He’s played a goofy dad, a terminally ill chemistry teacher and a CIA officer, and he now portrays a former president on Broadway and a scientist in the Godzilla remake. But BRYAN CRANSTON’s best character yet is himself.
Bryan Cranston is sipping from a mug of hot tea to ease a lingering cold from within a coat closet on the 11th floor of New York’s Roundabout Theatre. Wearing a gray-striped V-neck sweater and olive-green slacks, the 58-year-old is slouched on a folding chair, his knees nearly touching mine.
It’s hard to believe this beefy, smiling guy with a full head of hair is the same actor who once ferociously growled, “I am the danger,” as Walter White, the milquetoast, terminally ill chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin on the popular TV show Breaking Bad.
Gone are the shaved head, goatee and sunken cheeks — the visage of a former self who for five seasons captured the country’s zeitgeist, multiple Emmys, a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild awards as the brutal Heisenberg (Walt’s street name), one of the most original antiheroes to ever inhabit the screen.
But here he is, back from the dead and reincarnated as Lyndon B. Johnson in the play All the Way — running until the end of June — which recounts the first year of the 36th president’s reign following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
“Welcome to my office,” says Cranston, fresh from rehearsal. “This is Broadway. This is the difference between doing a television series and having a double-wide trailer — and theater, where I have a rack to hang my jacket on.”
Not that he’s complaining. Since September, when more than 10 million viewers tuned in for the series finale of Breaking Bad, Cranston has been looking to shake things up in unlikely roles. Take the movie Godzilla, for example, a reboot of the Japanese monster film out on May 16. At first, he turned down the offer to play one of the leads, but he reconsidered after reading the script. He also didn’t want fans to think he was above campy. This is the actor, after all, who made a name for himself playing the recurring role of Jerry’s dentist on Seinfeld in the 1990s and the hapless dad on Malcolm in the Middle for seven seasons in the aughts. “I didn’t want to feel like I had my nose in the air,” he says, adapting a hoity-toity affectation. But the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. “It was completely unpredictable. People wouldn’t expect it.”