Recap of Part 1: In the first installment of my two-part interview with the most talented Bryan Cranston, he talked about the genesis of his latest film, “The Infiltrator.” He also talked about developing a character, preparing for the nude scene in “Trumbo,” as well as the lingering effects of playing Lyndon B. Johnson, and ended with the key to the success of his long-term marriage.
Recap of Credits: For his performance as Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” Cranston won four consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He also received five Golden Globe nominations, with four wins, and six Satellite Award nominations, garnering four wins. He earned Broadway’s Tony Award for his portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in “All The Way,” the same role that he reprised for the HBO television film. Other television roles include playing Hal, the dad in “Malcolm in the Middle,” as well as appearances on “Seinfeld,” “The King of Queens,” “How I Met Your Mother,” as well as playing Buzz Aldrin in “From the Earth to the Moon.”
Part 2, which focuses on his personal journey, is a continuation of a recent interview conducted by several select journalists. The following has been edited for content and continuity for print purposes.
Was there a time in your life when you wanted to pursue a career other than acting?
Cranston: Early on in life, I was going to be a police officer and a detective but not necessarily do undercover work.
What made you change your mind?
Girls. (Laughter) And, theatre class. It was like, “wow.” I’m 19. I’m in the second year of college and I went, “There’s that??” That’s available?” And they outnumber boys eight-to-one! (Laughter) One of my first scenes in my first acting class read: “A boy and a girl on a park bench making out.” Oh my God. I read it again. I was like, so my job is to make out with a girl? Oh my God. (Much laughter) It was like this is possible? Once that turned my head around I realized ok, all those initial emotional reactions aside, if I’m going to do this, I’m need to learn how to do this. So, that’s what drove me deeper and very seriously into how does one become an actor.
What did you discover and what is the most important thing?
The biggest thing is to be vulnerable. That said, let’s say most high school kids want to be with the pack and not stand out. We’re wearing the same clothes and don’t want anyone to single us out. There is the occasional kid who is way out there and already exposes who he is. That kid is proud and you think: “Wow. Who’s that?” But, he is also open to ridicule and being ostracized for being different.
What was the next step in your path to achieve vulnerability?
After high school you begin to think, I need to be me. I need to open these flood gates and celebrate the uniqueness of me. Am I unique? Then you just kind of go inward through therapy or self-awareness. I was coming of age in the 70s when it wasn’t self-awareness – it was indulgence. But the 80s were different. You could either go with further indulgence with cocaine, and the craziness of that, or join one of the self-help groups like Brian Williamson or Leo Buscaglia, Wayne Dwyer or EST (Erhard Seminars Training.) You could go on that path, which was very healthy for self-exploration – who am I, what makes me tick, and what is my raison d’être or what is my purpose for being here. I had to get serious. You go through the teens and the early 20s and you are so self-centered. Then you go ok, enough of that. Now I have to grow up and become the person I want to become.
What is the most difficult part of acting?
An actor’s life is filled with risk – certainly emotional risk. I’m willing to be exposed and naked emotionally and physically because sometimes you need both. I accept those things. In order to truly tell a story, I have to be completely honest with myself. If the intention is to make an audience feel embarrassed for my character, then being exposed, being nude, is one way of doing it, like in “Trumbo.” I had to let go of Bryan so Dalton’s personality could emerge. He was scared, but put on a good face for his wife and assured her that he would be fine and that he would be out soon, and that he loves her.*
Having played a president, you have some knowledge of what the responsibilities are. Where do you stand on the current political campaign?
(referring to Donald Trump) There is no room for a charlatan in that office.
*Cranston talks about the nude scene in great deal length in Part 1.