“Breaking Bad” protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston) did a lot of terrible things — some of it justified, some not so much — over the course of the show’s five-season run. But ask any fan about Walter’s most heinous act, and you’ll likely get a consensus vote: the time he stood idly by while watching Jesse Pinkman's (Aaron Paul) girlfriend Jane (Krysten Ritter) choke on her own vomit and die.
During an episode of Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” airing Wednesday night (Nov. 25), host James Lipton played the scene for Bryan Cranston and asked about his mindset while filming — and it sounds just as emotionally exhausting as you’d imagine.
“What civilians don't understand, that we do, is that actors need to be willing to pay a price for it — it's an emotional price that you need to be willing to pay,” he said.
“[Walter White] hears [Jane] start to cough and he goes to her because that’s instinct. Human, caring instinct,” Cranston explained, “And before he gets to her he stops and thinks, ‘Wait a minute — she’s a junkie. She’s got Jesse on heroin; she’ll kill him. It’s better if I don’t do anything. But she’s a little girl — she’s young enough to be my daughter.’”
That’s when Cranston breaks down in tears, explaining that he got “choked up” upon seeing the face of his real-life daughter, Taylor Dearden, now 22.
“And then I see the face of my own daughter in her place, and I didn’t want to; I didn’t plan on it… I guess that’s why I closed my eyes, I’m not sure,” Cranston said.
However, his character’s unapologetic mindset soon kicked in, and Cranston was able to finish the scene in true Water White cold-blooded fashion.
“And then my thought was, ‘Get over it. Move on. It happens. I didn’t do this. I didn’t kill her. She killed herself. Figure it out,’” he said. “Then the picture of my daughter went away, and now I was trying to get some control back.
And the rest is four-time Emmy Award-winning history.