What Bryan Cranston Taught Me at 4:00am
“Grab that cord will you… it’s time to eat!”
Mark, the fat grip yelled at me as I starred blankly back. It was 3:30am on a Wednesday in October and snow was falling all around me. Well, it looked like snow but it certainly wasn’t. The texture was more like cotton and the flavour something like the coloured clip of a Bic clicky pencil. Plastic. Artificial. I am on a movie set and someone, Mark, the fat grip thinks I belong here.
“Common let’s go… prime rib.”
I have been coming here for the past two nights. Disney is filming a made for TV movie called Twas the Night starring Bryan Cranston a few doors down from me. It’s the year 2000, years before Walter White and Heisenberg. Bryan is still Hal from Malcolm in The Middle and to me, he’s Dr. Tim Whatley from Seinfeld. I love Seinfeld and want to know everything about it.
I pile into one of the trucks and head down to the church to eat with the crew. The more I look around, the more I realize that Mark must know I don’t really work here. I am the youngest person in the truck by 15 years (I am only 15 myself but quite tall for my age). I figure he is just letting me come along for the ride, letting me feel like I am working on a movie set… I like Mark.
The church basement is full of crew by the time we get there and the food is quite delicious. I don’t really eat though, I am fixated on Bryan sitting a few tables over. I am working up the nerve to sit beside him and chat but before I can, everyone starts getting up and we pile up back into the trucks to head back over to the Selley’s driveway.
The scene they are shooting is near the end of the movie, this one to be exact and I am struck by the sheer size and complexity of movie making. There are 20-30 crew members, 6 cast members, 6 stand-ins, fake snow, lights, a rigged car… and all of this for a made for TV movie that might be seen by 50,000 people at Christmas time in 2001. It takes them 3 hours to shoot the 5 mins. It’s boring as hell, but I can’t leave.
My chance finally comes. One of the gaffers yells that they are having a washing issue with one of the lights and in come the stand-ins and DP. Bryan retires to the snack tent just off the driveway and grabs a cookie. I seize the opportunity and strike up a conversation.
Bryan is one of the easiest people to take to. He asks me about school, asks me why I am here so late. Tells me how much he loves my neighbourhood and all the trees. Before I know it, we have been talking for 5 minutes and I haven’t asked him a single question. Finally, I jump in and say, “What was it like working with Seinfeld?” He laughs and says it was a great learning experience for him. He says that Jerry is exactly like he is on the show and one of the nicest people he has ever met, that Julia and Jason are the funniest on set and that Michael is actually very quiet and nothing like he imagined.
I tell him that I loved his character and wished he had of made it into the series finale. He told me that he did tape it, but in the end it ran long and there were too many good stories on the show that the converted Jewish dentist didn’t make the cut… we were both disappointed.
I asked him what he was going to do next? Was he trying to get into movies or did he like TV better? I have never forgotten what he told me, and while I wrote it down when I got home, I lost the original sometime during one of my moves. Here is what I remember him telling me.
“I really don’t know what I am going to do next and for once that doesn’t worry me. When I was your age, I was worried. I wanted to do this and do that, I had plans. I don’t think like that anymore. I am proud of my career. I like where I am at. I have dreams sure, but I don’t worry about them. I try and do good work and take things as they come. I love Malcolm in the Middle and am having fun. If we are canceled next year, I will find something else to do and if we go on for ten years, that would be great too. I kinda dodged the question didn’t I? I love my job, I get to talk to people like you, visit places like Canada and get paid to eat cookies.” He laughed.
I can’t remember what else we talked about after that. It was time for him to go and they were changing up one of his lines. He had to mention to milk and cookies now.
You can imagine my delight when I saw Breaking Bad. Bryan has said multiple times that Walter White is the role of his life.
So have dreams, for sure, yes, have them. But don’t worry about them. Do good work everyday and take things as they come and one day, you will find yourself in the role of your life too.