Bryan Cranston recently wrote an intimate, funny memoir entitled A Life in Parts. In turn, he’s been touring, sharing personal stories, and promoting the necessity and power of hard work. In this clip, Cranston gives inspiring advice to aspiring actors at a Guardian event in London.
The four-time Emmy Award-winning star tells actors that there are no shortcuts in the pursuit of landing roles. Rather, he insists, “It’s all about work. And that’s why I say if you don’t love it, it’s going to be drudgery to you. It’s going to be painful to you.”
As a teenager, Cranston initially wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, and even earned an associate degree in police science. But during an elongated cross-country motorcycle trip, he came to a realization one day while stranded at a rest area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Cranston says, “I realized how much I needed to focus on something that I really loved and hopefully would become good at, as opposed to doing something that I was good at–police work–but I didn’t love. So that was when I made that decision, at 22, to become an actor.”
When he was 25, he found work as a soap opera regular on ABC’s Loving which gave him a great sense of pride and belonging. “It really broke down a barrier for me. At first, I always had to supplement my acting with other odd jobs,” he recalls. But when he was fired from the show two years later, he took opportunities to act all he could whether it be guest star roles on TV or small parts in movies.
When he was auditioning, Cranston says he would “never stop working” because he knew “there’s always going to be people who are more talented than me.” So he committed to the task of outworking the competition. “That’s the one thing you can control,” he insists. And he learned to take risks, and in turn, now urges other actors to take chances as well, saying:
“So I would imagine that after the casting director would see about 30 to 40 guys for the same role, if it’s a comedy, whatever you’re reading is not funny anymore to them….you just have to get that sense that it’s okay. If it’s a drama, there’s not going to be any [gasp] moment from them. They’ve seen it. You’re the thirty-fifth guy coming in, reading the same material. How do you get them to pay attention to you? You can’t just do what is expected. If you just do what’s expected, that’s what everyone’s going to do. You’ve got to take a chance….It’s better to take a chance and go way out there and have the person go, ‘Oh my god! That was bizarre and interesting, it’s not what we’re looking for.’ That’s okay. But you took the chance. It’s better to be that guy than audition person number 27 who I don’t remember at all. At least you’ll be memorable.”
It would be about fifteen years after leaving the soap opera that he landed a “gift” of a role as the goofy father Hal in Malcolm in the Middle–and later, of course, the role of the science-instructor-turned-meth cook Walter White from the wildly popular Breaking Bad. Now Cranston is celebrated for his versatile work in film, on Broadway, and on television. Certainly, the hard work and risks he’s taken along the way have made himself memorable!