Bryan Cranston was never the most likely man to portray a monstrous drug baron. Best known by many as the hilarious Hal from Malcolm in the Middle, he was perhaps most associated with comedic roles that showed off his acting skills without ever really allowing him to flex his dramatic muscle.
In January 2008 that all changed. At first the change was subtle, with Cranston expertly portraying a teacher who had been constantly beaten down by life until reaching what appeared to be his final act upon receiving a cancer diagnosis in the beloved drama Breaking Bad. His decision to turn to methamphetamine cooking was, on the face of it, made to save his family. However as the series progressed viewers were provided an insight into the pride, often shattered, that defined his character, Walter White. Last night’s Emmys proved Cranston’s outstanding acting ability.
Cranston’s great achievement was taking a character with so many layers and so much capacity for destruction and making him utterly believable. Walter White was a man who could be your next door neighbour. He was a genius living an average life, completely under the radar of almost everybody around him. It was this very fact that allowed White to engage in the activities he enjoyed. However this lack of recognition also proved to be the character’s downfall, with Cranston playing White’s quiet desperation to be recognized for anything to an absolute tee.
It was an acting turn that few expected and it was no doubt helped by stellar writing. However, credit must not be taken from Cranston and his transformation from comic relief and occasional bit part actor into a major player in Hollywood has been capped with enough awards to fill any mantelpiece, including numerous Emmys.
Cranston now holds the joint record for the most simultaneous victories in the Outstanding Male Actor category at the Emmys with three. It is a feat only equalled by Bill Cosby for his role in I Spy. Many would argue that it is perhaps a more impressive feat given the level of competition that Cranston faced in comparison.
This recognition has allowed Cranston’s star to rise at an age when many an actor is well-established in the Hollywood fold. His spectacular performances in Breaking Bad almost certainly provided Cranston with the respect required to score major roles in critically acclaimed films such as Argo and the recent Godzilla film. Furthermore it is now believed that he is currently working with Sony Pictures Television to bring other television projects to life.
Such is the clout of the man following his portrayal of television’s finest criminal kingpin. Walter White was the also-ran of his universe, never quite fulfilling his potential until an unexpected diagnosis opened up a road better left untraveled. It left him an ultimately broken man who only briefly got to experience what he craved.
In contrast, his portrayer’s rise from multi-time Emmy nominee into a winner of multiple Emmys shows a much healthier evolution, and Cranston likely is not finished yet. With increasing influence in Hollywood and true recognition as a leading man perhaps an Oscar yet beckons for one of television’s true breakout stars.
By: Rebecca Savastio