On Breaking Bad, there’s always power in secrets: The ones that Walter White keeps, yes, but also the ones that are kept from him. But there’s still plenty that we don’t know about the show’s characters, as was pointed out at the end of today’s Breaking Bad panel at the Television Critics Association press tour. Vince Gilligan and his writers have been close-fisted with the background details they’ve doled out over the show’s four-and-a-half seasons (and, assumedly, the final half season that begins August 11), so in their last meeting with the members of the TCA, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, and Bob Odenkirk were invited to share a piece of their characters’ personalities that never made it to the screen. Paul, Gunn, and Brandt went to the psychologically rich territory of their characters’ parents—Gunn and Brandt relating makeup-chair conversations about what could’ve gone wrong in Skyler and Marie’s childhood home that made each the person they’d become—while Mitte delved into his own personal history to describe the physical toll of Walt Jr.’s cerebral palsy. Bob Odenkirk drew on his own past as well, suggesting that morally compromised (and possibly spun-off) attorney Saul Goodman, like himself, hails from Chicago. “Everybody west of Chicago is easy to manipulate,” the actor said by way of explaining Saul’s cross-country migration, offering a vision of an Albuquerque filled with rubes eating “raisins and crap that grows on trees!”
Bryan Cranston, meanwhile, tapped into his puckish side: “The turning point for Walter White was July 4, 1978, Coney Island, New York, when he entered the Nathan’s hot-dog-eating contest.”
These answers—which helped push an unfortunately brief panel past its 30-minute timeframe—encapsulated the insight and playfulness of the session, a public victory lap heralding Breaking Bad’s last eight episodes. Outside of the show’s recent Comic-Con panel, it’s unlikely that creator and cast will play a warmer room—one that’s never made a secret of its esteem for Breaking Bad. But the session wasn’t a circle of back-patting, either: At one point Paul and Gunn were asked to consider differing fan reactions to their characters’ compliance in Walt’s wrongdoing, with Paul offering the priceless sound bite “[Jesse]’s a drug dealer, he’s a murderer, but for some reason you want to protect him.”
Of course, Breaking Bad’s most classified info—how the series will end—could only be spoken of in cryptic affirmations and/or facetious Cranstonisms, with the actor suggesting that his character “spreads his joy throughout the last eight episodes.” That might not be true, but it was evident from the TCA’s visit with the Breaking Bad team that no matter what they’re leading to, the final hours of the series will spread some modicum of joy. Joy, followed by a deep, sad, sucking void caused by a lack of new Breaking Bad in your life. A void that can be filled by inventing more invented biographical information for the characters. Like what if Hank wanted to be a lumberjack once?