Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anna Gunn on Life After 'Breaking Bad:' 'I'm Interested in Complicated, Complex Female Characters'

Anna Gunn as Skyler White in 'Breaking Bad.' (Frank Ockenfels/AMC)
Even people who've never watched Breaking Bad – both of 'em – know that the eight-episode arc beginning Aug. 11 on AMC will mark the end of one of TV's most extraordinary, genre-bending series.

Star Bryan Cranston, winner of three consecutive Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy Awards for his portrayal of meek chemistry teacher turned drug overlord Walter White, has transcended Hollywood's typecasting jinx even before the show's fifth and final season concludes. He appeared in six major motion pictures in 2012 alone, including the Oscar-winning Argo. (Then again, Cranston landed the role of Walter after playing goofball dad Hal on the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, so maybe he's just really talented.)

But what of the rest of the cast? For example, will Anna Gunn, who has become the dictionary definition of "longsuffering" after six years playing White's wife Skyler, now be confined to stereotypical spouse parts once Breaking Bad shutters its set?

Hardly. In a live-chat interview a few days ago hosted by the Los Angeles Times, Gunn says she's already found work in a leading TV role a world away from Skyler White.

"I did a pilot with a pretty interesting character," Gunn relates. "She's a teacher, a blue-collar woman who teaches at a very entitled private prep school on the East Coast. She's a sort of unfiltered, kind of wild, very honest person, and she's very passionate about her teaching. But she's struggling to deal with the bureaucracy of the school and the entitled parents.

"She's also raising three kids, two of whom are already out of the house and one who's still in school and struggling with coming out. And she's saying, 'Be who you are and come out.' She's a very flawed, interesting, different kind of character, I think. It's got sort of a dark comedic edge to it, too. It reminds me of Nurse Jackie. And because [the show] deals with education and teaching, I think it's also very interesting. So we're waiting to hear about that."

Gunn's high television profile as Breaking Bad's heroine also has helped open professional doors previously closed to her and many other actors.

"I just got back yesterday from the Sundance Institute where I was workshopping a new film, playing sort of my own female version of Walter White," she says. "It's the psychological portrait of the making of a zealot, essentially. She's a woman who goes from being a normal housewife to being a radical. So it was a really interesting piece of work and we shot about five scenes from the movie at the Institute."

She says the Institute experience was her first time working with co-writers and co-directors. "It was one of the best things I've ever done," she beams, high praise considering her recent body of work. "It's amazing to be there. Sundance is like a little filmmaker's Utopia."

Clearly, then, if someone ever decides to make a new version of Breaking Bad with a woman in the lead, Gunn's up for the challenge.

"I'm really interested in complicated, complex female characters, and Skyler certainly was that," she says. "So I'd like to do some more of that. Doing the pilot was fine. And I'd like to get back and do some more theater in New York. That's on the agenda as well."

There continue to be rumbles about a possible Breaking Bad feature film in the near future, but to get to that point fans have to know how the series ends over the last eight episodes. And Gunn, like her show's co-stars, aren't giving up those details just yet.

"People sometimes think they can trick me into it if they get me talking," Gunn says, smiling. "Perhaps buy me enough drinks. At the Sundance Institute there was a night we were out, having a good time, and people thought if perhaps there were enough drinks flowing that I might spill some beans. But we are well trained. We are very well trained. We never spill the beans."

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