Bryan Cranston: Americas' Top Chef

The 'Breaking Bad' actor on the joy of cooking meth, his legacy, and Obamacare

Bryan Cranston Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Where does the darkness in "Breaking Bad" come from? Is it an indictment of America? A reflection?
You can look for deeper meanings, but it could be just an examination of one's man life, and his degradation, the downward spiral that he is on.

Do you think the show's success can be attributed to thefaet that it resonates with a dark time in U.S. history?
The timing of it was imperative. If the show had been pitched even a year be­fore, or two years, I don't think it would have been right. It would be like a wine that was too young, not ready: "I don't want to drink that. Take it back."

You could argue that "Breaking Bad" is about the lack of decent health care.
My personal feeling is that health care should be a right of all human beings, especially in the richest country in the world. But if we did have universal health care five years ago, the show might not have worked. Thank God Obamacare wasn't in play then. Whew!

Walter is beginning to seem more fulfilled as a gang­ster than as a family man.
The thing I don't think he or the audience could have an­ticipated was how this adren­aline pumping in his veins changed him. As a man, Walter White never, in his 50 years, came close to intim­idating an­other human being, and all of a sudden he is doing it on a ' daily basis. That's power, that's being alive. Now there's no being depressed or bored. Fuck, no, he's pumped. We are being honest in showing the effects on his ego, of his avaricious behavior, his hubris, it's just bubbling out of him, and he's owning it.

Your depiction of a man dying of can­cer is extremely powerful. Did you draw on any personal experience for that?
It goes back to my grandfather. The very first death of someone I loved. I lived with him for a year when my par­ents broke up. He died when I was 14 – and it crushed me. And he, ironically, died of lung cancer. He never smoked in his life, but he was a baker, and they surmised that the dust, inhaling the flour dust from all the years, created it. And my sister-in-law has breast cancer, and we're dealing with that now. At my age, I don't think anyone is un­touched by cancer.

How do you rate your own legacy? You were the bumbling father in "Mal­colm in the Middle,"and now you're a meth chef. That's quite the contrast.
When I was on Malcolm, I would have been proud to have the opening state­ment on my obit read, "The father of Malcolm in the Middle passed away today at 110." But Walter is the role of my life. If I'm to be remembered, it will be for this. And if any­thing comes after, it'll be like: Would you like more gravy on your gravy on top of your meat? Oh, my God. It would be ridiculous.