Breaking Bad is better than you and I put together. Betsy Brandt plays Marie Schrader, sister to Anna Gunn’s Skyler White and wife of Dean Norris’s Hank. One of the six main characters that fuel Vince Gilligan’s brilliant television series. On the show Marie has been quite a wild card with eccentricities at points and some really emotional moments at others but she’s always been interesting and luckily where most shows would have her character as a cardboard cutout character the writers and the actress have infused her with a freshness and energy consistent with the rest of the show’s charms. I had the chance to spend some time with Betsy before I flew out of Albuquerque and though most of our conversation had little to do with the show I was blown away by how approachable, fun, and magnetic she is. The results of our conversation follows, if you’ll indulge a little banter before we get to the meat. Betsy is wickedly funny and the conversation was filled with laughs. I hope that translates to text.
Betsy Brandt: Have you been here before?
Nick Nunziata: I have not.
Betsy Brandt: It’s really great. I wish you could stay! It’s really great. I’ve been working for the day so I think I might take my niece for lunch. I eat so much more meat here. I didn’t eat meat for twelve years but when we came to New Mexico it was over.
Nick Nunziata: I didn’t really get to sample the local fare.
Betsy Brandt: Artichoke [the restaurant we ate at the night before] is great but it’s not New Mexican food. It’s one of my favorite places here but you really have got to try a green chili cheeseburger.
Nick Nunziata: I’m definitely not going to have one in Atlanta.
Betsy Brandt: No. Are you a skiier?
Nick Nunziata: I’m not, but I could be.
Betsy Brandt: That’s something you could do if you come back here. You should come back here.
Nick Nunziata: That may be my superpower because I definitely haven’t found one yet.
Betsy Brandt: I like your attitude!
Nick Nunziata: It’s worth a shot. Bones mend.
Betsy Brandt: And stronger.
Nick Nunziata: And let’s face it, it’s not like I haven’t taken a tree to the chops before.
Betsy Brandt: There’s some snow there, it’s fluffy. That’ll absorb the shock.
Nick Nunziata: The blood too. This town though. It seems cool.
Betsy Brandt: This town’s great. I’d move out here.
Nick Nunziata: So it’s not one of those places where it’s amazing on vacation but you stay one day too long…
Betsy Brandt: No we really like it but I also know we’ll be leaving.
Nick Nunziata: Los Angeles? I have love/hate relationship with that place.
Betsy Brandt: When I first moved out there I wasn’t sure if it was for me but once I found my niche and community now I really like it. There’s just a lot of everybody out there.
Nick Nunziata: Yeah, luckily there’s some great folks there. Like the Executive Producer of this show.
Betsy Brandt: You know Mark Johnson, right?
Nick Nunziata: Yeah, from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.
Betsy Brandt: I love him. And his wife.
Nick Nunziata: He’s the best. Tom too. The whole gang at Gran Via, really. He gives me hope, showing that you could exist in this system for a long time and still be a human.
Betsy Brandt: We’re really lucky on this show. Have you met Vince Gilligan?
Nick Nunziata: Not yet, no.
Betsy Brandt: Not only is he scary talented, the nicest man in Hollywood. Just reading for him was a pleasure.
Nick Nunziata: It seems this show is a perfect storm of that. The right people, material, time, network. Otherwise there’s no reason this should work. This show shouldn’t exist based on its logline. So risky.
Betsy Brandt: And we were the second show [for AMC]!
Nick Nunziata: It seems like everyone shares a vision. On the same page. Challenging and surprising themselves and each other. I wish there was a way to bottle this up and replicate. I guess that’s why this is such a special show. Could you tell that the first time you read it?
Betsy Brandt: Oh my God it was the best pilot I ever read. I was like “Is someone actually going to make this?” At that point I didn’t know what network it was going to be on. I asked Dean in the waiting room “I think this is funny, do you think this is funny?”. I knew it was not a three camera show and not something with a live audience but it was funny. He said he read it differently because of that conversation. I think I took more liberties too and we were like “I know he’s dying but FUNNY!”.
Nick Nunziata: That’s what keeps it from getting too dark for too long. The doom and gloom would permeate. Your character gets to have some fun too. And you’re involved in one of my favorite arousal scenes of the year.
Betsy Brandt: Favorite arousal scenes! So, do you have a top five?
Nick Nunziata: I have a top fifty, but once I reach forty I have to branch out into children’s programming. I find that arousing, is that crazy…
Betsy Brandt: Um, I have to make a phone call. That was a great scene right? Before it was on I had to tell my parents to go to the kitchen to get a beverage when you see Hank and Marie in the hospital.
Nick Nunziata: What can you say about what to expect from your character in season 4?
Betsy Brandt: The biggest chunk of Marie’s journey this year is that you see some amazing things in her relationship with her husband. I love this character and I love this couple. I think you see some very real things and some wonderful moments. When I say wonderful I don’t necessarily mean happy, but great moments.
Nick Nunziata: As an audience it’s one of those shows where you don’t assume or expect and just get swept away by it. It applies to every character. Usually in shows characters get the short shrift but here everyone seems electric and involved.
Betsy Brandt: That’s so good to hear. My character isn’t integral to Walt’s story, she is but Vince just gave Marie her own life. I don’t think he’d not let any of us not be full circle.
Nick Nunziata: There’s nothing arbitrary on this show.
Betsy Brandt: People will ask me about certain things like Marie’s stealing. I don’t know but I don’t think Vince is the kind of writer that does something and then forgets about it. Everything has a purpose. We may not find out for seasons. You have to pay attention. We tend to have really smart fans because of that, which is nice. It’s nice to know you have that kind of audience because it makes everything better.
Nick Nunziata: Here’s hoping you grab a few new dumb ones this year too.
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.