Bryan Cranston Almost Wasn't On Breaking Bad Because Of Malcolm In The Middle

Had Fox gone ahead with Season 8 of Malcolm in the Middle, Cranston wouldn't have been available for Breaking Bad.


Bryan Cranston is a veteran actor who has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies over the years, but perhaps his most notable and recognizable role is Walter White in Breaking Bad. As it turns out, Cranston nearly did not get the job.

He recalled his path to Breaking Bad in an appearance on the SmartLess podcast with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes. Before Breaking Bad, Cranston was known for his smaller roles on shows like Seinfeld and The X-Files before breaking out with his leading role on Malcolm in the Middle as Hal. He explained on the podcast that Malcolm in the Middle network Fox had considered picking up the show for an eighth season, but decided against it.

Had Fox renewed the show for one more season, Cranston would not have been available to film the pilot for Breaking Bad.

"Fox said, Keep the sets up. We might do an eighth season of Malcolm in the Middle.' And everyone was like, 'Yeahhh that'd be great.' In late April and early May, they called when the upfronts are going on, they said, 'Nope, we had a very good pilot season. Thank you guys, you did well. You're on your own.' So we thought, 'Ahh, that's too bad,'" Cranston said.

But later in the month, Cranston received a phone call asking him to meet with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, who wrote the episode of X-Files--"Drive"--that Cranston appeared in.

"Later that month, I get the call to go see a guy called Vince Gilligan. 'Do you remember him from X-Files? Kinda. He wants to see you about a new project called Breaking Bad,'" Cranston recalls being told. "I read it and I thought, 'Oh my god this is amazing.' I met with him. He said, 'I want to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface and I think you're the guy to do it.'"

AMC and Sony, the network and production company for Breaking Bad, both gave feedback to Gilligan that Cranston was not the man to play Walter White based on his previous goofy roles. However, Gilligan went to bat for Cranston and championed the actor. He informed AMC and Sony that Cranston is capable of a strong dramatic performance, and he sent the network and production company a copy of the X-Files episode "Drive" to back him up.

"'This is when I met him, so you tell me, do you think he can do this,'" Cranston recalls what Gilligan said to AMC/Sony.

"We shot the pilot [for Breaking Bad] in February and March of 2007. So had we got that eighth season of Malcolm in the Middle, I would not have been available to shoot that pilot and someone else would be talking to you," Cranston said to the podcast hosts.

"It is absolutely my belief, I dogmatically believe this, that a career in our business cannot be fully realised without a healthy dose of luck sprinkled throughout," he said.

Cranston won four Emmy awards for his portrayal of Walter White on Breaking Bad. He reprised the role for the Netflix movie El Camino, flying on a private jet in secret to avoid detection.

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