Bryan Cranston almost wasn't Walter White in 'Breaking Bad,' calls his casting 'fate'

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Bryan Cranston opens up about his new Super Bowl ad, friendship with Aaron Paul, favorite Breaking Bad moments and more.

Bryan Cranston opens up about his new Super Bowl ad, friendship with Aaron Paul, favorite Breaking Bad moments and more. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic )

Can you imagine Walter White being played by anyone other than Bryan Cranston? The Breaking Bad star reprises his Emmy-winning role in PopCorners's upcoming Super Bowl ad as he and close friend, Aaron Paul, recreate one of the show's most iconic scenes. But things could have gone very differently years ago as Cranston says he almost wasn't in the series at all.

"If the eighth season of Malcolm in the Middle came through, which was very close, I wouldn't be talking to you right now. Someone else would," Cranston tells Yahoo Entertainment as he promotes Sunday's Super Bowl spot.

Cranston played patriarch Hal on Malcolm in the Middle from 2000 to 2006. When the seventh season ended, the actors were under the impression they'd return for an eighth. "Fox loved the show. We loved the show and they [kept] the sets up," he recounts. Later that spring, the cast and crew were informed the sitcom wasn't renewed.

"We were kind of bummed," Cranston admits. But months later, he got a call from his agent asking if he knew writer-producer, Vince Gilligan. The two worked together when the actor guest-starred on The X-Files a decade prior and Gilligan wanted Cranston to read for the part of White.

"[The script] was phenomenal," Cranston remembers. "[Gilligan] was my champion to get the role. I did get the role, as we know." The pilot shot in early 2007, which is when Malcolm in the Middle would have filmed. "I wouldn't have been available to shoot the pilot of Breaking Bad that year. And there it is — it was fate."

With Gilligan at the helm, Cranston reunited with Paul and one more familiar face for PopCorners: actor Raymond Cruz, who memorably portrayed drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca. Many crew members who worked on the series, which ended in 2013, also returned to shoot the Super Bowl spot. Cranston says they wanted the ad to feel "authentic" for the fans — "we take pride in the fact that we're recreating elements from this iconic show" — so he wore the exact clothes and pork pie hat his character donned years ago. They even filmed part of the commercial in the same RV where White and Jesse Pinkman (Paul) first cooked.

"You know sometimes you go in your closet and you find something that reminds you of a period in your life? And you immediately go back to the emotions that you were feeling when you used to wear that all the time? This is kind of the same thing," Cranston shares. "We went through a wardrobe call and I'm looking at all the things that Walter White wore, and I'm smiling from ear to ear. The desert boot shoes! It was just so much fun to step back into that world again... Aaron and I just kept looking at each other with glee. We were so happy."

It's clear Cranston looks back on the series with pride. He says he remembers "all" 62 episodes. "The 'Fly' episode," he recalls, was fun. "4 Days Out" is a classic — fans should already have a hint that the Super Bowl commercial mimics that one — and he calls the series finale "perfection." ("I thought it was appropriate and satisfying on every level and I couldn't be prouder of it.") But the acclaimed star has not rewatched the show since it ended 10 years ago.

 Courtesy of PopCorners)

Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Raymond Cruz reprise their Breaking Bad roles for new Super Bowl ad. (Photo credit: Courtesy of PopCorners)

"I've been busy!" he quips. That's true, but there's also a pretty sweet reason he's holding off.

"I keep thinking that I would rewatch Breaking Bad with someone who's never seen it before. I had this image that I would have a grandchild who was 16 or 17, and it's like, 'OK... let's do it. Let's watch this show that I made years ago and have that experience,'" he explains. Cranston shares one daughter, 29-year-old actress Taylor Dearden, with wife Robin Dearden. "And because it would be so long in between, it would be almost a new experience for me, and certainly a new experience for them. So that's my fantasy. I'd love to watch it with someone close to me who has never seen it before."

The 66-year-old actor may have his vision play out with Paul's children. Paul and his wife, Lauren, are parents to daughter Story, 5 next week, and son Ryden, who turns 1 next month. (Cranston, by the way, knows the kids birthdays off the top of his head.) Cranston is so close with his former co-star that Paul asked him to be Ryden's Godfather.

"It means everything to me," Cranston says of the responsibility. "It was my birthday last year. We were staying with them and they had a little birthday party for me. It was so sweet and then he asked me to be the godfather of their soon-to-be-born son." The actor quips: "I, of course, said no. How much does it pay?"

On a serious note, Cranston, who co-founded Dos Hombres Mezcal with Paul, says the ask means the world. "I adore his children," he adds. "I love, love those kids."

Watch PopCorners's new ad "Breaking Good" below:

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