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Q&A – Vince Gilligan (Creator)

After chatting with the fans, Breaking Bad‘s creator took a few minutes to talk to about writing in circles, identifying with Walt’s misdeeds and the fairy tale ending he envisions for some of his characters.

Q: Last season you admitted you see a lot of yourself in Walt. Is that still true after the changes he’s gone through in Season 2?

A: One of our biggest struggles is how to keep it so the audience can continue to sympathize with Walt after doing so many wretched things. And the funny thing is, I still do see a lot of myself in Walt. I think there’s a lot about Walt that we can all relate to. I rationalize all kinds of things I do. And that’s one of the most human conditions there is. Nobody thinks of themselves as a bad guy — Walt certainly doesn’t. I believe in the fundamental goodness of human beings, but I think that the universal thing we all have in common is that given the right set of circumstances, for a day or an hour or five minutes we could be bad guys; we could be very bad guys. And I think if folks watching can realize that about themselves, then they can always find a way to sympathize with Walt, or at least understand why he’s making the choices he makes.

Q: Season 2 was the first time you wrote a circular story arc that ended where it began, with the pink teddy bear. What did you learn from the experience?

A: It was really tough, and the writers and I all got major headaches trying to figure out where to begin this season and how to then build in little bits and pieces throughout that would get us to the ending we wanted from day one. Uh, I’m not real eager to try it again. I don’t think Season 3 will take that shape, partly because it was an awful lot of hard work, but also because the best thing this show can do is to continue to surprise viewers when they think they know what’s going to come next. But now that the pain has faded, I couldn’t be more proud of Season 2 — it was the highlight of my career.

Q: Do you and your writers ever feel a need to one-up yourselves? I mean, how can you top a severed head exploding on a turtle?

A: Two exploding heads! Two turtles! We’re always trying to one-up ourselves. And it’s tricky — you reach a point of diminishing returns. The key to it all is to be as truthful as you can to the characters. And if you do that, the act of trying to one-up yourself is earned because you’re telling an emotionally truthful story. Having said that, any story that continues to one-up itself will eventually collapse under its own weight.

Q: Or destroy the universe.

A: Or destroy the universe [Laughs]. Cause a giant black hole that sucks our entire galaxy into its maw. But I hope we have at least a couple more seasons of one-upping ourselves before that happens.

Q: In the meantime, you have to find a way to write Walt out of the corner he’s in with Skyler…

A: We’ve written ourselves into one hell of a big corner now. The writers are in the room debating that as you and I are talking. That’s a tough one. But I’ve been pretty heartened by some of the work we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I think Season 3 is going to start off with a real bang and folks will find it interesting what happens next. Walt… sometimes you’re in a corner you can’t quite get out of, but you find a way to go on nonetheless. I think I’ll leave it at that.

Q: We’ve seen some fundamentally good people do some awful things in this show. Will there ever be any redemption for them?

A: I think there’s gotta be, moreso for some characters than for others — although I don’t want to give away any vague ideas I have about how the whole series should end. But I think certain characters deserve and demand redemption. I love a happy ending as much as anybody — I actually love the old dark nursery rhymes that are now considered too dark for children, like Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They have murder and mayhem and bloodlust, but the best of them carry some sort of moral of redemption and often end with Happily Ever After. I’d like to take a page from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and perhaps have that kind of an ending for some, if not all of our characters.

Check back next week for an interview with Breaking Bad‘s location manager, Scott Clark.

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