The "Breaking Bad" premiere party/farewell tour moved to New York this week for a series of events hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Thursday night, "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston selected two of his favorite episodes for a screening, which was followed by a discussion moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, TV critic for NYMag.com.
Before the event, Film Society of Lincoln Center announced on Twitter that Cranston had chosen Episode 212 ("Phoenix") and 310 ("Fly"), and encouraged people to watch those episodes at home on Netflix before tuning into the live stream of the panel discussion, which kicked off at 10:35 p.m. ET and is embedded below:
Some highlights from Cranston's Q&A after the screening:
On how he found Walter White's core:
"First looking for it, I had the hardest time finding where Walter lived. Then in a conversation at dinner once, someone was talking about depression, and I went, 'Woah, that’s where it is.' He was a depressed man from missed opportunities. Over the years, his entire adult life, he would just gloss over, keep pushing it down.
In broad strokes, depression manifests itself in two main ways. You explode, and blame everyone for your misfortune. Or you implode, and that’s what happened to Walter White. He just became invisible to himself. Once I caught onto that, that informed everything.
Then I went to Vince Gilligan and said ... 'He should be heavier … He should be unremarkable in every way. He should have a mustache that makes people go, "Either grow it or shave it!"' I said I wanted it to look like an impotent mustache.
So once I found that, everything changed. As the show went on, what happened to Walter White is he took a stick of dynamite to that calloused-over core of emotion and blew it up. That’s why he became so careless and impulsive. He changed from a methodical scientist into this man who took over his life."
When Zoller Seitz observed that Tony's struggle with depression was also central to "The Sopranos," Cranston quipped, “That’s probably where I got it from.”
On Walter White's anger:
"That’s that impulsivity that started to creep in. Some of you may be wondering how he left 'Leaves Of Grass' on the back of the toilet: He became impulsive -- a person who wasn't anywhere near as careful as when we first met him ... Look what happened with Mike: That was ego, that was anger. His hubris got to him."
On when exactly Walter White became Heisenberg:
"There was a moment in the second season when he was in remission, and he decides to shave his head anyway -- a little, but important moment. That said, 'I think I've gotten used to this guy.' Looking in mirror and seeing a bald-headed man, if he didn’t recognize the man in mirror, somehow there was distance ... almost allowing him to do what he needs to do."
On Jane's death in "Phoenix":
"Vince originally wrote it to where Walt was so angry at the sight of Jesse being on heroin, that he takes her shoulder and pushes her back on her back so that she chokes [on her own vomit].
The studio went, 'Woah, no, no, no, no, no. Too soon' ... I chimed in with an idea: 'What if, trying to wake Jesse up, that the jostling flips her onto her back and I don’t notice that.' Walter's first impulse is to help, but right before he can get to her, he thinks, 'Wait, this is the person who was blackmailing me and could ruin everything.'
So his act of omission became enormous. He's thinking, 'What should I do?' And then she’s gone. Then it becomes, 'What have I done?' And then a moment later, 'F*** it,' move on ... It's allowing yourself to show that ugliness."
On his relationship with Aaron Paul:
"I love him. I feel like he’s my son, or my little brother. The thing that you hope for [in working with a cast], it's not necessary that you become friends and intimate and love each other -- it's just easier. It’s like in-laws. The thing that I try, leading the cast, is to instill a sense of humility and acceptance that we are the luckiest people in the world ... We’re here to have fun and create art, and it’s a joyous occasion."
Aaron is right into that. One time we were out in the desert, and sand was in all of our noses, ears, eyes and mouths. And we’re walking to lunch and he goes, 'Isn’t this great?!' And I said, 'My wish is that you always say that.'"
On Walter White's ultimate motivation:
"For me it was, 'By God, if I'm gonna die, I'm gonna have something I can leave to my family.' You want to feel that sense of pride and responsibility. I kept conjuring in my head ... It was never spoken to the writers … But for me, it was the sense of humiliation. He got a glimpse of what his last few weeks might be. That he would shrivel up, and his wife would have to empty his bedpan, that he would empty their savings, leave them penniless and die .. So those were the motivating factors to do something bold and risky for the first time in his life."
On what's next for him after more than a decade on TV:
"Walter White has become a very indelible character, and I need to step back and not be so ubiquitous. I'm going up to Boston next week to start rehearsals for a play called 'All The Way,' playing President Lyndon Johnson."
The final episodes of "Breaking Bad" premiere Sunday, August 11 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
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