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March 10, 2010

'Breaking Bad'

Paleyfest breaking bad cranston gunn By Philiana Ng

The "Breaking Bad" gang might be the most well-spoken cast and crew on television.

The audience was given a taste of it Wednesday evening when the subversive AMC drama was celebrated during PaleyFest. After a special screening of the upcoming Season 3 premiere, the panelists -- led by Bryan Cranston ("Malcolm in the Middle") and creator Vince Gilligan ("The X Files") -- rolled off detailed script descriptions from the pilot like it was still firmly ingrained in their minds.

"The most shocking was the exploding turtle," Dean Norris (Hank) said, when asked about the show's standout moments.

"When I read the first page of the pilot script ... I was like, 'What the f***?!' And that was page one!," Cranston (Walt) recalled. "I knew the longer I waited, every actor in Hollywood would want to do it."

Anna Gunn (Skyler) said the moments that interested her were the unexpected ones. "The way things turn on a dime ... the way that the humor and the danger turns is what fascinates me," she said.

For Aaron Paul (Jesse), reading the first script was like a match made in heaven. "When I first read the pilot, I thought, 'There is no f***ing way this show is getting made,' " he said. "You talked about the melting the body in acid ... I found myself laughing to tears!"

R.J. Mitte (Walt Jr.) agreed. "It (the show) really pushes the envelope. There's no show on TV that can put the family [dynamic] next to the [drug-making]," the young actor said.

The two planes crashing at the end of Season 2 was eye-opening, mainly because Walt was an indirect catalyst of the catastrophic event. And in the Season 3 premiere, which airs Sunday, March 21 at 10 p.m., a huge reveal is made about Walt's on-the-side job that will have an adverse effect on his family and bring up many more questions.

Paleyfest breaking bad gilligan"It is so much about trying to work it so the audience is ... a step behind you," Gilligan said. "It was so hard last season to keep Skyler (Walt's wife) in the dark [because she was] too smart a lady."

Because Walt and Skyler's marriage is in some aspects, a lie, would his wife ever embrace his drug-making and drug-dealing ways if it were to come to that? "There's certainly allure to forbidden fruit," Cranston said. "He has to embrace who he's becoming in order to survive. He has to start thinking like a criminal."

"Now that she knows ... the basic fact is the bottom falling out of her life," Gunn said. "Everything she thought she knew in her life isn't the truth anymore."

"Breaking Bad's" premise is not for the faint of heart. There is "so much wrong about the show that they must be doing something right," the panel's moderator said earlier. So have the writers crossed that invisible line yet?

"He (Vince) described Season 1 [to be] about a good man who makes a mistake and compounds that mistake," executive producer Mark Johnson said. For the second season, they weren't sure if Walt was a good man. In the upcoming Season 3, "we'll have a whole new definition," he said. "It's a whole new animal ... but it's still a family show!" Cue laughter.

"My character is metamorphasizing from one character to another," Cranston said. "At the end of the series, he's going to be a bloodthirsty killer." "I don't really know myself. I don't have an endgame," Gilligan added.

"You don't have an inkling?," Cranston asked. "The characters tell the writers where to go," Gillgan said. "We explore without a map and with a flashlight. We don't BS our way through."

When asked if Walt, who has terminal cancer, would enjoy himself for at least half an episode, Cranston was completely on board with the idea. "It feels like he needs a break, doesn't he?," he said. "He has never felt more alive now that he's gotten his death sentence."

Gilligan, known for many fans' favorite "X Files" episodes, was plotting to kill off one of the characters by the ninth episode of Season 1, but because of the writers' strike, rethought his plans. That character was Jesse. (Paul was nominated for an Emmy in 2009.) "I didn't know how damn good this guy was," Gillgan said of Paul. "We knew by episode two just how good you were. It came early on just how colossal of a mistake that was."

Paleyfest breaking bad norris paul mitte In the opening scene of the premiere, Gilligan said the Santa Muerte religion (which is based on Catholicism) played a big role in the initial idea. In it, "one prays to death itself" and though it is seemingly dark, it isn't an evil religion, just an interesting one.

When Gilligan and his crew began pitching the show to networks, someone brought up Showtime's "Weeds," which at that time was just beginning its TV run. "Oh no, it's different," Gilligan said. "It's crystal meth!"

During the Q&A portion, a member of the audience noted that the Season 2 episode titles clued viewers in. Would there be a similar thing in Season 3? "Because we did it once, we don't want to do it again," Gilligan explained.

And how long should "Breaking Bad" stay on the air? "I would hope we'd know an end date," Gilligan said. "Any serialized show should [have an idea when they're ending]."

"How many episodes do you need for syndication?," Cranston joked. "Walt's French cousin comes to visit -- that's not jumping the shark. Walt Jr. has a sex change. [in a deep MovieFone voice] On a special episode of 'Breaking Bad' ..."

In hindsight, the decision to shoot in New Mexico was a blessing in disguise, but Riverside was a close second. The only reason they settled on New Mexico was because of the 25% tax incentive.

A fan asked Cranston if anyone had reservations about casting him in a dramatic role after seven years on "Malcolm in the Middle." "The business has a tendency to pigeon-hole people ... so we try to reinvent ourselves," he said. "It's one of those things that you kinda just have to go after."

When did Cranston realize Walt could pull off his "Scarface"-esque character? "[It was in Season 1,] Walt had finished chemotherapy and the doctor tells him he'll feel normal again," he said. "He wakes up, sees hair grow back and picks up a razor." It was that specific scene that solidified Walt as a man who wanted to sustain his current status, according to Cranston.

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