By Lifan Zhang
From a not-so-famous sitcom actor to a cannot-be-more-famous “Walter White”, Bryan Cranston cannot deny what Breaking Bad, the neo-classical crime drama that has been on top of conversation even a year after its finale, has offered him. Fame, recognition, and brand new opportunities have sprung and swallowed him up. For Cranston himself, these tags of “success” are not so important, as what he has described in one interview on Breaking Bad Wiki, as “personal development.” What explicitly did he imply by saying so? Overall, Breaking Bad undeniably was good for him.
Pre-Breaking Bad Era
Soon after college Bryan Cranston engaged in performance by starring in small theaters in Los Angeles and dubbing for Japanese animations. Since the 1980s he has starred in several soap operas and sitcoms, including Malcolm in the Middle, which earned him Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series” three times in 2000. Finally in 2008, Cranston started off his new round of starring as Walter White, as a lead actor in Breaking Bad.
Recognition from Both Sides of the Industry
Breaking Bad is often on the tip of the tongue of media professionals and television critics as one of the most classic and qualified prototypes of television production. It is also the coolest hit even among international viewing communities. This double-sided acclaim can be applied to Bryan Cranston too.
Compared with his triple nomination for the “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series” in the early 2000s, he has harvested something more substantial. Not just a nomination, not as a second banana in comedy, he has won the “Outstanding Lead Actor in Drama Series” for the Emmy Awards for three consecutive times, a miracle that was only achieved by beloved Bill Cosby about 30 years ago. Apart from the Academy Award for television production, Cranston has been nominated for or has won for more than 40 awards simply by starring as Walter White.
For Cranston’s fans, Walter White is always more preferable than Bryan Cranston. The figure with Heisenberg-like infinite possibilities has been continued in Cranston even off stage. Recently he has helped a 17-year-old fan Stefan to win his prom date, according to BBC News. Email, Facebook, and Twitter are not enough to cover the activity range of the fans community. One of them has made a high-quality rubber mask of Walter White, which stirred up Jimmy Kimmel Live in December 2013 a little bit.
More Important than Being Successful
Cranston is quite ambivalent about the role of Breaking Bad in his own life. In one interview held by Digital Spy, he confessed that “[Walter White] is the role of my life. But I cannot let it take me too far.” In a certain aspect, being Walter White has taught Cranston a great lesson on morality, responsibility, and philosophy of life. “In chemistry, everything is logic, everything is mapped out. In life, it is not the case,” said Cranston.
The show has also led him in a brand new direction of performing. In one fans Q&A session on Breaking Bad Wiki, Cranston revealed that he started to enjoy “watching people” as an instant lesson of natural performance, “I sometimes just hold a newspaper and watch people quarrel. You can see their truest, most authentic reactions.” Five years of shooting Breaking Bad seemed to provide this middle-aged actor enough time to accumulate and summarize his thoughts and experiences and head off in his new direction of being a producer and director.
Post Breaking Bad era, numerous opportunities and possibilities have spawned for Bryan Cranston. His title expands from actor and play performer into a more inclusive list of dubber, TV producer, film producer, film director, and screenwriter. He now is also a frequent “coverboy” of magazines such as GQ. No wonder how the magical power of recognition has boosted his career in so many directions to help him explore new realms and implement his understanding of acting into a broader stage.
1. Bryan Cranston Helps Breaking Bad Fan Win Prom Date, BBC News
2. Jimmy Kimmel Live with Bryan Cranston, Youtube
3. 10 Things about… Bryan Cranston, Digital Spy
4. Bryan Cranston Reveal Walter White’s Motives, Rolling Stone