Mr. Cranston, playing Walter White in the TV series Breaking Bad made you a household name around the world. Do you miss this character?
Of course I do. “Walter” changed my life. I even have a little tattoo now that reminds me of the show.
Chemistry teacher Walter White slips into the meth business to pay for his expensive cancer treatment. How would you describe his character?
Walter White was a different man from where he started and where he ended. Out of necessity. He was pushed against the wall, he was going to die in two years. He had to fight. He had nothing to lose. He had to come out fighting.
How did your life change after Walter?
It created great opportunities for me, and I am forever grateful for that. I am still negotiating my relationship with fame. I feel better when I am working. When I am not working and at home I have a tendency to become more reclusive.
Being famous is that bad?
The avalanche of attention that comes from working is something I am trying to get away from. If someone taps me on the shoulder and wants to give me an award, I deeply appreciate that, but it’s definitely not what I work for.
Can you still sit in a coffee shop these days and watch people?
I used to go anywhere, sit down and study people. Now, I have turned from being the observer to the one being observed. It’s a big change, and it’s not that much fun. I don’t like going through life hiding.
What do you miss most?
I long for normal conversations, like meeting at a bus station and starting a conversation about life. I always look for older people at an airport and talk to them. They have a lesser chance of knowing who I am.
If you hadn’t become an actor, what do you think you’d be doing today?
I feel like I would do something outside, in a National Park. I have an enormous appreciation for the outdoors.
You once said that you feel you have a face that scares people.
Yes, I do (laughs). I am not the typical Hollywood guy that just flashes a smile in a second. I am more the guy children are afraid of when they first see him. But that’s okay, because I know that underneath it all lies a decent human being.
You found worldwide fame in your 50s. Did that make it easier for you?
In some ways it did. I don’t get so excited immediately any more. I know that fame is a fickle beast. I wish sometimes I had had fame in my earlier years because I would have made more money.
Is wealth important to you?
I don’t mind money, but I never make professional decisions based on the paycheck that’s attached to the project. I don’t own a lake or a big yacht, but I am quite comfortable now.
How do you choose your projects?
I only want to do stuff I really believe in. I want everybody to believe in my movies and to go and see them.
How important is it for you to get a message across in a movie?
I like small movies like Trumbo, where it’s all about embracing somebody else’s opinion even though you might not agree with it – whatever that may be; sexual orientation, or anything else. We may not agree with it, but that’s not the point. The point is to let them have that voice. As the author, Trumbo, says to John Wayne in the movie: “We both have the right to be wrong.”
Is it easy for you to play a flamboyant character like the prolific and successful scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo?
In some ways it’s not easy to do, but it’s easier to grab on to a big character. It’s better than playing a smaller guy.
Can you describe yourself as an actor?
We all have different abilities. If you are open to it, you can play extreme roles, be an exhibitionist, be egocentric. I have this ability to change. As an actor you want to go in – and you do that with your own abilities and emotions.
You play very stubborn characters. Are you just as stubborn?
I have been told that I can be (laughs). I don’t like to call it stubborn, I like to call it “able to argue.” That sounds better. I am always open for discussion – as long as I win the argument in the end (laughs).
It’s said that you like to be the boss on the set. Is that true?
Let’s put it this way: I like having a set that’s friendly, where everybody is respected. That’s the way I like to work.
You are hard-working …
I work hard, I work a lot. I have a tendency to be a workaholic.
How do you keep healthy?
Good DNA, I don’t know. I don’t smoke, I try to sleep well. I run a lot to stay healthy.
You seem to buzz with energy. It that your normal default state?
There’s an old saying: “Make hay while the sun shines.” At 26, I was very happy to become a professional actor. It’s the only thing I wanted to do, the only job I’ve had since then and I make a living doing this. I am very proud of that circumstance alone. There are too many people who don’t make a living doing what they love.