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In some ways, it feels like Breaking Bad has been off the air for ages, while at the same time seemingly only ending yesterday. But that's just from a fan perspective, and former star Anna Gunn obviously looks back on the AMC hit through a completely different lens. Gunn definitely loved her experiences, along with the cast and crew, but she's never shied away from voicing her opinions about the fan backlash laid against her character Skyler White. While celebrating Breaking Bad's ten-year anniversary, she reflected on having to handle all that.
It shook me. As an actor, my job is not to always play characters who make everybody happy. That's not interesting. In fact, characters that are more difficult in a way are more interesting. But when you are on a show that has become that big and people are identifying you so much with somebody that they dislike, you can't help but feel like you get folded into it. It was very bizarre and confusing to us all. It was a combination of sexism, ideas about gender roles, and then honestly, it was the brilliance of the construct of the show.
When Breaking Bad started, Walt got into the meth-cooking biz as a way of keeping his family safe and secure after he wasn't alive anymore, actions that led to his anti-hero labeling. For Anna Gunn, the confusion came from how fans continued to hold Walt in such high regard in later seasons, despite how he'd become a deadly criminal whose ego drove him far deeper into the criminal underworld than he'd originally intended to go. And yet Skyler would get thrown to the wolves essentially for also trying to keep the family members alive and safe, just because she served as an obstacle in Walt's ascent/descent to Heisenbergian infamy.
When speaking to EW, Anna Gunn noted it was clear to her that fans thought Walt should be able to do whatever he wanted to do in the Breaking Bad narrative, and Skyler standing in his way meant that she fell within the antagonist spectrum for viewers. But that perhaps simple realization didn't immediately occur to the Emmy-winning actress, who thought for a while that it was her performance that was causing the vocal backlash.
There was a lot of questioning: 'Am I doing something wrong? Am I not serving the character? Am I not serving the story?' It was extremely important for me to go through, and very powerful for me to learn that people will always have their opinions --- and it can be for varied reasons, and that's fine.
Obviously, fan culture has become an entirely different behemoth than it was even ten years ago when Breaking Bad first premiered, for better and for worse. But hopefully Anna Gunn doesn't have to deal with nearly as much negativity as she did during Skyler White's heyday, with follow-up roles on shows such as Gracepoint and Shades of Blue distancing her further from those dark days in New Mexico.
Will Anna Gunn's Skyler ever show up for Better Call Saul, in the Fring-filled Season 4 or beyond? She hasn't been one of the characters making the rumored-return rounds, but anything could happen in Vince Gilligan's universe, right? The Bob Odenkirk-starring spinoff returns to AMC on Monday, August 6, at 10:00 p.m. ET. To see what else is coming in the meantime, head to our summer premiere schedule.