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Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston Reveals His Idea Of A Perfect Villain

Back in the early 2000s, the general audience would've been bewildered at the idea of Bryan Cranston not only being celebrated as one of the greatest actors of his generation (which he certainly is), but also, as the man who would bring to life arguably the single most compelling villain in TV history. 

Keep in mind, back when Breaking Bad premiered in 2008, most people either knew Cranston as the goofy dad in Malcolm in the Middle, or failing that, the dentist Tim Whatley in Seinfeld, famously accused by Jerry of converting to Judaism "for the jokes." Since Breaking Bad became a cultural phenomenon, however, Cranston's unbelievable talent at playing the role of Walter White — the high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin — has earned him acclaim from all over the world, and even the legendary thespian Sir Anthony Hopkins once commented (via Vanity Fair) that "[Cranston's] performance as Walter White was the best acting I have seen — ever." Indeed, Cranston's ability to portray a meek, downtrodden man transforming into a commanding, sinister figure — while still imbuing every scene with raw, aching humanity — has made him one of the most discussed actors across internet message boards, as well, where fans often suggest for him to be cast in roles ranging from a new version of Spider-Man's archnemesis Norman Osborn (AKA the Green Goblin), to a future Bond villain.

Cranston, for his part, has carefully selected his post-Breaking Bad roles, deftly avoiding being pigeonholed. For example, Cranston's newest performance is in the Showtime miniseries Your Honor, adapted from the Israeli TV series Kvodo, has him playing a high-profile judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run. 

In a recent publicity interview for the series, Cranston took a moment to speak about what, precisely, makes for a great villain.

Bryan Cranston is fascinated by villains who can compartmentalize their evil sides and their caring ones

From the jump, Your Honor's plot suggests a narrative with no obvious villains. While the series appears to feature a horrible crime at its center, mobsters, the biases of the criminal justice system, and presumably a spiraling catastrophe of lies on top of lies, critics such as John Anderson of the Wall-Street Journal have written that, "'Your Honor' is complicated, but good complicated: The impulses of the players are understandable."

It was in this context that Entertainment Weekly asked the celebrated actor about how the series seems to feature no traditional bad guys. Cranston used this as an opportunity to talk about his work on Breaking Bad, and why the best villains are those who, when not committing horrifying acts, have eerily relatable lives. 

"What Breaking Bad helped to contribute to is the raising of the bar as far as dramatic storytelling across the board," Cranston explained. "The idea that anyone is one-dimensional is boring. If you have a bad guy who just hates people and loves to kill others, it's like, 'Eh, okay.' What's more interesting is to see a bad guy put three bullets in someone, put his gun away, and then go home and be loving and tender to his little daughter — that's frightening! That's when you go, 'Oh my god, what is that guy like?! I'm really fascinated with that.' We are adaptable human beings and we're are also able to compartmentalize, so one could be a Brutus person to one group and be soft and vulnerable in another. It's certainly more interesting in the narrative."

If anyone knows how to craft a powerful bad guy, it's Cranston. Here's hoping he continues snagging great roles in the future.