Being on the greatest show of all time is a great privilege, but being on two of the greatest shows of all time is an honor. In the pantheon of television, few shows have been as highly acclaimed as Breaking Bad in terms of drama, boasting universally praised performances. But before Breaking Bad, several members of the cast paid their dues as working actors in small roles in movies and television shows.
Lucky for them, the show many members of the cast have in common is the show that’s considered one of TV’s greatest comedies, Seinfeld. Several actors who either appeared as a regular or guest on Breaking Bad made their bones on Seinfeld. To have been on either show makes them apart of television history.
Myra Turley was fortunate to get on Seinfeld just under the wire, appearing briefly in the finale as the foreman of a jury who announces a controversial guilty verdict.
Years later, she appeared on arguably one of Breaking Bad‘s best episodes, “Face Off.” In the episode, she plays the caregiver of the ruthless drug lord, Hector Salamanca. Memorably, she assists Hector in spelling out some choice words for the DEA.
Nigel Gibbs briefly appeared in the Seinfeld season six episode, “The Doorman.” Jerry momentarily takes over for Mr. Pitt’s doorman, but when the doorman fails to return, Jerry leaves his post, during which time, the lobby’s couch is stolen. Gibbs portrays “Tenant #2,” whose only line is “Where’s the doorman? How come someone wasn’t watching the door?”
However, on Breaking Bad, Gibbs’s part got a little bigger when he portrayed Hank Schrader’s colleague, homicide Detective Tim Roberts. Gibbs would star in four Breaking Bad episodes before making a few appearances on the spinoff, Better Call Saul.
Mark Herelik has had a diverse career appearing in masterpieces like Election, as well as the sci-fi sequel, Jurassic Park III. On Seinfeld, he appeared on the season eight episode “The Comeback,” in which he played Milos, the tennis shop owner Jerry buys a racket from, only to discover that Milos is a terrible tennis player.
On Breaking Bad, he appeared in the season three episode “Kafkaesque” as a doctor, who, after Hank has been left injured from his shootout with Tuco, has to, unfortunately, explain to Marie the low probability of a full recovery.
Jessica Hecht is probably best known for starring as Susan, Carol’s (Ross’ ex-wife) life partner on Friends. However, one of her first roles was when she appeared in two Seinfeld episodes as George’s girlfriend, Lindsay. He’s in a book club with her where they’re reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s, yet George fails to read it. Then George gets in trouble with Lindsey’s mother when she catches him eating an eclair out of the garbage.
On Breaking Bad, she played Gretchen Schwartz, Walter’s former flame now married to Walter’s old partner, Elliot Schwartz. Together, they founded a billion-dollar pharmaceutical company called Gray Matter. Walt left the company before they struck it rich and later blamed them for his financial failures.
Larry Hankin has had a long career that includes movies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and classic shows like Friends, where he played the strange downstairs neighbor, Mr. Heckles. Before Michael Richards was cast, Seinfeld producers actually considered him for the role, so when casting needed to be done for an actor that physically resembles Kramer for the show-within-a-show, Jerry, producers cast Hankin. He plays actor Tom Pepper and most of his scenes are devoted to a subplot involving George suspicious that he stole a box of raises from his audition. Tom also refuses to take advice from the man he’s playing, Kramer.
On Breaking Bad, Hankin played Old Joe, a salvage yard owner that destroys Walt and Jesse’s RV after Hank is hot on their trail. He also makes an appearance when he sells them a giant magnet to use to destroy Gus Fring’s laptop. He would also reprise the role in the Breaking Bad movie, El Camino.
Anna Gunn has appeared in movies and television since the early 90s, including in The Practice and Deadwood. One of her first roles was in the fifth season Seinfeld episode “The Glasses,” as a girlfriend Jerry suspects cheated on him with his cousin, Jeffrey. The claim comes from George, who wasn’t wearing his glasses at the time, and it turns out what George saw was a cop kissing a horse.
Her big career break came when she was cast as Walter White’s wife Skylar on Breaking Bad, who after initially being a victim of Walt’s lies, ends up joining him as a criminal and manipulator until their ultimate downfall. Skylar is known as one of TV’s most disliked characters and in 2013, Gunn wrote an article for the New York Times examining why that is. Gunn went on to win two Emmys for the role.
Bob Odenkirk has had quite a career. Starting out in comedy, he became a writer in the late 1980s for Saturday Night Live and the Late Night With Conan O’Brien before getting his own show with David Cross called Mr. Show, an HBO sketch comedy show that became a cult classic. In the season eight episode “The Abstinence,” he plays a hopeless medical intern Elaine helps to get his license just so she can say she’s dating a doctor.
Odenkirk’s career changed when he appeared on Breaking Bad, portraying the now-iconic role of Saul Goodman, a slippery lawyer who gets Walt and Jesse out of various situations. He garnered acclaim for the role and the character’s popularity led to the spinoff Better Call Saul, which earned him several Emmy nominations.
Bryan Cranston has been working consistently since the early 1980s. A true working actor, he received bit parts here and there, never receiving leading man status until his 40s when he was cast as Hal on the hit comedy series, Malcolm In The Middle. Prior to this, he had a recurring role on Seinfeld as Jerry’s dentist nemesis, Tim Whatley. The storylines included Jerry being convinced that Tim converted to Judaism for the jokes and even one where allegedly Tim sexually assaulted Jerry while he’s in the dentist chair.
Despite these beginnings in comedy, Cranston got the role of a lifetime when he was cast as Walter White in Breaking Bad. White is a struggling chemistry teacher with a wife and a disabled son diagnosed with lung cancer. However, his life changes when he becomes a meth kingpin, initially so he can leave money for his family after he dies. Cranston’s performance as White has become iconic and considered one of the greatest lead performances in a drama series next to James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano. The role earned Cranston four Emmys for his work. He has continued his career and added an Oscar nomination to his list of accomplishments.