When Anna Gunn read for the role of Skyler White on AMC’s groundbreaking critical smash hit “Breaking Bad,” she wanted to know more about where her character might be headed. When show creator Vince Gilligan told her in one sentence that “Skyler is going to become like Carmela Soprano, but she will be in on the crime,” Gunn simply said she was, “sold … that’s all I need to know.”
“Breaking Bad” follows a struggling high school chemistry teacher (Bryan Cranston) diagnosed with advanced lung cancer who turns to a life of crime to secure the financial future of his wife (Gunn) and son (R.J. Mitte) before he dies. On the surface, it’s a tense and exhilarating portrait of a side of Middle America that we rarely see on television, but the heart of the show, underneath the intensity of this world of drug cartels, violence and power plays, is the story of a family doing whatever it takes, struggling to survive against hardship and against the odds.
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The darker side of Skyler White has taken a few years to emerge. Starting out as a supportive wife and dedicated mother in the first couple of seasons of the show, Skyler was either oblivious or in denial about her husband Walt’s journey from chemistry teacher to criminal mastermind. By the latter part of the third season to the explosive fourth season that aired last year, Skyler has transformed into a ballsy and ruthless collaborator in the dangerous and volatile world of Walt’s underground methamphetamine manufacturing operation.
“Skyler could never have guessed what she would be capable of” Gunn acknowledges, adding that she “has been drawn as a mother lioness kind of character, where she’s going to do anything for her family. She’ll do anything to hold them together, even if it means living in fear and misery.”
“Breaking Bad” is universally acclaimed by critics and audiences as one of the best, if not the best, drama series on American television. After claiming numerous Emmy awards and nominations for its first three seasons (including two nominations for Best Drama Series, three consecutive Best Drama Actor wins for Cranston and a Best Drama Supporting Actor win for Aaron Paul in 2010), the show took a year off last year due to an extended hiatus. This year, with “Breaking Bad” back in the Emmy race, it is poised to reap numerous Emmy nominations, including for its cast members including Gunn, who this year has decided to submit herself in the Best Drama Supporting Actress category after missing out on a Best Drama Actress nod in 2010.
Gunn talked at length with Gold Derby about her character and her best episodes from the show’s fourth season, from which she has an abundance of riches to choose from. Narrowing it down to her two favorites, Gunn mentions “Bullet Points,” in which Skyler and Walt plan out the extravagant lie to tell her sister (Betsy Brandt) and brother-in-law DEA agent (Dean Norris), and “Bug,” in which Skyler helps her old boss (Christopher Cousins) with his tax fraud crisis by pretending to be his ditzy blonde bombshell assistant in an interview with the IRS. The episode “Cornered,” where Skyler considers leaving Walt but ultimately decides to stand by her husband, is also discussed as a possible choice.
Gunn is currently shooting the show’s upcoming fifth and final 16 episode season in New Mexico, which is being split into two mini-seasons, with the first eight episodes likely to start airing in July this year. While Gunn doesn’t divulge what viewers can expect, she tellingly admits “I can’t imagine where these people are going to go, [but] it’s not bright and sunny!”