In 2008, Brian Cranston made headlines when it was announced that he would be playing Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who becomes a drug kingpin.
The show runner Vince Gilligan had pitched Breaking Bad as the story of Mr. Chips becoming Scarface. If those references don’t make a lot of sense, Mr. Chips is the classic lovable old teacher who spent his life making a difference in the lives of his students. Scarface is the ruthless drug kingpin who went out in a blaze of glory.
And Brian Cranston had just finished playing the role of Hal, the aw-shucks dad on Malcom and the Middle. Much more Mr. Chips than Scarface. So the idea that the show could believably turn a suburban dad into a terrifying crime lord was… well a little hard to believe.
Until the show aired, that is. Though it took a couple of seasons to catch on, Breaking Bad came to be hailed as one of the best TV shows of all time. Part of that was due to the show’s impeccable production values and a good bit was due to the stellar acting of the cast – led by Cranston.
But what really set the show apart from a lot of other prestige television is the style of storytelling. Gilligan summed up that style with one word: inevitability. Breaking Bad was a show about cause and effect.