Breaking Bad has one of the most eclectic and strongest supporting casts on television. Bryan Cranston may carry the show – but without equally strong performers to bounce off, it’s impossible to think the show would be nearly as successful. It almost seems unfair to categorize Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman) as a supporting player. His transformation from complete idiot drug addict to the closest thing this show has for a ‘good guy’ has been revelatory. He’s every bit as integral to the show as Walter White. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks are equally as formidable as the too-slick cheapo lawyer Saul Goodman and the morally conflicted hitman/enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut. The former providing much needed levity to the uber-nihilism of the show, whilst the latter providing the pathos of a man far beyond broken.
At Comic Con, the entire cast was on hand for a roundtable discussion of the new season, past season and upcoming final season. In today’s edition, cast members Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks and Aaron Paul argue about Walt’s character & motivations and preview the dark path ahead for their respective characters. For the full interview, hit the jump.
Season Five really seems to expand the threat…
BOB ODENKIRK: Yeah, the stakes escalate. Somebody asked me what happens this year and I [joked] ‘Walt quits and goes back to teaching high school.’ The stakes have to go up and they do by bringing in an international market. There have been moments in the show where you think Walt could quit and go back and do whatever – but he doesn’t. So it’s all a question of who Walt is inside and what choice he’s going to make.
AARON PAUL: And then you realize there’s something else that’s driving him on this dark path. It’s not just money. It started out him just trying to provide for his family but…
ODENKIRK: My friend Jeff Garlin from [Curb Your Enthusiasm] just watched all the episodes in the last two months and he, like anybody after they finally see the show, [said] ‘It’s so good. It’s so fucking great. People said it was good but I had no idea.’ And then he goes ‘No one says it. No one says it – it’s about middle aged guy. It’s about middle age.’ I said this to Vince and he was like ‘Yeah’. So what drives Walter White when he could get out? I think about the car – when he’s supposed to return the car and he just goes fucking crazy for no reason. I mean there is a reason – he’s angry. He’s got this rage inside of him.
JONATHAN BANKS: And why do you think he has that rage inside of him?
BANKS: He’s a normal guy who just happens to deal in crystal meth and kill people. But he’s a normal guy.
ODENKIRK: He’s got a little more rage than a ‘normal person’.
It feels like there’s this quicksand and Walter’s at the middle and he’s pulling everyone with him. It seems like your characters could have left but this season we come to find out that there is no getting out of that sand…
BANKS: Do you feel that way about all three of these characters?
BANKS: Look… I can’t jump ahead too much. But it’s really important for Mike going back to the third season where Mike said ‘No more half measures.’ If you’re going to kill somebody, you kill them dead. I think Mike makes a real mistake if he doesn’t follow his own rules. So we’ll see if he makes a mistake.
PAUL: I think he’s definitely taking us down.
ODENKIRK: [Saul’s] got enough distance from all this crime – I mean obviously Gus he’s really afraid of but then that gets cleared up. But Walter’s changing – and that’s at the core of this whole series. He’s a guy whose conscious and ability to give a shit about anyone has just disintegrated and it’s gone, it’s almost gone now – which is why Vince can’t do the show for more than 16 episodes. This guy is losing his humanity… But so far as taking people down – Walter White is becoming a guy totally willing to do that. Whereas I think before he would hesitate. He really loves Jesse on some level but even that has been brutalized.
PAUL: And he just knows how to manipulate everybody. He has everybody on his little strings.
BANKS: I don’t think he loves Jesse at all. You’re talking about Walt?
PAUL: You don’t think Walt cares for Jesse?
BANKS: I don’t think Walt cares for anybody.
ODENKIRK: I think he looks to Jesse as a son.
PAUL: He has Jesse in the palm of his hand and he knows how to control him.
BANKS: To control him. That’s hardly love.
ODENKIRK: There are scenes that are like a ‘father-son thing’.
PAUL: Yeah. Jesse is striving for someone to guide him in a direction. He’s looking for a fatherly figure in some way. He just wants to be told what to do. He might not accept that but it’s true…
Do you think Walt’s manipulation of people is the way he shows his love?
BANKS: I love the way you’ve phrased that question. Is his manipulation, his way of showing love? Did I misquote you? His manipulation shows his love? What kind of broken ass home did you come from?
ODENKIRK: Look – There’s a lot of families like that. Parents who do that to everyone around them. I just saw a great play Off-Broadway called Tribes… And the dad in that – you first meet him and you like him because he’s funny, he’s got a lot of opinions and he’s argumentative but then you realize he’s just a shitty guy torturing his kids, his wife and everyone around him with his loud opinions and his neediness.
BANKS: I will tell you this – because I’m old enough to be everybody’s father here. Everybody. And I know specifically of parents who would go – you would be hit by a car, lying on the side of the road and they would come over and go ‘Oh my god. Son, are you okay?’ And in the same breath – ‘Could somebody take care of this. I gotta go.’ It ain’t love. They may tell themselves its love. But it ain’t love.
So does Walt love anybody then?
PAUL: He definitely loves himself.
BANKS: A sociopath feels no guilt in their actions and what they do.
ODENKIRK: But do you think he’s becoming a sociopath?
BANKS: No – I think he’s been a sociopath since the time in the gym when he justifies the airplane crash – with ‘Well there have been worse crashes. More people have died.’ That is the classic sociopath.
PAUL: And this season he goes to such a different place. The entire tone of this season is just so unsettling and creepy and eerie.
Well – he’s gotten everything he wants.
PAUL: Exactly. He just wants to be the king. That’s it. It’s just a power trip.
How do you view your characters morally speaking? Do you view yourselves as the heroes or villains – or does that even enter into the equation?
ODENKIRK: That’s part of the show. Nobody’s a hero and nobody’s a pure villain.
BANKS: I disagree. I think Mike, and I can only speak for Mike – he lost his soul a long, long time ago and Mike is wildly aware that there are places in this country where sixty percent of the emergency room admissions are methamphetamine related. What he sees in Jesse: he may not be able to save Jesse but he’d like to protect him. I still think Mike sees that there is hope somewhere for this kid.
So would you define Jesse as the moral center of the show?
BANKS: I can only talk about what he is for my character and for my character — I want something good for Jesse.
PAUL: I want something good for Jesse as well… Especially in this season – where it feels like Jesse’s walking on eggshells. All our characters are really. I’m a little worried about this guy… Shit is going to get crazy.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays on AMC.