Bryan Cranston on acting, baseball, and trading an Emmy for a World Series Trophy
Bryan Cranston, the popular television star who we knew for years as Malcolm's dad on "Malcolm in the Middle," is now earning critical acclaim for his role in AMC's Emmy-winning drama "Breaking Bad." He recently earned the 2008 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his work on the show.
Audiences also remember Bryan from "Seinfeld," "Saving Private Ryan," and "Little Miss Sunshine," but this San Fernando Valley native and lifelong Dodgers fan says he would give it all up for a shot as a Major League ballplayer. Dodgers Magazine caught up with the talented actor before he threw the ceremonial first pitch on April 30.
As a native of the San Fernando Valley and a lifelong Dodgers fan, what does it mean to you to throw the ceremonial first pitch?
To throw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium is one of the highlights of my life. I've been a Dodger fan for a long time. Even before Dodger Stadium in 1962, I remember going to the Coliseum, seeing guys like Wally Moon hit little "moon" shots over the fence. It's a joy to come here. I just want to take it all in and not dismiss the fact I'm on this field. It's really amazing.
Are you nervous?
No. I played men's adult baseball leagues, so I'm not nervous at all. No bouncing, no bouncing, noooo nooo nooo bouncing. I'm going to groove one right in there.
What have you done to prepare for this moment?
I haven't really done anything to prepare for this moment because I don't know if you can. It's such a big thing for me because this was the sanctuary for me growing up. This was the safe place when you're not feeling good, when you're confused or something. Turn on the radio and you listen to Vin Scully's voice and it took me away to a place that was welcoming and enjoyable and I could use my imagination, imagining the situations as he was describing things. So that was a huge part of my childhood and I'll cherish this moment.
What are some of your favorite childhood memories of the Dodgers?
I remember many things. I was here the night Willie Stargell hit a home run into the parking lot over the stands in right field. It was amazing! It was so much fun coming here in the 60's when I was watching my idols, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, and then getting to see the opposing players. The Cardinals would come in and you'd see Bob Gibson and Lou Brock and Curt Flood, and all those guys. It was fantastic. I'm thrilled. There are a lot of memories here for me. And when I die and they incinerate my poor body, I want my ashes spread at home plate. Can we arrange that?
Do you have any predictions for the rest of the season?
As a diehard Dodger fan, every year I have faith that we will win the division and even go on and have a good shot to win the World Series. I don't know how Dodger fans cannot have that feeling, or whatever team you're rooting for. But it seems like more of a possibility this year. I'm very excited about the offense that we have. I'm a little concerned about the starting pitching because they're all young. It doesn't mean they can't come through. But is there enough time for these kids to mature enough through this season to be able to hold up, like this kid James McDonald going tonight? I'm eager to see how he's going to do, how he's going to hold up to the pressure. Keep our fingers crossed and maybe we can pull it out. Of course, Pedro Martinez is still available. You hear me?
What current Dodgers do you think would make the best actors?
Maybe Russell Martin because every time there is a pitch low and away, he'll pull it back into the strike zone and go, "What, what? That was a strike. Come on." So you have to have a little bit of acting in that. Of course Manny would be exciting to be on "Breaking Bad." I would pay money just to see Manny Ramirez as a drug dealer on "Breaking Bad." Wouldn't you?
What would it take to get Manny a role on "Breaking Bad?"
An offer. If I see him here tonight, I'll just say, "Listen, if you want to go on our show, we'll make it happen." Manny, if you want to go on "Breaking Bad," we will make that happen. Come on, you'll act. It'll be fun. You'll have a great time.
"Breaking Bad" is a fantastic show, but for people who aren't yet watching, what can you tell us about the show and your character?
"Breaking Bad" is a show about a high school chemistry teacher who is in tough times. He's depressed because of missed opportunities through his life. On top of all that, he finds out he's got terminal lung cancer. So it's a comedy, obviously. He doesn't want to leave his family destitute and poor when he dies in a year and a half, so with that drastic set of circumstances, he makes a drastic move. He decides to become a drug dealer to make as much money as he can for his family before he dies. So actually, if you like dark humor, "Breaking Bad" is the show because we have a lot of fun and it's darkly funny.
You recently won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series. Congratulations. What can you tell us about what it was like that night?
Winning an Emmy was an amazing experience. I had just finished telling my wife not to get all nervous because they're not going to call my name, so let's just enjoy the moment. And then they did call my name and I about came out of my skin. And the only thing I remember thinking as I was stepping up on to the stage and getting close to Kiefer Sutherland was, "Please put a sentence together. Just any sentence at all. Just a noun and a verb, maybe an adjective. Throw it in there, just don't go 'Um, um, oh, oh my God, oh my God.'" And I was grateful that after looking at the tape a couple weeks later, I actually said something that was alright. You know, it was OK. So I passed that. It was a wonderful night. An Emmy is a great reward for your work and an honor by your peers. I don't know how it would compare to winning a World Series. I don't know what that would be like.
In addition to "Breaking Bad," you've had some great roles in "Malcolm in the Middle," "Seinfeld," and "Little Miss Sunshine," just to name a few. Would you trade it all in for a career as a Major League Baseball player for the Dodgers?
This is like a Faustian deal. Would I trade in all my acting success to be on the Dodgers? I think I would. I think I would. Because this is something that I've wanted to do ever since I can remember walking and throwing a ball when I was 2. To be a Major League Baseball player would be the dream come true. I've gone to two Dodger fantasy camps and that's pretty close because you get to hang out with Duke Snider and Rick Monday and Ron Cey, and all those guys. It's just fantastic. You play baseball for a week straight, and you get hurt, and you don't care, and you get out there again, and you're taping up, and it's just a wonderful experience. I really, really urge anybody who loves baseball, and the Dodgers especially, to go to Dodgers fantasy camp. It's so much fun. I can't wait to go back next year.
Finally, what do you think makes the Dodgers such a special team?
I think the Dodger tradition was solidified with me when they came out to Los Angeles and first started in 1958. Going to see them at the Coliseum as a wide-eyed little boy made such an impression on me. There is a Dodger Way. It is a revered organization throughout the rest of baseball. And I think perhaps because of the family connection of the ownership of the Dodgers through all those years in Brooklyn and then out here in Los Angeles. And that really set a foundation for Dodger baseball and the way baseball should be played.
I keep looking up and I go "Oh my god, I'm here in Dodger Stadium." It's a fantastic part of my life and I'm going to cherish this moment.