‘Breaking Bad’ Star Jonathan Banks: ‘The Bad Guy’s Gotta Die’

Banks got some crucial news at an engagement party

(Spoiler warning: Don't read this if you didn't see Sunday's "Breaking Bad.")

Jonathan Banks always knew Mike had to die.

The sad, final moment for Mike Ehrmantraut — the "Breaking Bad" enforcer for drug lord Gus Fring-turned-reluctant partner of Walter White — came Sunday as Walter shot Mike in a moment of rage and confusion. As Walt stammered an apology, Mike cut him off: "Let me die in peace."

And he did.

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Banks, who has played Mike since the show's second season, was similarly at peace with his exit from the Emmy-winning AMC series. He said show creator Vince Gilligan told him of Mike's death at co-star Aaron Paul's engagement party. But it didn't ruin the mood.

"I honestly always thought I was gonna die," Banks told TheWrap on Monday. "The bad guy's gotta die. It didn't come as any surprise at all."

We talked about why Mike couldn't follow his own advice, working with Bryan Cranston, and whether we'll ever see Mike again. The midseason finale of "Breaking Bad" airs Sunday, and the show returns for its final episodes next year.

TheWrap: How did you get the bad news about Mike?
Vince told me about nine months ago. We were at Aaron's engagement party. Sony hadn't made my deal yet and Vince was asking the father-in-law about the hors d'oeuvres. And I said, 'Vince. Do you think we could stop talking about the hors d'oeuvres. and we could talk about my fucking life for a minute?'

I'm making light of it, but let me tell you: Vince Gilligan couldn’t have given me a greater gift than the character of Mike. And these writers have been so good. And hopefully I brought a little of myself to it.

Obviously you'd prefer Mike was still alive. If you could, what advice would you have given him, knowing what you know now?
Shoot Lydia in the head. Kill Walt. But then it would have been the Mike show. Which would have been fine by me.

He really didn't take his own advice not to take half-measures.
Exactly. … Anybody's who's been watching the show who watched me let Lydia go, goes back to the season three "Half Measures" speech and is screaming at the television: "Mike! It's a half measure."

We got to see Gale in flashbacks after he died. Any chance we'll see a scene with Gus and Mike talking about their secret plan for what will happen if they both die?
I'm not being coy: To my knowledge, absolutely not. But that's a Vince question.

So you won't be back in any form?
I have no knowledge of that. I don't see why he would, really. Unless Vince and the writers are going to do some kind of flashback. I think they went back into the writers' room Aug. 12 or somewhere in there. And who knows what they'll come up with? They come up with pretty good stuff.

You've had a long career on stage and screen. I think everyone recognized you from somewhere when you joined "Breaking Bad." Can you talk about what it did for your career?
I thought, How great that I got to do this role at 65 years old. Because it's a great character. And I love the character. I've been around long enough that my expectations about fame or work, any of it — I'm not jaded, but I just take it as it comes. And I think a lot of that's age. There are a lot of wonderful, wonderful, wonderful actors out there. And a great example is Bryan. Coming from "Malcolm in the Middle" to this nuanced, raw-nerved character that he plays magnificently. I daresay there are a lot of people out there who didn't know Bryan was that great an actor.

… That couldn't have been a happier set. The cast, the crew, the producers. We all got along. And it was a joy to go to work.

Vince Gillligan has said in the "Breaking Bad Insider" podcast that you're the only one who complains.
[Laughs] You bet your ass I complain. No, I don't complain. I just give people a hard time. Let me tell you something about Vince Gilligan. He had us out in those black jackets, in that sun, in 100 degrees while he sits in the air-conditioned office in Burbank. And he tells me I complain?