Breaking Bad stars pick their favorite scenes for their characters
Five seasons. 62 episodes. Hundreds of scenes that dropped your jaw, raised your guard, tickled your darkest funny bone, or reduced you to tears as you watched a chemistry teacher morph into the baddest meth kingpin in the Southwest. Which moment of Breaking Bad sticks out as the favorite for each cast member? EW posed that question to Bryan Cranston & Co., and the answers were choice, taxing, and out of the box (cutter).
Dean Norris (Hank Schrader)
While many fans might point to Hank’s macho sign-off to neo-Nazi Jack (Michael Bowen) right before Hank was shot to death — “My name is ASAC Schrader, and you can go fuck yourself” — Norris instead chooses Hank’s most vulnerable moment in the series. In season 3, Hank confesses to Marie (Betsy Brandt) that he’s been unraveling since shooting Tuco (Raymond Cruz), he shouldn’t have attacked Jesse (Aaron Paul), and that he’s been having panic attacks.
"One Minute" (Season 3)
“It was the ‘One Minute,’ episode, but it wasn’t the shootout, which was a great scene,” says Norris. “My favorite scene was sitting on that bed with my wife and just letting it all hang out. All the stuff that he thought he was, his whole life had become unhinged and unglued. My favorite line from [writer] Tom Schnauz — he wrote that great conversational speech — was, ‘I’m just not the man I thought I was.’ Even today, I get a little chilled just thinking about that. Because [for] any man to have to say that “I’m just not the man I thought I was”— it’s, like, f—. It’s so heart breaking. That scene will always have a special place in my heart, sitting on the bed and just pouring out all this s— to his wife. And the way she looked at Hank, you could tell that she really loved him.”
Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut)
While Banks loves Mike’s “No more half measures” speech to Walt in season 3 about loose-cannon Jesse, he chooses a much smaller moment in season 5, when Mike’s relationship with Jesse had turned around. In “Say My Name,” Mike and Jesse share an understated goodbye: Jesse tells Mike that like him, he is getting out of this meth business, and Mike responds, “Kid, just look out for yourself.”
"Say My Name" (Season 5)
“It was so emotional, and it’s just a small scene,” says Banks. “I tell Jesse to be careful and I leave. I’ve always said I don’t think he could save Jesse. But he thought there was a chance that maybe he could get out of the life. Not unlike Mike, I can’t describe the level of empathy or protection maybe that he felt toward Jesse as he’s walking away.”
Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman)
“When the going gets tough, you don’t want a criminal lawyer,” Jesse tells Walt. “You want a CRIMINAL lawyer.” Enter Saul Goodman — and Odenkirk’s favorite scene: Pretending to be Badger’s uncle, Walt meets with Saul, who reveals that he’s actually Irish and only uses the name Saul Goodman because “the homeboys” want to be represented by “a pipe-hitting member of the Tribe.”
"Better Call Saul" (Season 3)
“It was so goddamn well-written,” says Odenkirk. “I loved that first scene where he introduces himself,” he says. “It was so different in tone from anything I had done… My God, there’s a lot to do in there. I couldn’t believe how much Saul there was. I’m aghast, alarmed, at my own confidence in playing the character. I mean, I didn’t know what the f— I was doing. I was just taking a run at it, and more than half expecting to be told, ‘You can go home now. We’re going to get a real actor.’ I was amazed at how completely I embraced the character and dug in. The monologue is really fun, where he’s telling Walter White that he’s a fraud and that it’s a front. And he’s just enjoying himself. That was really fun to play — and I fully understood how much fun it was at the time.”
Betsy Brandt (Marie Schrader)
Brandt points to a tone-setting moment from season 1, the intervention scene with the terminally ill Walt. The family gathers in the living room and uses a “talking pillow” to try to persaude Walt to seek treatment for his lung cancer. Marie surprises everyone by telling Walt, “I think you should do whatever you want to do,” much to the dismay of her sister, Skyler (Anna Gunn). Brandt calls the scene a “watershed moment” for herself.
"Gray Matter" (Season 1)
“I saw the future of the show in the way that scene was written,” says Brandt. “It just crystallized every character. I think it just solidified who Marie was to me. She’s not easy, but she’s not bad. She believes what’s right, and she thought, ‘That’s what was right for Walt. It’s not our decision to make, and even if my sister’s going to be pissed at me, and everyone’s going to disagree and think I’m crazy, I’m going to side with this guy.’… Sometimes you have those moments when you’re doing TV or movies, and when you do a scene and you’re like, “Oh, man, everything just happened” — every mark you wanted to hit, every beat you wanted to get. It really was just magic. I felt like it was magical.”
Giancarlo Esposito (Gustavo Fring)
Using no words for what seemed like an eternity, an extremely unhappy Gus changes into an orange protective suit and listens to a desperate Walt explain that he had no choice but to have Jesse kill Gale (David Costabile). Instead of stabbing Walt or Jesse with a box cutter, though, Gus turns around and slits the throat of henchman Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui), who had boasted that he could complete the cooks by himself. “Well, get back to work,” Gus then instructs the horrified Walt and Jesse. The scene stands as one of Breaking Bad‘s most tense, dread-filled, shocking moments.
"Box Cutter" (Season 4)
“Much of acting is to be able to say without words, and in ‘Box Cutter’ I certainly had that opportunity,” says Esposito. “It’s almost 10 minutes without saying anything. I always equate that to Harold Pinter — who I love — and how Pinter wrote in ‘Pinter pauses’ — very, very long pauses where no one said anything and characters are just looking at each other on stage or doing something physically with nothing said. In that silence of vocality, there is so much being said.”
Anna Gunn (Skyler White)
Gunn is torn between a season 4 episode in which she pretends to be a ditzy blonde to fool the IRS into thinking that she’s too incompetent to cook Ted’s books and the season 5 installment in which Skyler takes a disturbing dip in the pool before telling a confrontational Walt, “All I can do is wait…for the cancer to come back.” She calls those scenes “two sides of the coin” and notes that “the riches that I was given as an actor was to play the gamut between those two scenes.”
"Bug" (Season 4)
“It was such a blast to do that scene,” Gunn says of her role-playing with the IRS. “She looked like she wasn’t going to play ball and then she says, ‘Well, I guess I got to do this.’ So, she fully plays the part. It was a lot of fun to do that. Again, it shows the lengths that she’ll go to and, I think, even the surprise to her of, ‘Huh, if I play this game, I can actually be pretty good at it.’” (One of her favorite lines as Skyler comes after she mentions her use of Quicken.) “You used Quicken to manage books for a business this size,” states the IRS agent incredulously, to which she responds, “I did. Do you guys use that here? Because it is the best.”)
"Fifty-One" (Season 5)
As for the flip side of that coin — the much more dramatic moment with Walt — Gunn explains: “It’s such a brilliantly written scene. I look at that scene all the time because it’s like chess. ‘If you play that, then I’m going to play this.’ Then she realizes really quickly, just in that scene, ‘Any move I make, he’s always going to be right on it.’ All she has [left] to say is, ‘I’ve done everything I can to get those kids to safety and now all I can do is wait.’ It’s an awful, awful thing for her to say and it surprises her, I think, in the moment. But it’s the only out that she can see.“
The six-minute scene took more than a day to shoot, she recalls. “Initially, it was going to be static,” she says. “I was going to be on the bed and he was going to be standing over me for most of the scene. Then we started to play around with it with [director] Rian Johnson and to realize that it was like she was an animal being pursued around that room. Again, it was a metaphor for that feeling of being trapped. It was an amazing scene to play.”
RJ Mitte (Walt White)
Mitte harkens back all the way to the show’s very first episode, specifically the scene in which Walt Jr. goes shopping for jeans with his parents, only to wind up mocked by his classmates. (And then Walt gets a leg up on the biggest bully…)
"Pilot" (Season 1)
“I think it was definitely a growing moment when the parallel universe of my life and Walt Jr.’s life kind of melded, and then just solidified everything for me,” says Mitte. “I remember we had a great time, and it was a good day… That whole little second half of that scene was all improv. It was two sentences, but there’s very few moments on the show where we had that, and that was one of the moments.”
Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman)
Paul chooses one of the lightest and funniest moments of the show — that highly awkward meal between Walt, Skyler, and Jesse when Skyler passive-aggressively invites Jesse to stay for dinner at their home. Jesse tries to fill the uncomfortable silence by praising her green beans, which, as she informs him, were from the deli at Albertson’s. “Oh! Oh, well, uh, good work on your shopping then, because these are choice.”
"Buyout" (Season 5)
“I think that really stands out — just Jesse holding onto his glass of water as if it’s his security blanket,” says Paul. “He’s kind of hiding behind his glass of water watching this marriage sort of just fall apart in front of his eyes. When Skyler says, ‘Did he also tell you about my affair?’— I’ve seen that scene so many times and I laugh each time, just at the absurdity of it all.”
Bryan Cranston (Walter White)
Cranston has a special place in his heart, of course, for the haunting moment in which Walt watches Jane die in season 2. But he hesitates to call it his “favorite,” as it was so painful to film. Instead, he gravitates toward a season 5 scene in which “you have some sense of character victory and tragedy connected to both.” Indeed, an exhilarating train heist ended with Todd (Jesse Plemons) impulsively shooting a little boy who witnessed their ill-gotten methylamine riches — though he probably didn’t understand exactly what he was watching.
"Dead Freight" (Season 5)
“All these things had to go right — and everything went right! It was fantastic!” says Cranston. “I remember the characters celebrating euphorically in pulling off the train heist of the century. And a moment later, an innocent life is snuffed out when that kid on the motorcycle just shows up. He’s just there. And as Jesse and Walt are trying to figure out, ‘Oh s—, what do we do?’ Jesse Plemons’ character just raises a gun and shoots him. And it was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was such a beautifully constructed narrative: Okay, you want to experience the highs with Walter White? You want to be on that train ride with Jesse Pinkman? Here’s that rejoicing for you, the audience. And now here’s the repercussions from the business that they’re in. Here’s what happens when you forget that there’s morality connected and consequences to every action. It was just so amazing.”