Is that the most pressure you’ve ever felt in your career?
Maybe, but when you’re actually doing it, it’s not like that. You’re just working with cool people and you’re working through it detail-by-detail and problem-by-problem, and just figuring it out. It’s kind of like running a race. While you’re in the middle of it, it’s not like you’re focused on expectations or pressure. You’re just focused on going as fast as you can in the race.
Now leading up to it, and seeing the attention on the series and leading up to the episode airing, I’m getting a little nervous. But when you’re making it, you’re just in the headspace of trying to do it right.
Do you have a favorite character from the show?
Obviously I love all of them. I’ve been really privileged to have done a couple of really intense episodes with Anna Gunn [Skyler White], especially the last one ["Fifty-One"], and I think that the work she’s done as Skyler has just been incredible. I always feel like I learn so much watching her work. Anytime there’s a Skyler-intensive episode, I lean forward in my chair. I love watching what Anna does with that character.
The "Buried" episode was insane, right? With her and Hank at the table in the diner.
Oh my God! Oh my God! It was so intense, especially the end of it. The way that she played that. Yeah, she goes all the way. She really puts herself through the ringer for this show.
Other than the ones you’ve directed, what are some of your favorite episodes or moments from the show?
I think my favorite episode is still the one Michelle McLaren did that was kind of their first bottle episode called "4 Days Out." It’s the one where Jesse and Walt run out of gas in the middle of the desert. There are so many great episodes, but for me that was one of the first ones I saw where I just thought, "This is going to hold the same place in my head that some of my favorite movies do." Michelle just did such incredible work and there’s intense character stuff between Bryan [Cranston] and Aaron [Paul] and it has that Western desert iconography. I just love that episode so much.
Do you have a favorite memory (on or off screen) from working on your three episodes?
I do, actually, have a really specific one but it would be too much of a spoiler to tell you. [Laughs] I got to be there for some pretty special moments on this episode.
On "Fly," though, my favorite memory from that might be that there’s the one act of that episode that is just a long scene between Aaron and Bryan where Jesse has given Walt the sleeping drug and he slowly rambles on. The very last thing we did, after we shot that whole scene, was put the camera way back in the corner just to get a big wide shot of the whole lab in case we needed it, and we had them run through the whole scene. So we cleared the set and for us, sitting there, it was something that no one else will ever get. We got to just literally watch like a stage play with these two actors perform this entire long dialogue. I can still remember being tucked back by the monitor with Moira and just watching that. That was a pretty special experience.
You’ve directed episodes of Terriers and Breaking Bad. Are there any other TV shows that you’d love to get your hands on and get a chance to direct?
Oh my God, yeah, there’s a couple. I think I’ve actually said this before, but I’m friends with David Benioff and Dan [D.B.] Weiss, who do Game of Thrones, and I love that show so much. That show’s incredible. I’d love to do that.
Another that I’ve gotten into recently (and this is a bummer because it’s off the air now) is Enlightened. It’s too late to work on that show, but for my money, that was the best-directed TV show that was on the air. I just think the way that was put together was so beautiful and so subtly done. But yeah, there’s tons of good TV out there so I have a lot to choose from.
What would a Rian Johnson Game of Thrones episode look like?
I hope it would not be . . . I don’t know. I hope if you take off the credits, you wouldn’t notice there was any difference. See, that’s the thing: If you really love the show (like I said with Breaking Bad before) you’re not approaching it like, "How do I make this mine?" You’re approaching it like, "How do I do a great Breaking Bad episode? How do I do a great Game of Thrones episode?" You’re trying to serve the material. You do that by bringing whatever your skills are to make it as effective as possible, so naturally some of your voice is going to get in there. But the goal when you read the script is to bring that feeling up on the screen as well as possible. At least that’s what I always hope to do.
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