Walter White on Breaking Bad is one of the most iconic anti-heroes of modern television. In fact, there are many who believe that he is one of the most standout characters in TV history, period.
For the five seasons and 62 episodes that the show aired on AMC, the character was played exemplarily by the peerless Bryan Cranston. The role became the most notable of the actor’s career, which says a lot considering everything else he has gone on to achieve since then.
In the same way that Cranston is identified by the character of Walter White, so has Breaking Bad synonymous with his face, and that of his main co-star, Aaron Paul.
The two were convincingly good as an often-antagonistic pair of mentor and protégé. Paul portrayed the character Jesse Pinkman, a former student of Walter White, who reunites with the chemistry teacher to build a meth empire from scratch.
Cranston is said to have earned $225,000 per episode of the show, while Paul was paid $150,000.
Breaking Bad might have had a significantly different look today, however, as Cranston was not the first choice for the role of Walter White.
Matthew Broderick Turned Down The Role Of Walter White
Breaking Bad was conceptualized by writer and producer Vince Gilligan, who had previously been known for his work on The X-Files and its 2001 spin-off, titled The Lone Gunmen.
The concept was actually borne out of Gilligan’s desperation at being out of work, as he joked with a colleague about ‘starting a meth lab in the back of an RV and driving around the country and making money.’
The producer then partnered with Sony Pictures on the project, and after several networks passed, AMC purchased the rights to it and ordered a seven-episode first season.
As the casting process began, Gilligan and the network executives had a few names in mind for the role of Walter White. As it turns out, Bryan Cranston was not even in the top two.
In the beginning, The Lion King’s Matthew Broderick was approached for the part, as was John Cusack of Being John Malkovich and Serendipity.
Both actors said no to the offer, though, and Gilligan eventually turned to Cranston. The pair had a working history, from an old episode of The X-Files on Fox.
AMC Executives Were Not Convinced Of Bryan Cranston As Walter White
Before he became synonymous with Walter White on Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston had probably become known as Hal from Fox’s popular sitcom, Malcolm in the Middle.
When Vince Gilligan suggested him for the main character in the show he was writing for AMC, some network executives could not separate the actor from the part of Hal, and therefore felt that he wouldn’t be quite right.
“We all still had the image of Bryan shaving his body in Malcolm in the Middle. We were like, ‘Really? Isn’t there anybody else?’” an unnamed top brass official from AMC revealed to The Hollywood Reporter in 2012.
It wasn’t until Gilligan convinced them to watch Cranston in the episode of The X-Files that they began to see him stepping into the shoes of Walter White. On his part, having spent six years working in Malcolm in the Middle, the actor felt he needed to switch things up.
“I wanted a change of pace, and whether that meant a comedy or drama, it was going to be different because I didn’t need the money anymore,” Cranston was quoted saying in the THR report.
Fans Have Mixed Views On Matthew Broderick As An ‘Alternate-Reality’ Walter White?
Bryan Cranston’s performance as Walter White really endeared him to fans, despite the fact that his character often did very antagonistic things on Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan once explained that Walter’s descent into villainy was deliberate.
“We want to make Walt White a truly bad guy,” he said in 2011. “We want to make people question who they’re pulling for, and why.”
While Cranston came close to missing out on the part altogether, some fans are happy that the more preferred candidates refused to take it on. ‘I am more than happy he turned it off. No one would have done it like Cranston did.. really Broderick could have done a good job but Walter White is Bryan Cranston,’ one such fan observed on Quora.
On the other side, in a comment on Reddit, another fan argued: ‘If [Broderick] had taken the role we’d all be saying ‘they almost went with the dad from Malcolm in the Middle. Can you imagine how awful that would’ve been?’’
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