Comic-Con 2013: 'Breaking Bad' panel live-blog
11:45 a.m.: Gilligan tells the familiar story of having known Cranston from an "X-Files" episode, and not being aware of "Malcolm in the Middle" when he tried to cast him. But he says it's an advantage to have funny actors on a dramatic show. "Comedy is a lot harder to do than drama," he explains. "I would hire a comedian every day of the week to play a dramatic part. If they have the chops to play comedy... they can certainly do drama, it seems to me."
11:49 a.m.: Fan questions! First up, a guy in a white Heisenberg t-shirt asks what the cast's favorite iconic "BB" moments are. Cranston recites "I am the danger! I am The One Who Knocks!" He says the most impactful scene he shot was when Jane died, "And Walt had another turn in his character. That was horrific in many different ways playing it." Paul is fond of "Yeah, bitch! Magnets!" He also tells the story of the "robots?" line from "4 Days Out," where Walt is trying to teach Jesse another science lesson on how to recharge the RV. They were shooting the scene at the end of a long day and week, and then the focus puller said, "Man, I wish you would've told Walt you wanted to build a robot!" So Cranston and Paul faked a problem with the camera just so they could do one more take and Paul could improvise that line.
11:50 a.m.: Gilligan jokes it cost $180,000 in CGI for Walt to toss the pizza onto the roof. Cranston says it was an enormous pizza that he needed two hands to hold up. The box was rigged so the pizza would slide out when it landed. "I kinda guessed the weight of it, and the trajectory, and what it would have to be, and we just rolled. First take! Bam, up it goes, lands on the roof, everything perfect." He says the special effects guys had monofilament lines set up to pull the pizza up if he failed. Gilligan says Cranston couldn't do it again on ensuing takes.
11:52 a.m.: Gilligan talking about the number of times they reconfigured the series based on how much they liked an actor, citing Mark Margolis' performance as Tio Hector. It was such a small role, "It was like getting Michael Jordan to coach your pee-wee basketball team," and they made an effort to keep bringing him back. "You learn things about actors," he adds, noting that the original conception of Hank wasn't nearly as interesting as the character became, "because I didn't know Dean well at that point."
11:54 a.m.: Betsy Brandt couldn't make it because she's filming "The Michael J. Fox Show" in New York, by the way. A fan thinks the moment Walt turned into a full-fledged villain is when he poisoned Brock, and wants to know how Walt physically administered the poison. "That's an excellent question," Gilligan says. The writers would always tell the story of "the Evil Juice Box Man. The way we worked it out on our timeline is he had just enough time to do it, but it would've been very tricky indeed." They figured he crushed the poison up, stuck it in a juice box, and got into Brock's school. "That's our inner story, the writers and I, for how it happened. It would've been very tricky timing, but he was a motivated individual at that point."
11:59 a.m.: Was there a point in any character's evolution that the actors had a hard time accepting? Norris wasn't happy with Hank not being able to walk for a while after the shooting. Mitte has always enjoyed playing Walt Jr. and has no complaints. Hardwick wonders if Mitte is ever annoyed that Jr. hasn't figured out what his dad is up to; Mitte admits that if it was him, he'd have seen it coming long before now. Odenkirk: "I think Saul does everything right, and I've never had a problem with a single move he's made. What can be said? He's the most perfect character in the show. He has his life in balance... He's the Zen master of the show." He has so much fun playing the scenes where he's being attacked by his co-stars, but thinks the hardest thing for Saul is when he wanted Jesse to go visit Brock. "There was some real emotion in Saul, he was clearly feeling he wanted to get this family together."
12:00 p.m.: Gunn said she had a hard time understanding Skyler at the beginning of the series. Gilligan helped her understand "that she is not a person who is ever going to sit in the corner and wring her hands and weep," but be really strong. Gunn is much more overtly emotional than Skyler, who's pragmatic and action-oriented. Was there any part of her that had a hard time with the pregnant Skyler smoking? Gunn had the fake pregnancy belly on and was smoking at the strip mall, "and there were some horrified people looking out of a restaurant. They didn't take that very well."
12:02 p.m.: Paul had a hard time with Jesse shooting Gale. "He killed probably the nicest guy on the show," he says.
12:04 p.m.: Cranston again brings up Jane's death. The original version of the script had Walt explicitly pushing Jane onto her back when she started choking to be sure she died. Cranston says AMC and Sony gave Gilligan a note that this was too quick for an act that egregious to happen. Vince came up with a different plan, and they worked it out on the set, where Walt jostling Jesse would accidentally put Jane on her back. "The culpable moment for Walt is when he recognizes the girl could die, and what does he do then?" He loved the way the note from the network and studio made the scene better.
12:06 p.m.: Gilligan says one of his proudest moments was in season 1, in episode 4, when Walt gets the offer from Gretchen and Elliott to pay for his treatment, and he declines and goes back to cooking meth. "It was the moment that we all of us, in the writers' room, argued about it a lot and asked ourselves, 'What the hell kind of a character is this who would turn this down?'" They realized in that moment that Walt was "prideful to a fault," and they realized exactly what they really had with the character.
12:11 p.m.: A female fan from Ireland suggests she's in the minority by having Skyler as her favorite character. How do Gilligan and Gunn feel about other fans villainizing her over the "hero" Walt. (Cranston: "Did you have to use the air quotes?") Gunn says she and the writers were confused about that reaction at first, but, "In a show, you need a protagonist and you need an antagonist," and this show has the anti-hero as the protagonist, which puts the audience behind Walt. "If she becomes somebody who becomes really sympathetic and you start siding with her too much, then I think it weakens how you feel about him." She also thinks "it says some things about the way some people may see women and men, and roles of wives and husbands. But that's a very complex subject." Gilligan says the audience isn't a monolith, and have different reasons for liking characters. He cites a conversation with a writer for "Key & Peele," who told him, "People don't like characters who are powerless," and Skyler finds herself in a box, which begins after she tries to kick Walt out of the house again and he insists she call the cops on him. "People don't want to identify with powerless characters," he says.
12:13 p.m.: Last question: what is Walt's current motivation and drive? Cranston: "Empire. He's in the empire business. His ego is peaking. He's never felt this before in his life. To have this kind of power as an adult, he's never ever had that. And it got to him. He succumbed to it like it was an aphrodisiac." Gilligan suggests Walt also wants to put back the pieces of his family at this point.
12:14 p.m.: Does Vince think people will be satisfied with how the show ends? Vince is sad the show is about to be over, "But I am satisfied by the ending. I hope you will be, too. Everyone in front of the lens and behind it is very happy with it."
12:19 p.m.: They just showed us the complete pre-credits sequence of the August 11th episode. I won't say anything about the content, save that it is fantastic. The panel concludes with the cast getting a standing ovation from Hall H. Very nice.
Back in a few minutes with "Doctor Who," folks...