‘Breaking Bad’ Star Bryan Cranston Almost Became a Cop Before Becoming an Actor

Bryan Cranston found his calling as an actor. His landmark roles came on Malcolm In the Middle and Breaking Bad, but even before then there were memorable roles on Seinfeld and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Since Breaking Bad he played memorable movie roles in Argo, Godzilla and Trumbo, too. Had he followed his first career path, it would be Officer Cranston. 

Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston | Mark Peterson/AMC

Cranston was a guest on the Smartless podcast on Jan. 11. He told hosts Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes how close he came to becoming a police officer. 

Before ‘Breaking Bad,’ Bryan Cranston describes the appeal of police work

The thought of a career in law enforcement began for Cranston in high school. As fate would have it, he would play the ultimate criminal later in life on Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad: Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston | Ben Rothstein/Vinton Productions

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“I kind of got attached to the idea of law enforcement,” Cranston began. “In those days, they used to have career days at high schools. They used to take over the gym and have military, firemen, the gas company and everybody represented. One of those was the LAPD so I thought wow, that’s an image of a masculine man so that looks like the right thing to do and they’re in control.”

Bryan Cranston went pretty far down the path to becoming a cop

As a teenager, Cranston took the opportunities available to get started in a law enforcement career.

“So I started wondering about that and I became a police explorer,” Cranston said. “I did really well. Out of 116 16 year olds all throughout Los Angeles, I graduated first in the class. That told me this is what you should do, very pragmatic.”

Then Cranston studied police work in further education.

Breaking Bad: Walter White
Bryan Cranston | Ursula Coyote/AMC

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“So I got involved in it,” Cranston said. “I went to Valley Junior College to start studying it because we had no money. And then I was going to transfer to UCLA with this police science degree and then go into the LAPD. That was my whole plan.”

College ultimately steered him on the path towards ‘Breaking Bad’

It was in college that Cranston discovered acting. 

“Second year of Valley College my counselor says, ‘You need some elective courses,’” Cranston said. “So I took acting. I did some of that when I was a kid. My dad was an actor and I did a couple commercials. That sounds like fun, let’s do that.”

After Cranston’s first acting class, he changed his mind about becoming a cop.

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad
Bryan Cranston | Ursula Coyote/AMC

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“The first class I got into was black box theater and the teacher who was over this whole thing, teaching these young kids,” Cranston said. “So he’s handing out these scenes, you two read this. Depending on who you’re standing next to, that’s your reading partner. I look down at the page very nervous and it said a couple is making out on a park bench. I looked up and I saw the girl I was supposed to read with and she was really cute.”