If you’re playing one of television’s most charismatic aggressors, it helps if your personality is at least partially sadistic in nature. And Walter White portrayer Bryan Cranston certainly has a lighthearted villainous streak running through him, as he used to take advantage of co-star Aaron Paul’s gullibility by having him think his time on Breaking Bad was in constant jeopardy. Just call him Haha-senberg.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan recently took part in a Reddit AMA, and in the middle of fielding questions for Better Call Saul and how he’s affected by his shows’ fandom, he was asked who the biggest prankster was on the set of the hit AMC show. Here’s his answer.
Probably Bryan Cranston. He loved to tease Aaron Paul mercilessly. This came about after I told Aaron Paul early in the series that I had planned to kill off his character. From then on, every time a new script came out, Bryan would hurry to read it first so he could put on a sorrowful face and say to Aaron, ‘Gee buddy, I’m so sorry. You’re going out with a bang, at least.’ And Aaron, God bless him, seemed to fall for it every time.
So rude, yet so very amusing. One of the best decisions in TV history was allowing Paul’s character Jesse to live on past the first season, as he and his relationship with Walt were integral to the series’ success, both narratively and emotionally. And one of the best decisions on TV set history was Cranston refusing to let Paul forget that his time in fictional Albuquerque was never to be taken for granted.
I expect that Paul went off and had this reaction every time Cranston pulled that prank, assuming he wasn’t just playing along to make Cranston feel superior.
It’s a legitimate reaction to fear being killed off of a TV series. Hell, Bob “Saul Goodman” Odenkirk revealed that he was always shocked to see that his character lived through each episode, which allowed for the glorious prequel Better Call Saul. Luckily, should Paul ever find his way to that follow-up series, he can at least take comfort in knowing he’ll live through every appearance.
Gilligan also took a moment in the AMA to talk about his least favorite prank, involving people mimicking a famous Breaking Bad scene by throwing pizza on the house used as the White family home. He still wants people to quit that shit. So quit that shit.