Anna Gunn: Breaking Bad's Secret Weapon

The actress tells all about one of TV’s baddest series.

Entertainment Weekly calls AMC’s Breaking Bad one of the "10 Best TV Shows on Now"—so if you haven’t caught up with this fascinating, subversive series, what are you waiting for? Bryan Cranston has won two Emmys for his portrayal of Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher who secretly turns to cooking crystal meth (the highest quality Albuquerque has ever seen!) when he learns he has cancer and wants to leave his family—his  wife, infant daughter and teenage son, who has cerebral palsy—provided for. Equally good is Anna Gunn, who plays Walt’s long-suffering wife, Skyler. As season three opens on March 21, Skyler is about to discover the reasons for her husband’s highly erratic behavior. "It’s like they’re playing poker with each other," Gunn tells MORE. "She lays her cards on the table and then she waits to see what his reaction is." We caught up with Gunn in between poker hands.

MORE: What do you like most about Skyler?
I really like Skyler’s strength. She’s got a core of steel to her. The devotion she has to her family and the strength with which she forges ahead through all these things that are thrown at her, that’s really appealing to me.

Have you been involved in shaping her story or does that come from the writers?
Certainly Vince [series creator Vince Gilligan] started out with a strong idea of who she was. As we went into it, there were questions I had, or ideas, and he’s pretty open to those. I remember when we were doing the pilot, we were discussing Skyler maybe having some sort of occupation, because originally she was a stay-at-home mom. And I just wondered, because their son is older and in school most days, what she was doing. Then we threw some ideas around and decided that Skyler is a short-story writer but she’s never had much success. Walt’s character starts off as a guy who had many of his dreams deferred, and I saw Skyler in some ways as a similar kind of person.

The thing that strikes me about this series is that there’s a rich backstory that we know very little about. Is that going to be revealed as the series goes on?
We talk about the backstory a lot. It’s something that I think the writers would like to get into more. There are a lot of questions about how Walt and Skyler fell in love, what drew them to each other, what they were both doing when they were younger and what happened along the way. You’re going to start seeing through this season pieces of their past come out. What fascinates me is how people start off with a certain set of ideals and dreams and goals and then, you know, things happen.

Like Walt and Skyler’s son having cerebral palsy.

The major thing that we discussed from the beginning was that they don’t baby him. They treat him like a normal kid. If he’s struggling with something they don’t rush to help him; they let him get through it, and that parenting really appealed to me. It says a lot about who they are as people. And you know, the actor playing Walt Jr., RJ Mitte, has CP himself—though he doesn’t need to walk with crutches, that’s something we added for the character. I got to know a lot about what he has dealt with, what his challenges have been, and I’ve spent a lot of time talking to his mom.

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