Bryan Cranston is having it both ways. Just days ago, he as Walter White dared to go especially dark in the Breaking Bad season finale, and soon he can be seen fighting crime (occasionally with the help of a caped crusader) as Lt. James Gordon in the new Batman: Year One animated movie, out on DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 18.
TVLine spoke with the three-time Emmy winner about Breaking Bad‘s big season-ending twist, his thoughts on what’s ahead for the acclaimed AMC drama’s final run, and what special something his Jim Gordon brings to Batman lore.
TVLINE | Regarding Breaking Bad‘s finale and the “Lily of the Valley” twist: Are you from the camp that believes it made all the sense in the world?
Oh yeah. Walt was desperate. He realized that Gus had turned Jesse into his favor, and it would take something extreme to bring Jesse back into his camp. And he needed Jesse to be able to draw out Gus. Otherwise Gus was going to come after him. You want to be proactive if you’re going to protect yourself to go after him. So, what could it be? “How can I bring Jesse back in? What can I do to prevent Jesse from cooking that would bring Gus out into the open?” And he thought: A-ha. And it had to be something I could turn and blame Gus with.
TVLINE | And presumably, Walt would know just how much poisonous berry to give Brock without really endangering the kid.
Right. It had to be serious enough that he’d go to the hospital, it had to be serious enough for Jesse to think that it would be the ricin – and yet hopefully not too much to kill him.
TVLINE | I’ve seen some people claim that Saul’s secretary was actually shredding Brock’s school schedule. And that would explain how Walt had access to him.
What’s good about this drama is that we don’t and never have answered every question. We just create plausible situations and let the audience fill the gaps. So yes, the cigarette pack was exchanged by Huell in Saul’s office [when he frisked Jesse in Episode 12]. If you look carefully at that scene, you’ll see that when he’s done searching Jesse, he puts his hand in his pocket. It’s a quick moment, but you see his hand go in his pocket quickly. So it was set up that way.
TVLINE | I asked [Breaking Bad creator] Vince Gilligan if he has any idea what the very final scene of the series will be, and he said no. But has he given you any sense of what the Season 5 arc will be?
No — and I never ask, either. It would be like turning on the lights and going through a haunted house tour before you experience it in the dark. “And here’s where the skeleton will jump out, and here’s where you’ll feel the grapes and we’ll tell you it’s eyeballs….” It’s been such a journey for me and for this character that it didn’t make sense for me to know too far ahead, because Walt has no idea what’s ahead for him, even an hour. So I don’t ask, and I don’t read my scripts too far in advance.
TVLINE | But can you imagine that next season is anything but Walt putting this all behind him and trying to return to normalcy?
You know, there was that moment at the end of the last episode, where in a self-assured way said, “I won” – and he was happy about that. I think Walt’s going to a place where he truly enjoys the empowerment that his situation has given him. And even though he knows he’s going out in a year, from lung cancer, he’s going to go out big. He’s going out big.
TVLINE | Turning to Batman: Year One: You’ve done a lot of voice work, but this is pretty much your first superhero project.
I’ve done a lot of this stuff in the past, but to be honest I hadn’t really been that interested in the material that I was doing; it was more of a job. And now I’m in a position where I don’t need a job and don’t really want a job. [Chuckles] I initially turned this down, because I had a prejudice against [comic book fare], so I’m coming at it from a completely objective standpoint of a non-fan, and I think that helped me get into it. I was amazed at the depth of it, and the integrity in the writing and the characterization. I thought, “This is completely different than I thought it was going to be.” It was something I could definitely get behind, the ambiguity of [Lt. Jim Gordon] struggling to find out who he is and where he belongs. There was history to him, and a brooding nature full of regrets in his life. It was pretty rich.
TVLINE | Here he’s a bit more Bruce Wayne’s contemporary, right?
Right, he’s older but there’s not that discrepancy in age, where it’s a mentor-mentee, uncle kind of thing. And he doesn’t particularly care for the guy at first! [Laughs] He thinks Bruce Wayne is kind of stuck on himself. It’s not until the end that he develops some sort of appreciation for the man and what he’s out to do, and yet he still can’t condone vigilantism. I liked that he tries to maintain his integrity as a police officer and yet still wants to be effective.
Watch a Batman: Year One clip here, then read on for more:
TVLINE | Is this a more active incarnation of James Gordon than we’ve seen in previous adaptations?
Well, I certainly think it is. Gary Oldman did a great job in the [Christopher Nolan] movies, and therefore I also didn’t want to be derivative of his work. But this goes deeper, because it’s coming from Gordon’s point of view. It’s better screenwriting to make it from his point of view than Batman’s. It keeps Batman special and mysterious.