Midway through an interview with Zap2it on the “Breaking Bad” set in Albuquerque, Bryan Cranston offers to punch me in the face.
It’s not the result of an impertinent question, but rather a way to explain how his character, chemistry teacher-turned-meth manufacturer Walter White, and others on “Breaking Bad” slide into doing bad things. It’s an analogy he’s used before, and it comes up here in response to a question about his reaction to Skyler (Anna Gunn) spinning an elaborate lie about Walt’s financial windfall in the Season 3 episode “Kafkaesque.” (Go here to get Gunn’s take on that scene.)
“What I’ve realized in doing this is even the meekest person among us is dangerous given the right set of circumstances,” Cranston says. “It’s possible anyone could do anything if pushed to the limit. If I said to you — and truly, everybody has a dollar amount on anything — if I said to you, ‘Let me punch you in the face,’ you’d say no. ‘Let me give you $100.’ ‘Get out of here — what are you talking about?’ ‘Let me give you a thousand.’ ‘No!’ ‘Let me give you ten thousand dollars.’ You’d say ‘What?’ …
“‘Let me give you fifty thousand dollars if you’ll allow me to slug you in the face.’ Now you’re thinking. What was a minute ago, ‘Get out of here,’ is now like — ‘Where would you hit me?’ So you realize that something you initially would have thought there’s no way — now there’s a way. If everyone is tempted with this amount of money, what changes in our moral levels would we allow to happen?”
Walt has already gone pretty far down that road, and as he puts it in the video above, this season is about him “[being] this new person he’s become.”
“It’s no longer a facade of strength, but he’s really pushing through and becoming this other man, and how he lives with this new understanding of who he is, not wanting to hide and be anonymous anymore,” Cranston says. “He wants credit for it; he wants to be known for what he’s doing. He wants to be the guy. So this fourth season is a real turn, and we’re seeing Walter White become this new man.”
How that change affects Walt’s relationship with Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Cranston’s take on the opening of Season 4 are also in the video. “Breaking Bad” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Sunday (July 17) on AMC.