‘Breaking Bad’: Bryan Cranston Wouldn’t Have Done the Show if He Hadn’t Seen ‘Mad Men’

Breaking Bad is one of the shows that put AMC on the map. Breaking Bad Walter White actor Bryan Cranston almost backed out of doing an AMC original. Fortunately, its predecessor was there to save the day. Mad Men is what convinced Cranston to do Breaking Bad.

'Breaking Bad': Bryan Cranston looks down at his meth station
Bryan Cranston | Ursula Coyote/AMC

Cranston was a guest on the Basic podcast on July 6. Discussing the origins of Breaking Bad, Cranston revealed his misgivings and what changed his mind. 

Bryan Cranston had no reference for AMC originals before ‘Breaking Bad’

AMC got into the original programming space long after cable networks like FX and TNT had. When Breaking Bad was gearing up in 2006, Cranston had no way of knowing AMC could pull it off. Cranston was coming off of Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle so he wasn’t going to slum it. 

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“When I was considering doing it, I really wanted to do it but I was concerned that it was going to be on at the time AMC,” Cranston said on Basic. “There was one original at one time about a radio station or something like that. Mostly it was playing old movies. At the time it really wasn’t something that took off. Remember, this is 2006. So this is before the smartphone came out, so it was before any of those things at our fingertips to be able to watch anything at any time. I voiced my concerns.”

AMC showed Bryan Cranston ‘Mad Men’ to convince him

AMC knew they were about to change the game with Mad Men. Then executives Charlie Collier and Ed Carroll  presented it to Cranston to help him decide to do Breaking Bad with them. That’s the Mad Men/Breaking Bad connection.

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“The folks at AMC said, ‘Before we talk, can I send you a DVD of a show we’re going to premiere? We’ve already shot it, we’ve already got the season, it hasn’t premiered yet but your show would follow this pattern, this level of quality,’” Cranston said. “And I watched the pilot episode and the second episode of Mad Men and that’s all you have to see. That show was fantastic and I thought oh, my concerns are quelched. I don’t have them anymore. This is great. Let’s go. Let’s continue.”

‘Breaking Bad’ was an alternative to network television 

Cranston applauded networks like AMC and HBO for daring to do shows that broadcast networks would not. Breaking Bad certainly benefited. Cranston would later do Sneaky Pete with Amazon and Your Honor with Showtime. 

“I would say that premium cable outlets, they realized if we’re going to play in this arena, if we’re going to draw any attention, we have to do it with new, inventive, high quality performances and production values,” Cranston said. “And tell stories that have not been told before that you just can’t get on broadcast television. And they did. They knew they had to be bespoke in their presentation of their work. If you’re derivative of what anyone can see on broadcast, it’s not going to work.”

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