Bryan Cranston Talks PopCorners Super Bowl Ad, ‘Breaking Bad’, And More

In perhaps the most highly-anticipated Super Bowl spot, “Walter White” (Bryan Cranston) and “Jesse Pinkman”(Aaron Paul) are back at it and cooking up something special… PopCorners. In the commercial, borrowing from the Breaking Bad universe, the two esteemed colleagues meet back up with early Breaking Bad drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) in hopes to gain his assistance in pedaling the air-popped snack.

“The idea of being able to really embrace the sensibility of Breaking Bad was fun. And when we suggested Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad creator, executive producer, head writer, and director) direct these, they were very excited,” Cranston told me over the phone last week.

“And I felt that would bring in the authenticity [from] what he created in his show. And the other thing was we didn’t get a lot of opportunities to just have fun when shooting, Breaking Bad, because it was a very serious show. There was a lot going on, as you know.

“This was an opportunity to get back together with my buddy, Aaron, our director, our captain, Vince, the chance to have to have Ray Cruz join us, to be able to get with the crew that was on our show together and just enjoy it and have fun.

“We laughed a lot on the set of PopCorners and just had a blast. It was so much fun to have that opportunity to really just enjoy the moment.”

When Breaking Bad concluded it’s fifth and final season in 2013, Bryan didn’t rule out returning as Walt. Something he would go on to do in Jesse’s spinoff movie El Camino, Better Call Saul, and now the big game commercial.

“Well, there was a possibility we kept hearing that, ‘Oh, Vince Gilligan is doing that show Better Call Saul.’ We knew that was coming up,” Cranston recalled. “And it was a prequel. So there was an opportunity. It’s hard to say goodbye.

“We just loved all the cast and crew and everybody in Albuquerque that made it possible to make this legendary show and we were just so proud of it and so every time that there was an opportunity to come back we thought, ‘Oh, this is great. We get to see our family again.’

“And that’s basically what it felt like when PopCorners called, we thought, ‘Oh my God, we get to group up together, have fun with everybody we know and love.’ And you know especially with Vince Gilligan at the helm, directing. It was a blast.”

Unlike the mostly-forbidden snack prop used on Breaking Bad that appeared to be blue meth, cotton candy-flavored rock candy, the actors in the PopCorners ad were able to sample the merchandise.

“Now we’re eating the product, like the kettle corn one, and the white cheddar. And so we’re chowing down. We’re eating all through the takes. And we didn’t have to eat lunch most of the days,” Bryan said with a laugh.

Breaking Bad not only gave the world a show with characters and stakes that it’s thrilled to welcome back, but a universal awareness for the unrivaled range Cranston possesses as an actor.

The TV audience knew Bryan could play silly masterfully. He provided endless laughs as Hal Wilkerson (Malcolm in the Middle) and Dr. Tim Whatley (Seinfeld) in each respective role. What audiences weren’t ready for was his iconic turn or break as Walter White.

He’s undeniably shown he can do both comedy and drama to a tee, so which does he think he’s better at?

Comedy is harder. So there are more facets to comedy, I believe, than there are to drama,” Bryan said. “So it’s a little more delicate than drama. I try to look at not what I’m good at, but what have I not tried yet? What have I not done?

“So it’s almost like when a role is presented that scares me a little; that’s usually a good sign that, oh, there’s something there.

“Like the first time you went on a roller coaster, there’s excitement and trepidation. And those two things are elements that I kind of look for in characters and roles.

“Whether the character itself was this magnificent or larger than life person. I mean, it takes a lot of work to get to it. And a lot of research. And you have to own it. You have to get to a place where you feel you own those characters.”

Cranston recently did a fascinating breakdown of how he approaches roles on the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast, explaining how he gets to their “core”. “I look for what’s at the emotional center of this person,” he told the legendary late night host.

I found it only appropriate to ask what was at Dr. Whatley’s core.

“Whatley. He was an operator. I think Whatley was lacking popularity,” Bryan theorized. “I think he wanted to be popular. That’s why he converted to Judaism so he can tell the jokes. I think he just wanted to be popular.”

Currently, Cranston can be see seen on season two of Your Honor Sunday nights. In the series, Bryan plays a judge, who in the first season deperately tries to help his son avoid paying for a costly mistake that has a crime family hot on their trail.

A tragic, but surprising end to season one made it seem like the show told the story it had to tell but to many’s surprise and delight, we got another installment.

“Well, the conceit of the first season was to any parent, what would you do to save the life of your child? And the answer for many loving parents is anything, everything,” Bryan stated. “And that’s what my character, “Michael”, tried to do.

“The season ended in a perfectly appropriate, tragic way. And so our show runner Peter Moffat came to me and suggested, ‘What would Michael be doing afterward?’ And I thought, ‘Oh, it’s not good.’ He’s not in a good place. If he’s still alive.

“And so he pitched the idea of redemption. And the power of forgiveness, both in asking and granting. And I thought, ‘This is something that I think our society can use more of right now.’

“I think in our society, we’re a little coarser than we have been. We have less empathy for people. We’re less kind. And so this is an attempt to be entertaining, but also to express those softer feelings of the human condition and be able to allow characters to make mistakes and see if redemption is a possible pathway for them.”

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