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FOR six years Bryan Cranston played hap­less dad Hal in the sit­com Mal­colm in the Mid­dle but never re­ceived the ku­dos he de­served.

His defin­ing mo­ment has come in the form of one of TV’s great­est dra­mas, Break­ing Bad, which of­fers a grip­ping ob­ser­va­tion of how far a fa­ther fac­ing ill-health and fi­nan­cial ruin will go to cre­ate se­cu­rity for his fam­ily.

In the open­ing scenes of the fifth sea­son, Cranston’s Walt meets crime col­league Mike and sug­gests they should restart their drug man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tion.

‘‘ You are a time bomb,’’ a dead­pan Mike tells him. ‘‘ Tick, tick, tick. I have no in­ten­tion of hang­ing around for the boom.’’

Mike’s state­ment sug­gests there are plenty of plot twists to come. ‘‘ A pro­duc­tion that is av­er­age stan­dard can be made slightly above av­er­age by the best act­ing,’’ Cranston says.

‘‘ If you find a di­a­mond — some­thing that is bril­liantly writ­ten like this — you sim­ply try not to get in its way.’’

There are as­pects of Walt that are not for­eign to Cranston. He’s com­fort­able with a firearm in his hand thanks to be­ing a com­pet­i­tive ri­fle shooter when he was younger.

It’s no sur­prise Cranston has firm views about US gun laws — a sub­ject brought into fo­cus by the July 20 shoot­ings in a Colorado cinema.

‘‘ We have a se­vere prob­lem here in that when our coun­try was founded, our fore­fa­thers put in the Con­sti­tu­tion the right to bear arms,’’ he says.

‘‘ Times have changed. I en­joy tar­get shoot­ing and so forth, but I don’t think there’s any need to own an AK-47 and have it in your home.

‘‘ It’s an as­sault ri­fle, it’s meant to kill a lot of peo­ple in a short pe­riod of time.

‘‘ For com­mon cit­i­zens to be able to pur­chase that weapon and un­lim­ited amounts of am­mu­ni­tion for that is ab­surd and it should be changed.’’

But is there any prospect of change, given the strength of the pow­er­ful Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion?

‘‘ I think it would be a real strug­gle,’’ Cranston says. Break­ing Bad, Show­case, Sun­day, 7.35pm Bad com­pany: Bryan Cranston (right) with co-star Aaron Paul.

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