Jonathan Banks Q&A: Mike Actor on 'Breaking Bad' Finale - Rolling Stone
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Mike From ‘Breaking Bad’: Somebody Should Put Walt’s Eye Out

‘People love revenge,’ says actor Jonathan Banks. ‘Maybe it’s in our nature.’

Breaking Bad Jonathan Banks Mike Ehrmantraut

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut on 'Breaking Bad.'

Ben Leuner/AMC

In anticipation of the Breaking Bad series finale on Sunday, September 29th, Rolling Stone will publish an exclusive interview with a new cast member every day, Monday through Friday. Yesterday, Jesse Plemons described Todd as an ambush predator. Tomorrow, RJ Mitte breaks down Walt Jr.’s dramatic confrontation with his father. And on Monday, Anna Gunn will shed some light on Skyler’s bitchiness and the worst hand job of all time.

What Were Walter White’s Lowest Lows on Breaking Bad?

What sort of reactions did you get from people since you joined the show?
People really liked Mike – that’s the reaction. I was walking out of the post office today, and a gentleman said, “Mike was the only decent person on the show.” And I went, “Well, I’m kind of a mass murderer, but if you see it that way, okay.” [Laughs] Mike lost his own soul a long time ago.

Has anyone reacted with fear when they see you?
You know, I have one of those faces that makes people move away from me anyway. They either strike me or move in the other direction. One of the two.

Little children, old ladies.
Construction workers. You know, flower arrangers. Whatever.

Mike has a very reassuring calmness about him.
We all would like not to blink when the gun goes off.

What does it say about human nature that so many people are still rooting for Walt?
What does that say? It was no minor thing that the high school student was laughing at Walt while he was wiping down his tires. It was just one scene, but the setup for that is that we all have been disrespected. We’ve all been the brunt of jokes at times. And people love revenge. I mean, look at Man On Fire. Maybe it’s in our nature.

Vince now feels that he went too far in making Walt a sympathetic character.
I think he’s oh, so wrong. He said it was the story of how Mr. Chips becomes Scarface. You travel this journey where a guy just reeks of evil, and people think, “No, he can’t go any further.” But when Todd shot and killed that child, I know a few people who said, “I’m not watching anymore. It’s too much.” And there are times when I’ve said to Vince, “Mike would’ve done this and this,” because, at a point, he becomes mine. In that episode, I immediately thought, “If Mike knew that happened he would’ve killed Todd.” I think it was a missed beat, I really do.

Why is Mike so disgusted by Walt?
Because at the beginning, he had some sympathy for him. And Mike was proved wrong. If he had known this earlier, he’d have done things differently, and maybe he’d still be alive.

And I think Mike has kind of an old school sense of propriety.
Oh, yeah. Mike would hold the door for a lady and help a kid across the street. He lives in a world of bad guys, but he’s not out to hurt an innocent. That said, you can’t ignore the fact of the business that he’s in. And that is the selling of the soul.

Did Mike underestimate Walt?
Absolutely. What are you doing, walking away from a guy like that, leaving him steaming, seeing that he’s done what he’s done? Why should it surprise you that he shot you through the window?

But why doesn’t Mike see that coming? Why isn’t he more cautious?
I do what the writers tell me to do, you know?

Do you think that was also a missed beat?
I’ll let you answer that.

That sounds like half a yes.
Well, that does sound like half a yes.

In a way, Mike might’ve assured his own death at the end of the third season, when he said, “No half-measures, Walter.” Walt took that to heart.
Yeah. And Mike breaks his own code when he doesn’t kill Lydia. I said to the writers, “The audience is going to be screaming at the screen, ‘It’s a half-measure, Mike!'”

Vince said to me, “I’m not as nice as I come across.” Do you see a bit of Walt in him?
No. When he’s exhausted and everybody’s asking for things and coming at him, because I’m older, I see him as a younger man that’s overburdened. Have I ever seen Vince be rude? Never! And I’ve worked with some rude motherfuckers in my 46 years of acting experience. And I’ll be the first one to bitch. If I’m out there in that desert and Vince Gilligan has me wearing black clothes at 101 degrees, with my bald head in the sun, I’m gonna do some bitchin’!

When you’re stuck in the hot desert, how do you make it more fun?
I had great fun scaring Aaron. When he and I were out in the car in the desert, I’d throw the hammer down on those beat-up old Buick Park Avenues they had, and spin the car around in the sand, this way and that way. [Laughs] I got his attention. Then they T-boned my favorite car. That pissed me off.

Are you rooting for Walt to get away with it?
Hell, no. Hell, no! I want somebody to put the motherfucker’s eye out!

How did you learn that Mike was getting murdered?
We were at Aaron’s engagement party, up in the Hollywood Hills somewhere. I said to Vince, “We have to talk about my contract.” I joined the show in the middle, and they did my contract year by year. The hors d’oeuvres were being served, it was a wonderful evening, and Vince is talking about the hors d’oeuvres. I went, “Listen, motherfucker, we gotta talk about my deal, for Christ’s sakes!” And then he told me. So I knew three or four months before it happened. But I gotta tell you, when I watch this final season, as an audience member, I miss Mike! [Laughs] I say to myself, “Well, if Mike was here. . .” If Mike walked over the hill when they were killing everyone in the underground meth lab, what would have happened?

In This Article: Breaking Bad, Jonathan Banks


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