1. Bryan Cranston’s Dad was a very aggressive and violent man, often abusing Bryans’s mother, getting in fights with random strangers, and getting angry very easily. He left the family when Bryan was only 12 years old.
2. During a performance when Bryan was in a high-school play, his lines were: “President Lincoln will return to the White House” but he accidentally said: “President Lincoln will return to the White Front.” The audience and everyone on stage burst out laughing; Bryan took it offensively. He became introverted, in-confident, and he decided acting was NOT for him.
*In the 1960s, White Front was a popular retail store in California, similar to Walmart today.
3. Bryan lived with his mom until he was 15 years old when his mother’s house was foreclosed on and they lost the house. His mother and sister went to live with their paternal grandparents, while he and his brother had to go live in a one-bedroom house on a farm with his maternal grandparents. There, he picked apples, shoveled chicken poop, harvested eggs, and delivered papers.
4. Bryan joined the Police-force academy when he was 16, mainly because he wanted to do something new and get the opportunity to travel. One night in Austria, he went out into the city after working hours with a few other guys, and they only had one thing on their mind. They visited a whorehouse and his friends went upstairs with their chosen companions. Bryan was not ready to make tonight the night, so he just took a seat and stared at his shoes. But a woman in a blue dress signaled for him to come with her. He made an excuse by showing that he only had a few bills in his wallet, and giving her a look as if to say: “I don’t have enough.” But she snatched the money out of his hand, dragged him upstairs, and before he knew it, it was over. There had been no fireworks, no talking, not even an exchange of names.
5. Cranston then worked many different jobs, as a security guard in a grocery store, as a minister, as a cremator at a morgue, while taking classes in criminal science, police systems, and other topics. At age 20, he took an elective course in acting, and it was then that he changed his mind: He knew he wanted to be an actor.
6. He and his brother wanted to travel around America, and they knew there would be no better time to travel than at that moment. With $175 in his pocket, a sleeping bag, tent, and all-weather gear, he and his brother took off on motorcycles for what turned out to be a 2-year trip. This led to many unique experiences, sometimes sleeping in churches, schools, homeless shelters, or motels. They worked temporary jobs bussing tables, manning carnival booths, and local food co-ops.
7. While working a night shift at a loading dock for a large trucking company, lifting heavy boxes, and breathing a lot of exhaust, Bryan received a call from his agent about a Mars bar candy commercial. Not knowing anything about what it would entail, he went to the audition and they asked: “Tell us about your climbing and rappelling experience.” Never having climbed in his life, he lied and told them all about his “adventures” climbing Mount Shasta, Mount McKinley, and many others. They were impressed by his stories and said they would have callbacks in a few days. Immediately afterward, he called A16, an outdoor hire company, to show him how to use the ropes. He practiced every day on a cliff just outside of LA, and when the time came for the audition, he aced it! He was the one who got the role, and that was his first big break; ever since then, he had an easier time getting roles and promoting films.
8. Over the years, Bryan completed a marathon in New York City, got married and had a daughter, picked up a tapeworm-like parasite, and was unable to venture far from a bathroom on the set of Loving. Because of his role as a goofy dad in Malcolm in the Middle, he almost didn’t get the part for Breaking Bad! But Vince Gilligan remembered him from the set of The X-Files and convinced the producers that Bryan was the right man for the part.
9. Bryan Cranston worked extremely hard on the set of Breaking Bad. Every day he’d wake up at 5:30 am, have coffee, take a shower, and get dressed. He’d drive nine miles to Q Studios just south of Albuquerque, and he was in the makeup chair by 6:30. He would shave his head, and then start the 12-hour rehearsal of the day. Plus a 1-hour lunch. So he worked a 13 hour day usually, many days were longer. When he got home he would ask how his wife and daughter were doing, look over the script for the next day, have a sandwich for dinner, and hit the sack.
10. Ever since he had a steady income from his work on Loving, Bryan’s dad was constantly asking him for money. Small sums at first, then on to bigger and bigger sums, including water bills, electricity bills, etc. After his father died at age 90, Bryan found a note in his house, it looked like it had been hastily scribbled onto a piece of paper during his father’s last moments: The highlight of my life was when my children forgave me.
The lesson to be learned is that you should never take anything offensively. If only Bryan had known that the audience was laughing with him, not at him during his high school play, he would’ve been much happier a lot sooner.
Second, the details of Bryan Cranston’s life speak to the amazing potential of what a person can do, no matter the starting circumstances. No matter who you are, no matter how angry you are at your parents for not setting you up better in life, nothing is unachievable! If you truly have a deep desire to complete your goals, nothing in this world can stop you.