'Breaking Bad' Writer Thomas Schnauz on Rooting for Dirtbags

'As a writer, poisoning a child felt fantastic because Walt was finally a better chess player than Gus'

bryan cranston walter white breaking bad
Ursula Coyote/AMC
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in 'Breaking Bad' Season 5, Episode 15.
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In anticipation of the Breaking Bad series finale on Sunday, September 29th, Rolling Stone has been publishing an exclusive interview with a new cast or crew member every day. Yesterday, writer and supervising producer Peter Gould shared some harrowing tales from the writers' room. Today, we talk to writer, producer and director Thomas Schnauz.

Do you root for Walt, or against him?
Coming up with despicable things for Walt to do was really satisfying. In season three, when Walt and Jesse were stuck in the RV, and Walt had the idea to call Hank and say Marie had been injured, it felt good because it was brilliant and it worked. As a writer, poisoning a child felt fantastic, because Walt was finally a better chess player than Gus. I don’t know what that says about me.

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It's like your favorite sports team. The Patriots cheat and videotape the opposing team practices, but their fans justify it. Or the Eagles hire a dirt-bag dog abuser, but fans still buy his jerseys. If Walt was actually in your life, you'd run for the hills. But if you're hooked into the show, you want him to be a winner. He can do no wrong. 

Have you told anyone how the show ends?
I told my wife, who cried at a few of the plot turns near the end.

Do you believe in karma?
I don't believe in it at all, except as a storytelling device. It's like aliens or dragons or whatever. 

To what degree is Vince Gilligan like Walter White?
He looks great in tighty-whities and a pork pie hat.

I've known Vince longer than anyone else on the show, longer than his girlfriend. He always tries to do the right thing, even when it's ridiculous. Back in 1987 or '88, we went to go get tickets for David Letterman. We had to show up at Rockefeller Center at 5:30 a.m. I got there 10 minutes after he did, and there were two guys behind him in the line. Vince didn’t think it was fair that I was jumping the line. So I stood behind the other two guys. That asshole got into the show, and I didn’t. Would he do the same thing today? I think now he'd let me cut in line, but he'd feel really guilty about it.