Walter White played by Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston as Walter White

Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, was once a promising chemist and among the founders of the multi-billion dollar company Gray Matter Technologies, but he soon left, selling his shares for $5,000 for personal reasons and becoming an unhappy and disillusioned high school chemistry teacher. Since the job doesn’t pay enough, he must work a second job at a car wash, which proves to be particularly humiliating when he has to clean the cars of his own students.

Walter is married to Skyler White, they have a teenage son named Walter White, Jr., who has cerebral palsy. Skyler is also pregnant with their second child, Holly, who is born at the end of the second season. Walt’s other family includes Skyler’s sister, Marie Schrader, her husband Hank, who is a DEA agent, and Skyler and Marie’s mother, who is never seen.

Learning that he has inoperable lung cancer, he begins making meth with Jesse Pinkman, a former student, to secure his family’s financial future. The two become known for their top-quality blue meth, but success has its complications: Walt finds himself in over his head in the drug underworld. Meanwhile, a DEA team led by Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, begins investigating “Heisenberg”, Walt’s alter ego.

Vince Gilligan cast Bryan Cranston for the role of Walter White based on having worked with him in a sixth season episode of the science fiction television series The X-Files, where Gilligan worked as a writer. Cranston played an anti-Semite with a terminal illness who took series co-protagonist Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) hostage. Gilligan said the character had to be simultaneously loathsome and sympathetic, and that «Bryan alone was the only actor who could do that, who could pull off that trick. And it is a trick. I have no idea how he does it».

AMC officials were wary of casting Cranston, due to his being mostly known his comedic role as Hal on the series Malcolm in the Middle. The executives offered the role to John Cusack and Matthew Broderick who both turned it down. However, after seeing Cranston in the X-Files episode, the executives were convinced to cast him. Cranston gained ten pounds for the pilot to reflect the character’s personal decline, and had his hair dyed brown to mask his natural red highlights. Cranston collaborated with costume designer Kathleen Detoro and makeup artist Frieda Valenzuela to make the character of Walt both bland and unremarkable and impotent.


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