The strife of Bryan
HE was hapless dad Hal in sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, but never received the kudos he was due. Then he stumbled into a role on Thank God You’re Here, the short-lived US version of Australia’s ratings hit.
For Bryan Cranston, the defining moment of his career has come in the form of Breaking Bad. The edgy drama has earnt him two best actor Emmy Awards and is regarded by some as one of the greatest TV series of all time.
The show offers a gripping observation of how far a father facing ill-health and financial ruin is prepared to go to create security for his family.
Cranston is renowned for his straight-faced demeanour, an actor who often appears as if he’s building a rocket ship in his head.
This quiet, concealed exasperation is used to maximum effect for Breaking Bad, in which his character, Walter White, went from being a successful research chemist to teaching apathetic high school students in New Mexico and working a weekend job at a car wash.
Walter discovered his wife was pregnant ( they already had a son with cerebral palsy) and that he was terminally ill. Desperate to keep his catastrophic news to himself, Walter came up with a plan to ensure his family would not be left up the creek without a paddle once he died. He became a drug cook.
Walter has since lurched from one potentially fatal situation to the next. The deeper he sinks into the mire of the criminal world, the more impossible it seems he can return to the straight and narrow.
‘‘ I think everyone wants to find that career they love and I found it at 22 – I wanted to be a working actor,’’ 55-year-old Cranston says.
‘‘ But after Malcolm in the Middle I got two offers to do TV pilots and both roles were described as goofy, fun-loving dads and I thought, ‘ That’s it, huh, that’s all that is out there for me?’. So I politely turned them down.
‘‘ I just never imagined I would ever get to play a character like Walt, the polar opposite to Hal.’’
So hot has Cranston become, that he has filmed 15 movie roles, including World War Z with Brad Pitt, since Breaking Bad launched in 2008.