In Part II of Vince Gilligan’s two-part fan interview, the Breaking Bad creator and executive producer talks about why he likes casting comedians and some of his favorite Breaking Bad tributes. (Click here to read Part I of Vince Gilligan’s interview.)
Q: Why was it important for you to hire comedy actors and stand-up comedians such as Bill Burr or Lavell Crawford? – Random French Guy
A: It wasn’t like we went looking to hire comedians, it’s just that I’ve got a theory that if you can do comedy — first of all you have to be able to act, and there are plenty of stand-up comedians who are not actors — but if you are an actor at heart and you are also a comedian, you can also do drama. People like Bob Odenkirk and Bill and Lavell who happen to be very funny also happen to be very good for the roles that we hired them for. Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas, our casting people, brought us actors I’d never heard of before. I have to confess I was not familiar with Bill Burr or his stand-up until Sharon and Sherry brought him to my attention. He was one of those actors brought to my attention before we even had a part for him. And that’s how good Sharon and Sherry were.
Q: Did you base Skyler’s character on a strong woman in your life? – Indigo Luna
A: I’ve always enjoyed being around women and working with them, and two of my three main producers on the show were women: Michelle MacLaren and Melissa Bernstein. Michelle MacLaren has directed more episodes of Breaking Bad than anybody else. So I just gravitate towards women and in a sense there’s a little piece of these women in Skyler and my mom and my girlfriend Holly — you know strong women who are real smart and want to do the right thing. The part of Skyler that knuckles in and gives in to Walt is more of an invention that I didn’t really base on anybody. That’s one of the tragedies of the series.
Q: Did you write scenes with certain songs in mind, or did that come later on? – BreakingSad
A: Every now and then we’d have an idea for a song in advance while writers and I were all putting our heads together to figure out the story at hand. That didn’t happen that often, but one example of that is when we came up with the teaser set to the song “Windy,” by The Association. We had the teaser with Wendy the loveable meth whore going through an average day at work and servicing a lot of Johns and the whole time this bubbly 60s pop song is playing. For the most part, the music was picked later by Thomas Golubi?, our wonderful music supervisor. And then the other side of the musical equation is the composed music which was all written by Dave Porter. Sometimes, being the greedy person that I am I’d say to them can you both give me something, and then I’ll decide after you both show me what you’ve got. I always felt a little guilty about doing that, but there’s an old expression, “Don’t rob me of any riches,” and that’s a philosophy I had.
Q: On the Internet there’s some nice comic creativity from fans of Breaking Bad. Do you sometimes look at these sites? – jzvbb
A: I don’t go on Facebook and Twitter, because at the end of the day I always found it was healthier to not go trolling around looking for reactions to the stuff we were doing. But people do send me stuff off YouTube all the time — my producers or Kelley Dixon, one of my editors, or my brother or uncle or mom or dad. The one I got yesterday from my uncle Gary back in Virginia was a Clorox advertisement, with a close-up of a guy in tighty whities who’s standing all by himself in the desert. The ad copy says something like “Here’s to the guys who still wear tighty whitie underpants, either under their aprons…” It’s so clearly all about Breaking Bad, and something like that I just love. And of course there’s a wonderful video of a fictional lego Breaking Bad game that I just thought was fantastic. There’s just a lot of really brilliant editors out there who put our footage together in new and interesting ways.
VIDEO: Farewell to Breaking Bad
Q: Have there been any characters you killed off in the past that you later regretted or lost sleep over? – Pgold1593
A: Oh sure, starting with Gustavo Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut. However there’s a fine distinction: the fact that I regret killing them off doesn’t mean that I think that it was a mistake to kill them off. We really missed Mike as a character and Gustavo as a character, and we really loved the actors who played them. It was a sad day for the crew when both those deaths occurred….[But] it was the right thing for the show. So the strict answer is no I don’t think we’ve made any mistakes in killing off any particular characters but it was always sad to see these wonderful actors leave.
Q: What do you think about the number of discussions and articles and philosophical speculations Breaking Bad has inspired? – malkovich
A: Well the show was created primarily to entertain, but having said that, I think the best entertainment makes you think as well as feel….I can’t believe the reception this show has gotten. In the early days, I didn’t think the show would ever see the light of day and when we shot the Pilot and it was received well by Sony and AMC I was very heartened by that, but I still didn’t have high hopes. At every turn it was like we were living on borrowed time, much like Walter White was. But lo and behold the years and the seasons kept clicking by. This season in particular and this season is probably going to go down as my personal and professional best because the show really truly exploded this year with the love from the viewers that we received. I don’t even know how to process it all, it feels to big for me to even get my mind around. I feel so grateful to the fans who have made it a hit and kept it on the air, and I feel lucky to have been a part of it.