After witnessing Bryan Cranston in his handsome parade of suits and tuxedos during awards season, it’s refreshing to see the 57-year-old cheerily walk through the stage door at New York’s Roundabout Theater in jeans and a plaid shirt. “I don’t really like to dress up,” he admits, perhaps unnecessarily for an actor widely known for dressing down (remember Walter White’s infamous tighty-whities?) But Cranston is taking full advantage of the fact that while White is dead, his career is the exact opposite. A slew of his anticipated movies are hitting theaters this year, including Get A Job, Godzilla and the recently released Cold Comes The Night, where he plays a Polish-born killer with “Heisenberg” tendencies. Now, barely a week removed from back-to-back SAG and Golden Globe honors, Cranston has arrived on Broadway. Following a successful run in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cranston will portray President Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way, which traces the Texan’s term in office following the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy.
You must have been offered plays before. How did you decide on this one?
I was searching for something that would resonate with people. It had to be entertaining, of course, but it also had to have some meaning beyond the words. I found a lot of layers in this show.
With Breaking Bad gone, what sort of roles are you looking for?
Interesting and challenging ones. The most important thing for me, which was the case with Breaking Bad, is the story and the writing. In this case, the story of LBJ is so epic. It’s enormous and wonderful and all encompassing and there is no way that you can “sort of” do it – you have to really dive into this situation that he was in. You need to wallow in his highs and his lows. A lot of things surprised me about his nature. He was a man who was accomplished and determined and politically savvy. At the same time there was a humorous side to him, and a fragility to his character that is also very interesting.
Tell us about your research.
I read a lot about him and visited the LBJ Presidential Library in Texas a few times. There was a letter that Jackie Kennedy had written to him for taking the time to send condolences to her family after their loss. Things like that show a lot of character. I also talked to people who had known him well. I got a lot of insight. But I didn’t rely on that entirely.
How does doing a play compare to your experiences on the Breaking Breaking set?
There’s more immediate reward on this stage then there was on the Breaking Bad set. You’re in the moment. You can say something and then hear an audience gasp or just hear them feel a sentence. Or laugh. It’s very powerful. With television and film, it’s different. It’s fun too but you have to wait a long time for that indulgence.
I’ve heard you still text with Aaron Paul.
We’re very close. He’s my pal for life. He’s just like a son to me. Not just that but he’s a really fantastic actor, and I have to say that he’s an even better person.
So is he coming to see your show?
He better! If he doesn’t, well. . . that, that my friend, would be a tweet of another kind!
What news can you share about Better Call Saul?
I’ve heard this and that, but not much. But it’s going to be a lot of fun. There is more to say on the Breaking Bad story so I think it’s a great idea.
And is it true that you might make an appearance?
I have no idea. Possibly? I’d be open to it for sure! It’d be fun to go back into the New Mexico desert and play with all my old friends.