(Spoiler warning: Don't read this if you don't want some general details about season 5 of "Breaking Bad")
Anna Gunn's recent popularity on "Breaking Bad" may say something about human nature.
Plenty of viewers griped about her character, Skyler White, early in the show, when she was an obstacle in husband Walter White's journey from cancer-stricken teacher to meth kingpin. But Skyler has become much more liked as she's come to support Walt's criminal enterprise — and even become his money-launderer-in-chief.
"At first I didn't understand: Why do people think Skyler's a bitch?" Gunn told TheWrap. "She's this woman who's trying to keep the family together, and her husband is cooking crystal meth. … I think that people were so behind Walt that they saw Skyler and said, 'Why are you giving him such a hard time?'"
But Skyler has become a crucial partner in Walt's growing meth empire. An accountant by trade, she's also demonstrated a gift for creative bookkeeping. After helping her boss, Ted Beneke, hide revenue from the IRS, she played dumb for an agent by explaining she balanced the books with "the Quicken."
"As she has become badder and turned a corner, she becomes more of a human being, where before it looked like she was more of a moral pillar" Gunn said. "And Skyler is not somebody who shows a huge amount of emotion. She holds her cards very close to the vest. I think that had something to do with the perception of her," Gunn added. "As the complexity has come into her character, I think she's becomes much more of a human being that people can relate to."
Emmy voters have another chance to recognize that complexity this Emmy nominating season. While Bryan Cranston has won three Emmys for playing Walt, and Aaron Paul has one won for playing his partner, Jesse Pinkman, Gunn has yet to receive a nomination.
Gunn spoke to us about her role as she prepared to return to Albuquerque to shoot the last episode in the show's two-part final season. The first eight episodes will begin airing July 15, and the final eight will air next year.
We talked about the one character on the show who seems incorruptible, whether Walt and Skyler will be caught by the IRS rather than the DEA, and the chances of a "Breaking Bad" movie once the series wraps.
You're shooting the last episode of the first half of season 5. Then coming back to shoot the rest near the end of the year. Can you talk about how a two-part season affects the story arc? Usually "Breaking Bad" builds to about the sixth episode and then things start happening very fast.
I've got to say, it's a pretty rapid rise this time the whole way. It starts off really strong and it doesn’t ramp up. It just goes at full tilt from the get-go. It's bigger, badder, bloodier, funnier, darker. Every time you think they've maybe reached the peak, there's more. And that's what's really amazing about our writers and [creator] Vince Gilligan. It always astonishes me.
Did you know when you started the show that you would get to do all this juicy stuff? At the start you were just the nice innocent person at home who Walt had to hide things from. And now you're right in the thick of it.
I actually did get a little bit of a heads up from Vince that that was going to be the case, but I didn't know how, when, where. I didn’t know how it would happen. It took Skyler, what, a good two solid seasons to stumble on the first truth, that he's a drug dealer. Then she learns that he's actually manufacturing it. And then all these other things just keep unreeling. I had no idea quite frankly how dark it was going to get. … And it's been fascinating to play that, the sort of ripping apart of their marriage and both of them assuming new personalities in a way.
When she decides that she's not going to run, she's not going to turn him into the police, she adopts a tougher persona than she probably envisioned was even inside her. Someone who makes up all those lies, who adopts a ditzy personality to go into the IRS office and make up that incredible lie. The scene with her and Walt when she says, okay, here's the script I've written, you have to say this, then put your head in your hands, and look very sorry. She's got the whole thing down. And he can’t believe it. He's going, where did this come from?
There's so much focus on Walt's transformation from this nice, good guy to this meth monster. But Skyler goes along with the scheming too, without that much hesitation. It almost suggests that almost anyone could go this way.
You look at these two people and they're not so far apart from each other. … Neither of them expected life to deal them the hand that they got dealt. She had a lot of things she wanted to do and wanted to be. It's hard for people to remember this, but way back in the pilot and the first part of the first season she's a short story writer and it's never gone anywhere for her.
And then when Walt gets sick all of that goes out the door and she goes back to work as an accountant to try to bring in some money. When she decides to stay — she's not going to run away with the kids, and she's not going to turn Walt into the police – she's such a practical survivalist that she thinks, if I'm staying, I'm gonna make it work. … I think the fact that her mind is so quick and so fast and she's able to make up those kinds of stories and those kinds of lies. And she's able to juggle the money.
It makes sense that those two people are together. I think their minds are what drew them together first and foremost.
The one character who seems incorruptible at this point, besides Walter Jr., is Hank. And it seems like Skyler has almost made enough inroads with Hank and Marie that he might be corruptible, since Skyler and Walt are paying his medical bills. A lot of the drama up until now has revolved around whether this DEA agent will figure out his brother-in-law is making meth. But if Walt and Skyler can bring Hank to their side, everything changes. Do you think Hank is corruptible?
That's a really, really good question. I don't know and I don't see it so far. I think the man is so dedicated to his job and it's so important to him to find out who the criminal really is. He does not seem corruptible to me at this point. I suppose anything could happen. Skyler seemed to be the one who had a lot of moral fiber through a lot of the show, but Hank has really even a stronger sense of that. The difference between right and wrong for him is a very solid line. There's no gray there. But annnnnything can happen on this show.
Are we going toward an Al Capone situation where her helping her boss, Ted Beneke, with tax evasion ends up bringing her and Walt down for that – something relatively innocuous – instead of meth?
You know what? I have no idea. There's a lot of mystery to how the last eight are going to play out. None of us have any idea about what's going to happen, how it's going to culminate, what things will blow up, what things will stay intact.
Skyler seems like a difficult role to play, especially on a show like "Breaking Bad." Because there are so many big moments, but she's not in those explosive situations where we see her boiling over. She has to really play more relatable situations.
She's not as kooky as her sister. She doesn't have all those colors that Walt quickly shows from the get-go. And she's somebody who's just trying to make ends meet and trying to do the right thing. It was a challenge at least in the first couple seasons because I had to know what was boiling and bubbling around inside of her. But because it wasn't necessarily showing in any obvious or flashy way to the audience, it was kind of a mystery what was happening with Skyler. And now it just keeps getting more complex.
Bryan Cranston says he's open to a "Breaking Bad" movie. Are you?
I've heard the idea being kicked around and I think that would be amazing. When we have our premieres and we see the show up on a big screen, it is so beautifully shot. We have just the most amazing cinematographer and crew. And it looks so beautiful on a big screen. And also, when I read the pilot script, I thought, this is one of the best indie movies I've ever read. Because it was, in itself, just a brilliant story.
So I can absolutely see that happening and it would be wonderful and very exciting if they did that. But who knows?
Photo credits: AMC