Breaking Bad was the ultimate fairy tale story in many ways. (Except, of course, in what unraveled onscreen; there’s nothing particularly feel-good about a gravely ill high school chemistry teacher becoming a murderous meth king pin and losing his family.) Airing from 2008 to 2013 —— its finale aired five years ago this week — AMC’s neo-western drug drama transformed from low-rated admired cult show to bonafide pop hit, mesmerizing millions of fans, topping critics’ best-show-of-the-year lists, and claiming 16 Emmys, including back-to-back Outstanding Drama Series trophies, four statues for Bryan Cranston in the role of Walter White, three for Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, and two for Anna Gunn as Skyler White. In short, just about everything went according to plan, even if that plan was often found along the way.
Which makes one wonder: Were there any actors that creator Vince Gilligan now wishes he could have cast in guest roles but for whatever reason those never materialized? “I couldn’t be happier with the casting on the show,” Gilligan tells EW. “I’m really happy with the characters we had. We would have had to create an extra character that I never really had any plan for.” In addition, he tried to shy away from stunt casting. “We didn’t ever really want very recognizable actors on the show — star-type actors — because we felt it might alter the reality of the show,” he explains. “The world of Albuquerque seemed pretty real, because we didn’t have movie-star types on the show, making cameos.”
“When we were about halfway through the show, I wish I had known just how much Sam Jackson loved Breaking Bad,” says Gilligan, who went on to co-create Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul. “I find this out after it ended. When I met him, Sam Jackson said, ‘I just wanted to come in and order chicken from Gus Fring! I would have done that!’ I said, ‘Holy s—! I wish I had known that!’” Jackson, as you may remember, even showed off his Bad skills in a 2013 video in which he re-enacted Walt’s menacing “I am the one who knocks” speech.
As it turns out, Jackson wasn’t the only actor for whom Gilligan would have broken that no-famous-guest-stars rule. “I might have made an exception for Robin Williams — that would have been friggin’ awesome,” says Gilligan. “Or Clint Eastwood. I have no knowledge of whether Clint Eastwood has ever even seen Breaking Bad, but god knows I would have moved heaven and earth to put him in there. Sam Jackson and Clint Eastwood — that would have been awesome. I love those guys.”
What kind of roles would Gilligan, a lover of Westerns, have wanted these Oscar winners to play on the series? “I would have been happy for them to do anything at all,” he says. “I would have just said to them, ‘What do you guys want to do?,’ and we would have figured it out from there. But you know what? It’s good you don’t get all of your wishes fulfilled, it really is. Because I would have done something like that, and it would have changed the reality of the show. So it’s actually better the way it worked out. Honestly, I have no complaints whatsoever the way the whole show turned out…. It’s a great feeling — I don’t think I’ll ever have it again.”
The Breaking Bad cast reunited with Gilligan for an EW cover story earlier this year to celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary, and you can see all of the reunion pictures right here.