The Seemingly Sudden Rise of Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston was born on the 7th of March, 1956 in San Fernando Valley, California. That’s right, you did the math correctly, the

man is 56 years old. While it’s clear that the star of the almost universally acclaimed AMC show ‘Breaking Bad’ isn’t exactly a spring chicken, it’s crazy to believe that it has taken so long for him to be recognised for his considerable acting chops. After his ground-breaking performance as Snizard in ‘The Mighty Power Rangers’ way back in 1993, it’s difficult to fathom that the man wasn’t offered all of the meaty roles right there and then. Looking back on his eclectic roles in the past, it is clear that his success was a long time coming. He has bit parts on many other shows including ‘Murder She Wrote’, ‘Baywatch’, ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ and ‘Seinfeld’ to name but a few. His big break came in the part of Hal in the TV show ‘Malcolm in the Middle’. Still, while the show was undoubtedly popular, it seems that he hadn’t really been recognised as a great talent until entering the role of the bumbling, seemingly innocent crystal meth cook who is riddled with cancer, Walter White. And recognised he has been, having won three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance.

He isn’t the first person to reach success later in life, Julianne Moore didn’t become a recognisable name until her role as Maude Lebowski in ‘The Big Lebowski’ at the age of 38. Similarly Jon Hamm’s big break in Mad Men didn’t come until he was 36. Cranston’s success has also brought on a whole slew of appearances in big budget movies this year alone, such as ‘John Carter’, ‘Rock of Ages’, the remake of ‘Total Recall’ and the upcoming ‘Argo’. Last year he  appeared alongside Ryan Gosling in, ‘Drive’. The actor portrayed a down on his luck mechanic in what has now become a bit of cult classic. In an interview on Marc Maron’s podcast ‘WTF with Marc Maron’, Maron enquired as to whether Cranston had been tempted to retire following the success of ‘Malcolm in the Middle’, Bryan said that he hadn’t–

“I love to act. So, I love all parts of it. I actually love to work on scenes and perform.”

Evidently, Cranston didn’t get into acting for the money or fame aspect, but just a way of making his living via the craft the he is so passionate about. In the same interview he tells Marc that when he was starting out  he just wanted to make his living as an actor and for him that would constitute as a successful life He just wanted to work, the same way that his father before him worked and supported his family through acting –

“That’s the way most actors are. Really, most actors would just love the opportunity to work as an actor and whatever level that brings I was willing to go. If that meant that I was living in a studio apartment with a roommate for the rest of my life then that was the way it was going to be.”

If you really think about it, his rise is hasn’t been so sudden at all. The man has been working consistently since the early 1980’s, and so has a lot more experience than one might first assume. In a culture where it has become the desirable norm to suddenly become famous overnight, it’s unthinkable that Cranston has worked so hard for years without much recognition at all. A man who works as an actor for the simple love of the profession rather than a desire for fame and fortune is an anomaly in this day and age, hopefully his example can serve as a lesson to those who heed the call of instant celebrity.

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2 thoughts on “The Seemingly Sudden Rise of Bryan Cranston

  1. I love actors like Cranston, they are much closer to what the definition of their profession really is, rather than what it has become in Hollywood. We can praise Brad Pitt’s enviable position at the top of the Hollywood hierarchy till the cows come home, but he is the kind of guy whose shortcuts through acting ‘training’ have made him a 50 year old who still sounds like a surfer dude, and a hopelessly awkward goof the minute he (gasp!) sets foot on an actual theater stage. Cranston, on the other hand, has been such a breath of fresh air for those of us who like that little thing called Gravitas, which comes with a hell of a lot more work in the wings than a talent scout giving you a lucky break.

    I like your writeup, though I don’t know how much of his stuff you’ve seen before you began writing. I am not sure who he played in Power Rangers, frankly trying to watch those episodes doesn’t make this any more clear. That became obvious after the 10th random “monster” with an unidentifiable, heavily altered voice popped up on the screen amidst the terribly edited footage.

    So I’m not sure why so much attention is paid to his work in Power Rangers.
    I wish people brought up some of the other, better, credits more often.
    You are completely right that a lot of people act like actors like him just came out of nowhere, because they are suddenly aware of them. Like they began acting last week.
    A lot of people also just won’t quit calling Cranston a “comedic” actor even though the sole reason for this is that prior to Breaking Bad, he happened to luck out in comedy rather than drama.

    My favorite bits of pre Breaking Bad material he was in, however, have easily been in drama. I loved him in Malcolm, but that was because occasionally, the show would quit the stupid and actually get sweet and sincere for a bit. Those instances were harder to forget, and it was in those that Cranston really stood out.

    It’s very easy to search for someone’s back catalogue in the age of the internet, and so I have done that with Cranston, just like I would with any actor that is just a joy to watch. The one thing that becomes obvious is that he is a totally uninhibited actor who has tried almost everything, and who really means it when he says that an actor’s job is simply to act. His voiceover work is endless and varied– as a fan of voice acting I enjoy it immensely– as is the amount of stuff he tried that can only be called ‘bizarre’ (in one of his first TV roles as a villain of the week, he shows up in drag at one point).

    My favorite unknown Cranston is in the 2006 mini series called “Fallen”, where he played Lucifer, as well as a recurring role of a detective in the short lived drama series “Brooklyn South”. There are also great guest appearances in The Pretender, Nowhere Man, and as Buzz Aldrin in “From the Earth to the Moon”. There is also the X Files episode, but that has been getting quite a few mentions so no need for me to elaborate. 😉

    I hope we see more of him after Breaking Bad, and in less of the kind of stuff that wastes him. The roles don’t have to be too big: whoever is controlling the camera just needs to want to linger on him long enough to make an impression.

    • Hi, thanks for the comment! The inclusion of his part in Power Rangers was a joke more than anything else, and also a way of conveying just how diverse his acting roles really have been. I mainly wanted to show how his career has been based more on his love of acting rather than a desire for fame and fortune, which is something that doesn’t seem to be very common in Hollywood. I also hope we can see more of him after ‘Breaking Bad’, considering the high profile movie work he has been getting as of late I doubt we have seen the last of him!

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