Career-making role: Bryan Cranston.
You've called your Breaking Bad character Walter White ''the role of your career''. Why is that?
Because it's so damn good! You look at the trajectory of where my character goes from the first episode to where we're coming now down to the end. No other character in the history of television has made that transition. No one has changed completely from when we saw him: a mild, depressed man who loves his family, doesn't get a speeding ticket, everything is controlled and orderly and he's eating his little sandwiches. His life is turned upside down with his diagnosis and for the first time he takes a risk. He's got nothing to lose: he's going to die in two years. When anyone alters their morality for financial gain, you are on a slippery slope; you are doomed.
Were you ever sceptical about how audiences might react?
The fact that Breaking Bad became a hit was so out of my control. The planets all have to align. When we premiered, people were ready for it: they wanted a change, they didn't want things that were usual. Perhaps if it came on the air a year or two earlier they wouldn't have been. We thought we'd get hit by people saying we're glorifying drug use or manufacturing. None. Not a peep. Because the truth is it's not about that. I often say Walter went into manufacturing drugs because he was a chemist; that's what he knew. If he were a mathematician counting cards, trying to learn some scheme or system to beat the casino, it wouldn't work. It was appropriate to what he already was. That's why I think it made sense: you can follow it and believe it.
Walter is a multifaceted character; is there a part you enjoyed playing the most?
That's why it is the greatest role of my life, because it's all of those things. Usually, they go, ''OK you're the vixen, the slut, the kidnapper, you're the goofy fun neighbour and you usually stay in your slot.'' And mine just goes all over the place. That's why I didn't get bored. I was always looking forward to the next script, ready to go. It constantly surprised me.
How has it been working with Aaron Paul?
That's one of the lucky breaks. I have come to not only appreciate him but to truly love him. I look at him like a younger brother and people say, ''Whaddya mean? You mean like a son? He's that young!'' And I say, ''All right, like a son! So what!'' He is not only a terrific actor but [also] his outlook on his life is exactly what you would hope and want it to be. He accepts the fact that we are extremely lucky to be able to do what we do: storytelling. He's humble, he's sweet, he's kind, sensitive. He's just a really lovely man. And there are elements of Jesse that are unmistakably Aaron Paul. The sweet, sensitive nature. That's him.
Walter is so mean to Jesse …
I'm not mean to him. I'm trying to protect him. He just needs tough love.
Is someone like Walter inherently evil?
I think human beings are born with the capability of every single human emotion that is possible. It's just, it either develops or not. When we first meet [Walter] he is meek and innocent, law-abiding, a good guy. And the set of circumstances that befell him pushed him to a place like a cornered animal. I bet you the meekest person you can find could become dangerous with the right set of circumstances - if the right buttons were pushed.
Before the drama of Breaking Bad, audiences knew you as a comic actor. Which do you find more difficult?
Comedy is harder to do because it's more fragile. Drama can work with pauses placed just about anywhere. You have to be really specific with comedy and, boy, if you lean too hard on something you can kill it. Comedy is delicate and it's like, ''Oh, it rose. Quickly, patiently, get it out of the oven.'' Drama is like meat loaf: it will be good tomorrow.
Breaking Bad airs Monday on Showcase at 6.30pm (repeated 10.30pm).