The Episode 7 director discusses the difference between real romance and fantasy, and describes the Mexican drug war from an insider’s perspective in this exclusive interview.
Q: You have a background shooting commercials. Was that helpful in directing the short narcocorridos video?
A: It was. A lot of commercials I did in the ’80s focused on concerts, so I’m real familiar with the style. But the difference between this one and the ones you do normally was we wanted to copy the funky videos that are made today in that genre, which was kind of fun. I came up with the concepts of the mirrors and the floating people out in the middle of nowhere with these neat little platforms for them to stand on so it looked like they were floating on the grass. We wanted to all these different characters to make it look like an old Fellini movie.
Q: You’ve also directed several episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Do you see any similarities between BSG and Breaking Bad?
A: Both shows allow me to do a lot of edgy movement. My shooting style is imperfect — it’s got a lot of mistakes in it. You pan and it’s not quite focused or you miss stuff. I’ve always thought that’s more like the real world. They’re both kind of weird shows in that they’re not just right — Ron Howard will give you just right. I’d rather have a thought, a moment, a feeling for the audience that they have to earn. Other shows can sometimes be obsessed with traditional storytelling. They want the pretty white guy and the pretty white girl to fall in love. And then their real problems are like, “You told her what about me?”
Q: Well, to be fair, you did have a storyline in Breaking Bad about a white boy and a white girl falling in love…
A: Yeah. The scene was actually written for Jesse and Jane to kiss, and we had a lot of talks about it. In your first date, the most frightening thing in the world is, how do I touch the girl? Kissing is the easy part. But at first it’s how do you touch her, how do you deal with that fear of rejection? Jesse’s been bad his whole life, and now he’s sort of being reborn and making real decisions. Yeah he’s been laid, but he’s never really been touched. He’s never really looked into a girl’s eyes and said, “I just want to touch you.” That’s real. That makes your skin crawl. It’s not slamming her on the tabletop and f–ing her brains out. That’s just white male fantasy.
Q: You grew up in West Texas. Does that give you a unique perspective on the drug war that’s going on in El Paso?
A: Yeah, it gives you a street sense. You know how people think. It has a vibrancy to it. In my personal life I’ve been going through this thing with my son in the drug world. He got kind of lost — he’s doing really good now, but for two years I was in places and doing things that these stories are written about. I was walking streets at one in the morning that most people won’t ever go to. So you learn to deal with stuff you never thought you’d have to. I’ve been around drugs my whole life because of the whole Latino community. All over the southwest in the public school system, half the kids don’t graduate. And you go, what’s wrong with this picture? The fact that I’m a Mexican from West Texas that turned out to be a director is a miracle. It shouldn’t have happened. But I’m kind of hard-headed.Read More