Chips 20 years ago, but now he's not," Cranston added. The cancer diagnosis just "allowed that volcano of emotions to erupt," but Walt was not prepared for where those emotions would go.
Gilligan is asked what his first ideas (presumably years ago) were for how the show would end.
"I am not being facetious when I say I can't remember exactly what my original intention" or original ending was, Gilligan said. "I was not able to see the forest for the trees" for much of the show's run.
The discussion in the first meeting between Cranston and Gilligan was about how Walt should look and walk and so forth, Cranston adds. He never asked how things would end up for Walt.
"I was holding on much like the audience was," Cranston said, just taking each stage of the story as it came in.
By the way, Cranston and Aaron Paul (Jesse) read the finale script together, about six or seven days before shooting began on the finale. That reading was filmed for a documentary on the show that will be released later.
Vince Gilligan is asked how the actors changed the characters once they began playing the roles.
"The character, logistically speaking, when I was writing the pilot, served" a limited function, Gilligan said of Dean Norris' Hank Shrader. "He was, I hate to admit it, he was a bit of a mechanical construct in that first episode." But Gilligan said Norris is such a complex, "deep" and thoughtful man that that the actor "enriched" his ability to write the character.
One of the benefits of the "organic" nature of making ongoing shows and letting everyone contribute, "wonderful things derive from that," Gilligan adds.
In introducing the cast, Collier notes that, among them, they've received 13 Emmy nominations (and several wins, of course).
And now we're getting a clip reel of highlights from "Breaking Bad's" five seasons.
AMC president Charlie Collier takes the stage to say that AMC is ordering two new scripted shows to series.
"Halt and Catch Fire" is set in the early '80s during the personal-computer revolution. It stars Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishe.
"Turn" centers on a ring of spies during the Revolutionary War -- the "Culper Ring," who turned the tide for the rebels. It was written Craig Silverstein from "Nikita" and it stars Jamie Bell, Kevin McNally and Burn Gorman.