Why Audiences Still Root for Walter White

Director Michelle MacLaren weighs in on the 'Breaking Bad' final season

Bryan Cranston as Walter White on 'Breaking Bad.'
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Bryan Cranston as Walter White on 'Breaking Bad.'
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In anticipation of the Breaking Bad series finale on Sunday, September 29th, Rolling Stone will publish an exclusive interview with a new cast or crew member every day, Monday through Friday. Yesterday, Laura Fraser discussed the mysterious meth dealer Lydia Rodarte-Quayle. Today, Emmy-nominated director Michelle MacLaren explains why audiences are still rooting for Walter White.

Do you root for Walt or against him?
I root for Walt, and it amazes all of us that the audience cares so much for this character who’s done horrible, diabolical things.

Have you had Breaking Bad dreams?
I dreamt about the show all the time. I’d wake up in the middle of the night because I had dreamt about how I was going to shoot a scene I read before I went to bed, and I had to keep a pen and paper beside my bed. That’s what kept me up at night, the challenge of wanting to deliver a great show.

Have you told anyone how the show ends? Your dad, your best friend, the guy who runs the car wash?
Absolutely not. In fact, if anybody ever asks me about it, I go completely blank in the face, so that I show zero emotion, zero response, and don’t give away anything.

Why are so many people rooting for such an evil prick?
That is a great question, and one I’m not sure any of us can answer. I think Vince Gilligan and the writers were brilliant to make Walt so sympathetic in the first season, and then it was fascinating to watch Walt’s ego take control and drive him into a darker and darker place. It’s amazing that audiences still root for him. But it’s the writing.

How much Walter White have you seen in Vince Gilligan?
[Laughs.] Every character a writer creates has some of themselves in it, somewhere. As Vince says, there’s Walter White in him. Or he’s in Walter White. But the truth is, Vince is generous, and kind, and giving. I’ve known him for a very long time, and he has an incredible ability to combine a somewhat sick and twisted sense of humor, and the darkness of human beings, into great entertainment. But does he ever bring that darkness to people around him? No, not at all. Vince is hardest on Vince. That’s his dark side. 

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