PASADENA, Calif. — Now that he's a big Emmy-winning TV star, you'd think Bryan Cranston would indulge himself a little. Not so. He still repairs things around the house, watches his money and feels he's the star of AMC's Breaking Bad, because of luck.
"I think you either grow up with respect for money or for a lack thereof," he says. "If you achieve a certain amount of success or financial security, you appreciate so much more because you know when you didn't."
His father, too, was an actor.
"Perhaps because I was raised in that up-and-down typical actor life maybe that's why going into it myself, I said, 'Okay, be absolutely stingy with a dollar so that you are available to stay and act.' "
Stayed and acted, Cranston has. He'd already been struggling for 21 years when he snagged the role of the goofy dad in Malcolm in the Middle. That show lasted seven years and earned him three Emmy nominations. But it was AMC's Breaking Bad (which began its new season Sunday night) that illuminated Cranston's creative soul behind the role. As a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher wedged between his devotion to his family and the forbidding drug world, Cranston proves it's more than luck that put him there.
"In the '80s there were all those self-help seminars," he says. "So I went to one: 'Change your life.' I remember his name. His name was Breck Costin. He said a few things that made sense. One of them was this philosophy: of being able to put all your energy and drive forward and really go after it and be true to that and be earnest in your efforts without having an attachment to the outcome. In other words, (suppose) I want to get a beautiful sweater and give someone a present. A lot of people would say, 'Where's the sweater, why aren't you wearing the sweater?' No, it's a gift. You've got to let it go.
"It's the same thing with an acting experience. You experience it and let it go. I don't have an attachment. My whole focus was on doing my job as an actor; creating a character, interpreting the script and presenting it. Once I presented it, I'm done. I walk out of the room and never think about it again."
Married to his second wife, actor Robin Dearden, and the father of a 16-year-old girl, Cranston confesses, "The thing I always praise and cherish is what has enabled me to do what I do, is my home life is loving and supportive and sane. That's a great foundation."