'Breaking Bad' at Comic-Con: Bryan Cranston & co. talk favorite, challenging moments

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Image Credit: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

The H in Hall H stood for Heisenberg on Sunday, as the Breaking Bad cast (Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk and RJ Mitte, minus Betsy Brandt) and creator Vince Gilligan took the stage at Comic-Con to reflect on the show’s celebrated five-season run and screen some new footage. Here are your highlights:

• Cranston kept the mood light by coming out in a fairly convincing mask that gave him Walter White’s iconic shaved-head look. He revealed that he had worn it while walking the floor at Comic-Con, chatting with unassuming fans and disguising his voice in a higher register. Cranston continued the gag by placing the mask on the table and speaking directly into it while answering questions, getting Paul to join in too. Paul noted that his co-star was “the most professional person I’ve ever worked with but also the immature man I’ve ever experienced, as you can tell. Which is a beautiful combination.”

• Asked whether our chemistry teacher-turned-meth lord protagonist had the evil inside him all along, Cranston noted: “Under the right circumstances – need, greed, whatever the case may be, depression — you push those buttons at the right time and anyone can become dangerous. And that’s what happened to Walter White: Those buttons were all pushed at one time, and he was in a dire situation. So he did go from Mr. Chips to Scarface… A lot of different people have their opinions on when that turn was, but to me, really it was that first episode when he decided to try to become someone he wasn’t. And that was it. He was on a slippery slope and sold his soul.”

• A modesty medal goes to Odenkirk: “I’m just a big fan of Breaking Bad who got a good seat,” he quipped about the panel. He also stressed that given his comedy background that fans assume that he does a lot of improv on the show, but he does not. At all. “Everything I say is scripted.”

• Discussing their favorite iconic moments from the show’s five season, Cranston tipped his hat ro his famous and frightening “I am the one who knocks!” speech. But he anointed the season 2 overdose death of Jane (Krysten Ritter] as the most impactful scene, one in which Walt had a “turn.” Later in the panel, Cranston brought up that scene again, recounting how the original version of the script had Walt pushing her back on the bed when she was choking on her vomit, but Sony and AMC felt that it was too soon in the show’s run for Walt to turn that dark. Gilligan reworked the scene on the day of shooting so Walt wouldn’t see Jane fall back onto her back because he was trying to wake up Jesse, “and the jostling would make her fall back naturally,” says Cranston. “The culpable moment for Walt is when he recognizes that this girl could die, and what does he do then?… I think it turned out beautifully.” Paul referenced “Tastes like a scab” and “Yeah, bitch? Magnets!” before discussing a scene in Season 2’s “Four Days Out,” in which Walt is trying to teach Jesse a lesson about building a battery to charge the RV. The scene was the last one shot at the end of a 16-hour day and a long week. After they finished shooting, a focus puller mentioned in passing Jesse should have asked Walt if they were building a robot. The actors pretended that there was a problem with a camera so they could film one more take, and the line was added.

• A nerdy-good fan question: How exactly did Walt administer the highly poisonous Lily of the Valley to Brock (which was never seen in the show)? Gilligan said the writers did hash that out, and decided that “he had just enough time to do it, but it would have been very tricky indeed.” The writers imagined that Walt had crushed some of the flower and put it in a juice box. Given that he was a teacher, he’d know his way around a school, so perhaps he swapped it with Brock’s juice at his nursery school.

• When a fan asked the cast if there was an evolution of their character that they had a hard time accepting, Norris referenced Hank’s long recovery after being brutally shot by the cousins: “Not being able to walk was a kind of a tough one,” he said.” “I had to wear some kind of diaper that they put me in. Wasn’t pleasant.” Asked by Hardwick if he personally is surprised that Walt Jr. hasn’t been picking up on what’s happening with his family, Mitte answered: “Every once in awhile, I’m like, ‘Yeahhhh, I would have saw that coming.” And when Gunn was pressed about Skyler’s smoking while pregnant, she recounted the story of shooting an episode with the fake belly. Gunn started smoking by the strip mall where they were filming, and “there were some horrified people looking outside…. They didn’t take that very well.” Paul, meanwhile, picked the scene in which Jesse shoots Gale. That act turned him into a “really bad person,” Paul said. “He killed probably the nicest guy on the show.”

• Asked if there was a moment where perhaps the writers had gone too far, Gilligan referenced the fourth episode of season 1, in which Walt is offered help to pay for his cancer treatment and a job, only to turn it down and return to cooking meth. “That was I think the moment I’m most proud of in the writers’ room, even though at the time it was not nearly as dramatic as many of the things that happened since,” he said. “But it was the moment that all of us in the writers room argued a lot and hashed it out amongst ourselves and said, ‘Wait a minute. What the hell kind of character is this, who would turn this down? Because he’s a good guy who’s doing a bad thing for good reasons.’ But then we realized at that moment, this is a man who’s very prideful to a fault. And once we got over our fear of doing it, we really realized we had something with this character.”

• Gilligan on the series finale: “I am satisfied by the ending. I hope you will be, too. My writers and I, and everyone in front of the lens and behind it I think is feeling pretty good about it.”

• No new information about the final eight episodes was given. Before the session ended, though, fans were treated to the opening minutes of the Aug. 11 premiere. The room highly approved. We’ll issue a SPOILER ALERT and then say only this: It’s intriguing, it’s disorienting, it’s unsettling, it’s a flashforward, it’s got a great punchline, and it involves a skatepark in the unlikeliest of places.

• In other Breaking Bad news, Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick, who moderated the panel, announced that he also would be hosting Talking Bad, Breaking Bad’s new weekly live aftershow on AMC.

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