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US TV Interview

'Breaking Bad' Vince Gilligan Q&A: 'I want UK fans to see the show'

By and Jamie Wotton
Vince Gilligan

© WENN / Apega

It's been a long wait for UK fans, but the third season of Breaking Bad is finally coming to DVD. The US drama's superb 13-part third run hits stores today (May 14) - and they're possibly the most intense, nail-biting episodes yet.

To mark the release, Digital Spy caught up with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan - who's currently crafting the drama's final episodes - to talk about the show's UK fanbase and his plans for the future...

What originally inspired you to create Breaking Bad?
"Well, I think I was influenced by the fact I was about to turn 40 years old, and I was expecting a big mid-life crisis. I say that a bit in hindsight, because I realised a year or two later that I - in coming up with Breaking Bad - was writing a story about the world's worst mid-life crisis!

"It turns out [to be] more of an end-of-life crisis if you think about it. Not so much mid-life. I guess that was inspiring me or troubling me, or however you want to put it. I don't know exactly where the idea [for the show] came from, but I do remember the moment when it came to me...

"I happened to be on a phone-call with a friend - a fellow writer - and we were bemoaning our current unemployed status. He floated the idea of putting a meth lab in the back of a recreational vehicle… He was joking! We weren't seriously considering it, it wasn't that dire, luckily.

"But when he floated this idea, I thought to myself, 'God, something about that strikes me.' It's not something to do in real life, but it's something to write about! There was something about a character who would do such a thing, a previously law-abiding character. That intrigued me. By the time we had finished the phone call, the inspiration for Breaking Bad had hit me."

Breaking Bad S04E12 - Walter White (Bryan Cranston)

© AMC



A lot of Breaking Bad fans in the UK are frustrated that the show hasn't aired on television over here - is that a disappointment to you as well?
"It is. It's always a disappointment to hear we have a lot of fans in places that don't regularly receive our show. I should say, I temper my disappointment with happiness because of the realisation that there's people all around the world who wanna see our little show.The disappointment of the fans is couched within a larger relief that this thing is even on the air in the first place!

"Having said that, I'm always asking: 'When can the folks in the UK and Europe get the show?' because I hear all the time from people who have downloaded it or friends send them DVDs from the States, and I keep thinking 'Man, I want this to air over there so the people can catch up'."

The final 16-part season is being split into two parts. What motivated that decision?
"Well, 16 was a number that split in half pretty readily. It certainly could have been aired as one long block of episodes, but I think the folks that make those decisions - who are at a pay-grade higher than mine - figured it would be better to do two smaller-sized seasons and to take us through the year 2013.

"I'm very happy about that. I like the idea of us being around a couple more years. And, quite frankly, I'm quite happy about the idea of having more time to write and edit these episodes - it's the greatest boon allowed by this particular scheduling structure.

"I love to be in the editing room for each episode. I always want to be present for that. I'm a bit of a control freak and I never want to delegate, so this scheduling allows me more time to do those things that a straight slog of 16 episodes wouldn't allow me."

You've talked in the past about how the character of Jesse became a larger presence in the show because you were impressed with Aaron Paul's performance. Have there been other instances where you've expanded things beyond what you'd originally planned?
"Well, you know, it's interesting. We've expanded and contracted things based on the realities of television production, the realities of people's availability. For instance, in season two, we had the character of Tuco played wonderfully by the actor Raymond Cruz. He was very scary. The actor himself is a sweetheart, but when acting, he can be very scary on film!

Breaking Bad S04E11: Gustavo 'Gus' Fring (Giancarlo Esposito)

© AMC



"The original intention was to have him be the main bad guy for that entire season, but unfortunately, he had prior commitments after the first episode on a TV show called The Closer - it was a real bummer for us, and I heard through the grapevine a real bummer for him too because he was enjoying his time with us. But, as an actor, he had to honour those contractual commitments.

"So he became unavailable to us and we thought, 'Man, we're never gonna have a character as good and interesting as he was', but we then thought to ourselves, 'Why don't we go in the complete opposite direction?' - why don't we have a bad guy who doesn't snort meth off the end of a bully knife? Who isn't a screaming lunatic?

"[We wanted] a bit of a buttoned-down, cold-blooded, soft-spoken businessman, so we came up with the character of Gustavo Fring. Once we found Giancarlo Esposito, we were so very happy. We had this wonderful, unforgettable character because of this great actor and because of this happenstance that brought us to that place.

"That's what I love about television - it's sort of a living, breathing thing. You have a lot of smart, like-minded people around you, if you're wise enough to hire smart, talented folks. Surround yourself with good writers, good actors, good directors and good producers and when fate takes a hand with certain realities, and you're flexible, good things can happen."

It feels like there is so much to pay off in the show's final episodes. Do you think fans will be satisfied will how the show ends?
"I sure hope so - that's the best answer I can give. We're killing ourselves to make the show as satisfying as possible. I have to say though… just the law of averages tells me that a lot of folks will say 'Nah, that's not what I hoped for. That's not what I saw in my mind's eye.'

"I don't say that because I think it'll be unsatisfying. I think it will be [satisfying] for a large majority of viewers, and that is certainly our intention, but when you make an investment in a television show, you tend to have a proprietary feeling towards it. These characters become your characters, and you have hopes and dreams for them. You have expectations for them.

Breaking Bad S04E11: Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)

© AMC



"That is the trick when you're trying to come up with an ending for something in the writers' room. We want to satisfy and yet, if we give folks exactly what it is what they think they want or we think they want, we're not being surprising or fresh. There's always that eternal tension between giving folks exactly what they want, or what they expect, or what they hope for, and giving them something that subverts their expectation.

"I will say, at the end of the day, we're gonna do our damnedest to make this thing end with a blast and end on a high note, in a way that will satisfy everyone but I think as we all know - there is no satisfying everyone! But we'll do our best."

What does the future hold for you beyond Breaking Bad? Would you ever make this kind of commitment again to another long-running show?
"I've had my best success in television and I've had the most creatively satisfying time in television. [But] I entered this business with the intention to write and direct movies - I've written a few that have been made, and I'd like to direct movies as well.

"That's something I intend to work toward, but I tell you, TV has just been wonderful to me. I will definitely never say no to another opportunity to create a TV show that has meaning for me personally. The group we have - the actors, writers, directors and crew - are the best there is.

"I'm biased as heck, but we have a wonderful family we have built around the show and it's gonna be a real sad day when we go our separate ways. I intend to get something [going] again in the future where we can get together - as many of us as possible - to work on something else. But it's hard to say what that thing will be.

"I basically just keep my head down, and get my work done on Breaking Bad and figure the future will take care of itself once this is all over. I suppose I should be planning more for the future, but I have to admit that currently I'm not!"

Breaking Bad: The Complete Third Season is out now on DVD.
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