Breaking Bad is incendiary in the true sense of the word. That term is thrown around a lot but no show on television right now balances the tension and energy like Vince Gilligan’s AMC classic. Yesterday you heard from Betsy Brandt and today you hear from Mrs. Walter White herself, Anna Gunn. Skyler White is one of the real polarizing characters of the show, starting off as sort of a victim of circumstance but as the seasons have moved along she’s gotten right into the thick of the madness and her wildcard nature presents some very intriguing possibilities. I spoke with Anna on the set earlier this year, and our conversation was somewhat brief as she had just gotten back from tending to her daughter after a bit of a skiing mishap.
Nick Nunziata: So, what’s it like being on the very best show on television?
Anna Gunn: It’s really been pretty fantastic. At the ski base yesterday I was wearing my Breaking Bad cap and I had on glasses and a hat and was sitting outside. People came over and they were like “Oh my God when is the show coming back on?”. A couple was there with their little daughter and told me they’d been waiting and waiting for it to come back. It’s got such a loyal fan base and people get hooked in get so hooked in and it’s exciting.
Nick Nunziata: It blows my mind that the show exists and that there are people in Middle America rapt with attention about the story of a meth dealer and his family and the hi-jinks that ensure. It gives me hope for the medium.
Anna Gunn: I’ve been lucky to have Deadwood and this show, I feel like “thank you” to whatever’s going on. Two writers like David Milch and Vince Gilligan, those kind of people don’t around often. I feel really lucky.
Nick Nunziata: I’d guess those guys represent two very different approaches.
Anna Gunn: It is. You’ve probably heard about David. He’s a genius but he works in a very different way than Vince. Vince is very prepared, not that David isn’t but their creative processes are probably different. But their minds are so incredible I wish I could crawl inside. When I think that last season of Breaking Bad was like “what ELSE could happen” and we get script by script and you read this stuff. Every script is like opening a Christmas present.
Nick Nunziata: All I knew of Vince Gillian was his work on The X-Files. But that show had Chris Carter’s fingerprints all over it and I couldn’t tell what Vince’s voice was. When this came around I was engrossed but had this fear “is this going to stick the landing?” because at the outset it felt like a series with a very short story to tell. It’s blown my mind. Are you savoring every moment of this?
Anna Gunn: I am. First of all, I grew up in Santa Fe. My parents are still there so for me it’s like coming home to work. You just don’t get material like this very often. Writing like this. The intelligence of it. When we did the pilot everyone knew what an incredible script it was but the idea of the storyline. Who knows if it would go anywhere but it has.
Nick Nunziata: Watching so much formula in television and film one comes to a cynical ideas of what a show is going to be. To that thinking your character is “the poor wife”.
Anna Gunn: Yeah.
Nick Nunziata: Doesn’t know what’s going on, and she’s not going to get any on her. But oh boy…
Anna Gunn: I know.
Nick Nunziata: But that storyline’s been given a lot of TLC and she’s become such a powerful part of the show. And season four seems to be… yeah.
Anna Gunn: That’s part of what I love about it, because you’re right. When I first read the pilot script and I talked to Vince I asked if she’s going to be that put-upon wife and mother at home wondering what’s going on all the time.
Nick Nunziata: We’ve seen it so many times.
Anna Gunn: Yeah. It’s such a device people use. He promised me in a very brief description of what his idea was for Skyler and what was going to happen to her. It hooked me in immediately. I loved it. There have been times, especially in the first and second season, they had to walk such a fine line because you couldn’t have her find out too soon but you couldn’t keep her in the dark forever. They created her as a very intelligent person who’s paying attention. They took it to the last second where you still could hang with her in terms of her not knowing. Then the fact they turned it in the first episode of season three where she guessed it, and she stumbled on the truth. None of us were expecting that. Bryan and I had no idea that was coming. It was kind of like “Ok, wow… what are we gonna do from here”. Then he takes it even further.
Nick Nunziata: This moment right now is so special. There was a time where television was considered slumming for great actors but now we have an amazing array of talent in the medium. It’s become independent film in many respects. This is where it’s at and you folks are helping lead that charge.
Anna Gunn: I think that’s a good assessment of it. So many fine actors who usually just stay in the film world are coming to TV because of the fact roles are being created. More people with a real vision, like Vince. AMC has obviously hit it out of the part with virtually all their shows. You get people like Matthew Weiner. It’s pretty delicious. We started about four years ago this month, which is pretty astonishing. The material is just so good. We all feel pretty tremendously lucky and happy. It’s all such a good group of people who all enjoy each other.
Nick Nunziata: It is it a fair assumption to say that in season four things aren’t going to get happier and cleaner and friendlier?
Anna Gunn: No. I said last year that it was the chickens coming home to roost for Walt. The decisions he made and the actions he took started to have repercussions. Season three really explored and got deeper in to that. When you think it can’t get any deeper it does. This Pandora’s Box that he’s opened just keeps spilling out.
Nick Nunziata: The folks I’ve spoken to here said that the scripts for episodes 1, 8, and 10 as ones that blew their pants off.
Anna Gunn: Oh yeah.
Breaking Bad hits your television this Sunday. If you aren’t caught up use the CHUD Amazon link and catch the hell up. You will not regret it.