Along his dark journey of transformation from harmless high school chemistry teacher into wicked drug kingpin, Walter White uttered some severely memorable lines. Many were laced with menace, some were to establish dominance, others were straight-up chest-thumps, still others were examples of an ego run wild, and one was a stunning admission.
I am not in danger, I am the danger…. I am the one who knocks… Say my name… Stay out of my territory… I’m in the empire business… We’re done when I say we’re done… F— you and your eyebrows… I did it for me…
While those aforementioned quotes — plus plenty of others not mentioned — will likely be found on any number of “The [Insert a Number] Most Badass Walter White Lines” list, which of Walt’s declarations tops the list of the actor who was charged with dropping all of these quote bombs? While interviewing Bryan Cranston for EW’s Breaking Bad 10th anniversary reunion cover story, we asked the star of the acclaimed meth drama to do the near impossible and select his favorite Walt-ism. While many fans might select “I am the one who knocks,” Cranston pointed in a different direction with two words: “Tread lightly.”
The phrase was issued in a standout scene from the first half of the show’s final season as a cold-blooded warning to Hank (Dean Norris) when the DEA agent discovered that his brother-in-law was actually not a harmless teacher but the lethal drug lord that he’d been chasing for nearly two years. “I don’t know who you are… I don’t even know who I’m talking to,” whispered Hank in disbelief. “If that’s true, if you don’t know who I am… then… maybe your best course would be to tread lightly,” responded Walt ominously without losing eye contact.
That quote is the one that Cranston writes the most when he autographs pictures for fans. “First of all, it’s only two words so I go through it quickly,” he quips to EW. “So, there. I confess. There is an expediency to it — and economy. I enjoy brevity.”
Of course, his love of that quote transcends concision. Cranston notes how this warning to Hank sums up Walt’s M.O. “It’s his credo,” he explains. “In many ways, he was very careful. Even though he stepped into landmines, he was very careful almost all the time. When he didn’t follow that motto is when he failed, like shooting Mike [Jonathan Banks]. It was very emotional. And the brazen hubris of telling Jesse, ‘I watched Jane die.’ It was unnecessary cruelty and emotional vomiting from his point. When he didn’t follow that credo is when he found himself in the most troubling condition.”
While Cranston bid final farewell to Walt and his witticisms in 2013, there still exists the possibility that the actor could reprise his Emmy-winning role on AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul, which begins its fourth season on Aug. 6. Cranston told EW that he has a “couple of ideas” that he will pitch to Saul creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould if they approached him. “Even if it’s just a brush-by,” he says. “A quick little something. We’ve come to know people who we’ve seen before but we don’t know that we’ve seen them before, because we were in the store and we just passed by them. Or we might even have a word or two. ‘Oh no, please go ahead.’ ‘Thank you for holding the door.’ And then five years later, you would never remember that. So something as minuscule as that could be very interesting in the fabric of the whole thing.” Gilligan seems to have something bigger in mind for Cranston, which you can read about here.
To find out which Breaking Bad scene ranks as Cranston’s favorite, head over here.
Tread not-so-lightly in this direction to check out the gallery from the big Bad photo shoot.