At the AMC portion of the TCA Press Tour, show creator Vince Gilligan was there to promote the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad, which premiere on August 11th, and reflect back on the five-season run of the critically acclaimed and passionately loved series. During the interview, he talked about which actor most influenced their character, how he originally envisioned things ending for Walter White, the documentary for the last season that will be included on the Blu-ray, whether he read any of the massive amounts of coverage the show got during its run, and the status of the Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) spin-off series. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: You’ve spoken often about the journey for Walter White, and some of the major characters on the show. Thinking of the entire run of the series and the incredible cast that you’ve had, was there a character, or a couple of characters, who started out one way, in your mind, and by the time you were done with them, they were in a completely different direction that you thought, maybe just because of the skill of the actor playing the part?
VINCE GILLIGAN: Oh, gosh! All of these actors have added immensely to these characters. They have added depth and breadth and complexity, and onion-like layers of wonderfulness. As my writers and I have gotten to know them, they have imparted many interesting elements to the characters, but I use Dean Norris as an example. He was the character, logistically speaking, when I was writing the pilot, who served a limited function. He was, on the face of it, everything that Walter White was not. He was kind of a frat boy who takes over in that very first episode, with Walter White’s 50th birthday party, and seemed to be loved by Walt’s own son, Walter, Jr., more than Walt, himself.
I hate to admit it, but he was a bit of a mechanical construct in that first episode, before I ever met the man who was going to play that part. Lo and behold, I got to know the man that we were lucky enough to hire, and he is a very complex and wonderful individual. He went to Harvard, and he’s an interesting and deep fellow, who just by knowing him, enriched my ability to write him. You know, TV is this great, organic, living and breathing thing. It’s what I love so much about it. If you roll with it as a showrunner, and if you let the folks in front of the camera and the folks behind the camera add all of their personality, their intellect, their artistry and their talent to the show at hand, provided everyone’s pulling the rope in the same direction, wonderful things derive from that. It’s a blessing to get to work in so collaborative of a medium, I feel.
How did you originally envision things ending for Walter White, compared to what the final result actually is?
GILLIGAN: I am not being facetious or trying to be funny when I say that this is an honest answer, but I can’t remember exactly what my original intention was. I knew that, for his ending, the franchise of the show, as I pitched it from the get-go, I used the glib line of, “We’re going to take Mr. Chips, and we’re going to turn him into Scarface.” We abided by that for six years. But having said that, that leaves an awful lot of wiggle room for changing up the plot. I can’t even remember what my original ending was. I couldn’t see that far ahead. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and I really was not able to see the forest for the trees, for the longest time, over these last six years.
What can you say about the documentary that you’ve shot and when it might come out?
GILLIGAN: Oh, I’ve seen it, and it is great. A gentleman named Stu Richardson was hired by Sony to shoot a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff. He’s been doing our excellent behind-the-scenes additional materials for our Blu-ray and DVD sets, for several seasons now, and for the big, ultimate, end-it-all season box set. He has really outdone himself and put together a two-hour documentary, pretty much about the history of the show, with lots and lots and lots of behind-the-scenes material, and it is really good. I think it’s going to be available, exclusively on the Blu-ray and DVD sets. It’s definitely on the Blu-ray. I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but I’ve seen the damn thing, and it is good. You’re going to dig it.
When did he start following you, and how long did he follow you for?
GILLIGAN: There was a lot of footage from the early days. AMC has been wonderful in sharing some EPK stuff that they shot, going back to the first week of the pilot, and there’s some of that stuff in there. And Stu has been with us, recording stuff for several seasons. He and his cameraman and sound guy stuck around with us. He was a regular fixture in these final 16 episodes. I, for one, am very happy that this exists because my memory gets worse with every passing year. It will be great to be able to watch all this stuff, years from now.
Breaking Bad is one of the most recapped and written about shows, whether it’s by critics, by fans or just the average person. How has that influenced you, throughout the seasons?
GILLIGAN: I always feel a little guilty when I say this, but even though I’ve spent plenty of time on the internet looking up useless crap, I don’t spend any time on the internet looking up Breaking Bad nor myself. I never have Googled it nor me. I do that out of a very neurotic sense of self-protection. I know that it would be a rabbit hole that I would disappear down, and I am deeply grateful. This show wouldn’t exist without the fans, and it wouldn’t exist without the critics and the journalists and the reporters who have said, “Watch this thing,” from the get-go. I’m immensely grateful for anyone who has proselytized for this show, since day one, but I found that our best way forward, in crafting the show, was to keep our writers’ room a sequestered jury room. There were seven of us, sitting around and telling a story to ourselves. It does not mean that we that everyone in the room never Googled themselves or the show. I would hear from people what someone had said on the internet, but at a certain point, I said, “Just keep it to yourself, unless it’s really, really good.”
Anyway, I was really nervous about coming up to the end of this thing, for a year straight. Hell, for six years straight. Everything has to come to an end, but how do you satisfy everybody? The more you listen to everyone, vis a vis the internet, the more fractured your thinking becomes. I realized that the best hope we had to come up with something that most people will like was to satisfy ourselves – the seven of us in the writers’ room, these actors and the crew. I am very proud of the ending. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. I am very cautious in my estimation of how people will respond to things. I hope I am not wildly wrong in my estimation that I think most folks are going to dig the ending. You be the judge.
Is there any update on the Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) spin-off series?
GILLIGAN: It is my fervent wish that there will be a Saul Goodman spin-off. I speak for no one, but myself and probably Bob and Peter Gould, who is the one of my writers who created the character, back in Season 2. He’s a wonderful writer, who I have been working with and trying to figure out exactly what shape a Saul Goodman series would entail. I’m not speaking for any company or professional entity when I say that I really hope it happens. It’s for powers bigger than me to figure out if it can come to fruition, but I would very much like it to be the case. Creatively, we’re working toward that.
Breaking Bad returns to AMC on August 11th.