Suc­cess as an ac­tor part luck, part chem­istry

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

LOS ANGELES — You have to ad­mit: this ac­tor has range. Bryan Cranston played a wacky, fun-lov­ing dad in the se­ries Mal­colm in the Mid­dle, and he plays a cor­rupt tyrant in the newly re­leased re­make of To­tal Re­call, op­po­site Colin Far­rell and Jes­sica Biel.

But the role that has truly de­fined Cranston’s ca­reer has been in the se­ries Break­ing Bad, now in its last sea­son. Cranston dropped all his goofy Mal­colm charm for the role of Wal­ter White, the chem­istry teacher who, when di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal can­cer, be­comes a meth cook in a twisted ef­fort to leave a legacy for his sur­viv­ing fam­ily.

Cranston shows up at the To­tal Re­call press con­fer­ence eat­ing an omelette and crack­ing jokes. But even if Wal­ter White has long given up the teach­ing ca­reer, Cranston still has a few hard-won pearls of wis­dom for any­one look­ing to make a ca­reer for them­selves as an ac­tor. On what to look for in a script: “The best thing they can learn is to iden­tify well-writ­ten ma­te­rial. The writ­ing in our in­dus­try, in a story, is the most im­por­tant el­e­ment, bar none. It is al­ways about the writ­ing first.

“So what I’ve been able to do… the thing I’m good at, re­ally, is to iden­tify well-writ­ten ma­te­rial.

“Now that doesn’t mean the prod­uct is go­ing to end up that way. It’s a recipe, and some­times it doesn’t work, and you’re think­ing, ‘Wait a minute, I had all the in­gre­di­ents, how did this hap­pen?’ That’s go­ing to hap­pen.

“But if you start with some­thing that has good writ­ing, you at least have a shot. If you start with some­thing that is not well writ­ten, you have no shot of mak­ing some­thing good. The best ac­tor in the world can make C level ma­te­rial C-plus-level ma­te­rial. Maybe B-mi­nus. That’s it.” On get­ting a shot: “The only thing that an ac­tor re­ally yearns for in a ca­reer is op­por­tu­nity. We don’t ask to be given roles, just give me a chance to get in the room, (or) we have no shot.

“What I try to teach young ac­tors is: Please know that with­out a healthy dose of luck, you will not have a ca­reer. How do you do that? I don’t know. Just keep work­ing, keep work­ing hard, have faith.” On giv­ing your­self a time limit: “Don’t give your­self some ar­bi­trary num­ber: ‘I’m go­ing to give it a year.’ Stop now. Go back to Idaho. Make some re­ally nice pota­toes. Peo­ple will ap­pre­ci­ate that.

“You’re ei­ther in this or you’re not in this. So that’s the first thing I say.” On mak­ing a strat­egy if you get lucky: “If you’re on a hit show, you bet­ter save your money. You bet­ter, be­cause you need to say no to those tempt­ing of­fers of dol­lar bills to do the same thing you just did.

“To me it was no temp­ta­tion. I just said no. But you don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next. I was very for­tu­nate.”

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