Breaking Bad could have turned out much differently if AMC went with their original plan and hired someone else to play Walter White. The network executives had other actors in mind for the role of Walter White when Vince Gilligan was still in the early development stages for the series. The role eventually went to Bryan Cranston and the rest was history, making Breaking Bad one of the biggest critically-acclaimed series ever.
It’s very difficult to imagine anyone else portraying Walt other than Cranston. As the face of the series, Walt served as the driving force behind Breaking Bad‘s multitude of highs and lows. What started out as a tragic story about a high school science teacher diagnosed with a terminal illness turned into a crime drama full of unbelievable twists and turns. As Walt fell deeper into the world of drugs, he started to lose himself in his life of crime while embracing his Heisenberg persona. In the end, his illness came back to threaten his life but it was Walt’s Heisenberg-driven actions that caused his death.
When Breaking Bad was being cast prior to the show’s 2008 debut, AMC had a clear vision in mind as the figure leading the series. The network reportedly approached Matthew Broderick and John Cusack to play Walter White. Broderick had a number of movies under his belt but he had never worked on TV shows for a long-term role. Cusack’s career was similar in that he had dozens of movie roles and limited TV appearances. Both actors turned down the role of Walter White, according to AMC and Gilligan. Cusack has since taken to Twitter to reveal that he never turned it down so it’s possible that he was considered but never offered the role. Either way, these failed options led to Cranston’s casting.
Why Bryan Cranston Got The Role Of Walter White In Breaking Bad
Gilligan originally wanted to cast Cranston as the lead in Breaking Bad after working with him on The X-Files. Cranston starred in the season 6 episode, “Drive”, which Gilligan wrote. In that 1998 episode, Cranston played a man with a terminal illness who took Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) hostage inside of a car. Gilligan praised Cranston in his performance and thought he would be the perfect fit to play Walter White. AMC executives felt differently since their perception of the actor stemmed from his portrayal as Hal on the comedy Malcolm in the Middle. After the executives viewed the X-Files episodes, they changed their tune and supported Cranston’s casting.
Cranston went on to win a slew of awards for his performance in Breaking Bad. The series ended up running for five seasons before coming to an end in 2013. Cranston beautifully embodied Walt during the character’s tragic downfall. The actor’s approach to Walter White was unique and it’s unlikely that another actor could have served up something even remotely similar to what Cranston accomplished. Who knows what Broderick and Cusack would have done with the role, but in this case, everything worked out in the end.