Breaking Bad’s intriguing drug kingpin comes clean about his addiction to chilies, defends his awkward sex scene with Julia Roberts and gets semitough in the face of Jon Hamm’s Emmy-driven jealousy
PLAYBOY: Breaking Bad, on which you play a meth dealer, is now in its fourth season. At this point, are you experienced enough to build your own meth lab?
CRANSTON: I probably could, yeah. We have a DEA chemist on the set. He taught us how to make methamphetamine, which is a very detailed process. I still have my notes. I didn’t want to learn about the back-alley process. I wanted to know how to make it perfectly, the absolute purest meth, and what equipment and chemicals to use, because that’s what my character does. So if I had to, I could make more than just meth; I could make really, really good meth. [laughs] It has created a very healthy sideline for me if this acting thing ever stops working.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever tried recreational drugs, meth or otherwise?
CRANSTON: Never meth, but I’ve had several drug experiences. Pot always just made me sleepy. As a teenager I had friends who wanted to get high and go to concerts. But if I smoked a joint, I would pass out before the first song.
PLAYBOY: How about booze?
CRANSTON: As I’ve gotten older I don’t even like drinking anymore. I had a big birthday not long ago, double nickels, and the metabolism of your body changes when you get to this age. Interestingly, it’s the exact opposite problem I had with pot. If I have more than just one glass of wine with dinner, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, not to pee but because of the sugars in the wine. Then I’m not well rested and the rest of the day is ruined. It’s just not worth it.
PLAYBOY: Walter White, your character on Breaking Bad, is a former chemistry teacher. Do you have a favorite element on the periodic table?
CRANSTON: Californium is my favorite. It just sounds fun. [sings] “I came from Californium with a banjo on my knee.” In high school, I remember being morally indignant that the symbol for iron was Fe. I was like, “You’re just trying to fool us! You’re trying to make it difficult!”
PLAYBOY: The show is shot on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is pretty much in the middle of a desert. How do you entertain yourself when you’re not working?
CRANSTON: One of the best parts about spending any time in this state is getting acclimated to the culture. The biggest question you get when you come here is “Red or green?” That would be chilies, the red and green chilies that are indigenous to this area. I have a fondness for the green. They’re hot, really spicy and go on everything. I put them on my ice cream.
PLAYBOY: Breaking Bad deals with some pretty intense themes. How do you keep the mood light on the set?
CRANSTON: We play a lot of practical jokes on one another. I’m always looking for opportunities to goof off. Just last week I was doing a love scene with Anna Gunn, who plays my wife. We are in bed, making out, and I’m naked. There’s a moment in the scene when I get up and walk to the bathroom, and you see my ass. Without telling her, I put on these big adult diapers. After we made love, I got out of bed, and I could hear her laughing behind me. I finally turned around and said to her, “Next time can we try one of my fantasies?”
PLAYBOY: Speaking of sex scenes, you had a memorable one with Julia Roberts in Larry Crowne. Was that thrilling or intimidating?
CRANSTON: Oh, definitely intimidating. Before we shot the movie, I went on a diet and bleached my teeth and got one of those spray tans. I wanted it to seem like we were at least viable as a couple. So we’re doing the scene, and right away I’m lying on top of her. I met her maybe a month before, and now I’m lying on top of her. Our noses are touching, we’re waiting, and we hear Tom Hanks, the director, say, “Okay, we need to make an adjustment on the camera. Hang on.” So there I am, lying on top of Julia Roberts, and we’re making small talk. “So…how are you? You have kids, right?” We’re talking about family, whatever, just passing the time. It was probably more awkward for me, because under the sheets, she was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Tom kept tugging on her shirt. “Aw, Julia, Julia. Come on, we’ve got to show something. We’ve got to show a little skin.” And me, I’m just wearing a cock sock.
PLAYBOY: A cock sock?
CRANSTON: It’s a sock that goes over your junk. Literally, you stuff your junk into this sock that’s attached to a string, which you tie around your waist with a little bow. I’ve always been like, “And this protects me how?” I don’t understand how it’s less embarrassing than if I didn’t have on anything at all.
PLAYBOY: Your wife and Tom Hanks’s wife, Rita Wilson, are old friends. Has that made for some awkward dinner parties? How do you not feel as though you’re auditioning?
CRANSTON: It’s never been like that for us. It’s always been very normal and comfortable. I don’t want anything from Tom, and he doesn’t want anything from me. My wife, Robin, and Rita have been friends since college. She was a bridesmaid in Tom and Rita’s wedding, so I was there too. I think actors have a tendency to want to hang out with other actors, and there’s a reason for that. When you’re out there with civilians, you get the same kind of questions again and again: “How do you memorize all those words?” or “Have you ever met so-and-so?” But when you’re around other actors, you can talk about other things. Nobody’s asking, “What’s it like to be in movies?” Because we all already know.
PLAYBOY: You’ve won three consecutive Emmy Awards for lead actor in a drama series. Have you kept all three, or have you sold one of them on eBay yet?
CRANSTON:Oh no, I’d never get rid of them. They mean a lot to me. All three are in my office. I walk by sometimes and the glistening gold catches my eye and I think, I cannot believe that happened! Our show isn’t eligible for an Emmy this year because AMC decided to push the premiere of our fourth season to the summer. So now people have been coming up to me and saying, “You can’t be nominated for an Emmy! You must be freaked out! That’s horrible!” And I’m thinking, Are you kidding me? Not being nominated is a relief to me in many ways.