A Tale Of Two Panels: Whedon And “Breaking Bad”

Cannes Film Festival

Timescience Bloodclub

Joss Whedon and the cast of “Breaking Bad” both used very different approaches to delight their fans at Comic Con 2012.  Whedon stepped on stage, announcing he had nothing prepared to speak about so he’d spend the 45 minutes answering fans questions.  Meanwhile, “Breaking Bad’s” creator and show runner Vince Gilligan walked on stage wearing a “Heisenburg” t-shirt, Dean Norris wore a Xena: Warrior Princess outfit (complete with wig) and Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul wore yellow hazmat suits (Paul carried a doll as well.)  The roar of the crowd these antics elicited was deafening.  What follows is a brief panel recap of these two fan favorites.

Joss Whedon

Although Whedon had already been present on a “Firefly” panel that reunited the cast, the questions continued to come in about the subject.  When asked if he’d revisit the content and reformat it, his response was “I’m not a big go-back guy, I tend to look forward.”    That being said, Wheldon announced that there will be a “Doctor Horrible 2” – and confessed that he’s been working on it for “three years.”

Fans seemed enamored with the villains that Wheldon has created over the years.  Whedon said that actors can articulate what it takes to be a good villain much better than he can, following that statement with an explanation Willam Defoe once made during an interview regarding being a good villain compared to playing Jesus Christ in “The Last Temptation of Christ”: “There is no difference, everyone thinks they are righteous.”    He maintains that he keeps this quote in mind while creating his villains, adding, “I have fun bringing so much more evil than I ever thought I could bring.  Sometimes I’m surprised at my own words.”

When asked what his advice was to aspiring filmmakers, Wheldon suggest that everyone who’s interested in creating content go out and make their own.  “It’s easier and cheaper than ever before.”  HE also reminded people that the more you do, the better you get, so one should not expect to be a pro on their first try.

Whedon finds the creation of strong female characters and especially action figures to be a natural and necessary piece of the story telling fabric.  While he wasn’t able to articulate a recipe for a special sauce in creating a character such as “Buffy,” he did comment on the fact that women need to be realistic to be believable and relatable. “I went on the show floor and was trying to find action figures that don’t look like porn stars,” said Whedon.  “It’s really late in the game for there to be nothing but cheesecake for people to buy.”

Whedon acknowledged that he tends to spread himself rather thin, taking on lots of different projects because “I’m honestly just a girl who can’t say no.”  However, he seems to have some limits, for when asked if he would like to create a stage musical, he said “Of course, I’m love to do a stage musical, but I don’t have the time to commit, and I don’t really know the answer.”

Now that Whedon is attached to “Much Ado about Nothing,” the crowd couldn’t get enough questions in about his adaptation of the Shakespearian play.  What he was able to reveal is that the film all takes place in one location to help keep the budget down, that the problems of actors schedules were no different than what’ he’s experienced on his other projects, and that if you film at your own house, you will have problems with neighborhood noise, such as early morning lawn mowers.   He also confessed that he wanted to do a version of this play for a long time, but was afraid of the "Nothing” portion of the title.  “Then, suddenly, at the end of ‘Avengers’, I realized what Shakespeare was saying, and I discovered what my approach to this work should be.”

 

Breaking Bad

While every major character would have a turn at being highlighted, moderator Michael Schneider kicked off the panel by digging into the question on everyone’s mind;  ”With only 16 episodes left, how is the series going to end?”   Bryan Cranston jumped in first; sharing his response to a question he had recently been asked regarding the possibility of the show ending on a happy note: “My answer was, ‘Have you been watching?’”  Vince Gilligan reminded the audience that the writers were not ignoring any loose threads, and his only real clue to Walt’s undoing was “You are only as strong as your weakest link.  This becomes very apparent as more people get let into the circle.”

While side-stepping questions that would reveal any major plot twists, each actor was able to reveal how their character has been affected over the last four seasons.  Aaron Paul felt Jess was a struggling kid who’s just glad to have Walter back in his life.  Anna Gunn suggests Skylar will hold her family together whatever the costs, and has learned that she can become a convincing liar.  Jonathan Banks felt that Mike never had things under control; he has just always taken care of other people’s problems and moved forward.  Dean Norris said that Hank is happiest when doing his job, and now that he’s been proven correct he’s gotten his “mojo” back and will be hot in pursuit of Heisenburg.

RJ Mitte fended off a bit of criticism towards Walter Jr., stating that as a son who’s not in the loop of exactly what the family problems are, he has to love and stick by his father.  Betsy Brandt explained that with Hank back in his game and in full recovery mode, Marie would become more attuned to Skylar’s problems and wants to help her sister.  “There may be less purple, but not much.”   

Gilligan confessed that he loves the character of Saul and would find it “very appealing” to have a spin off series that focuses on a lawyer who does whatever it takes to stay out of the courtroom.  “If he’s still alive at the end.  We don’t know that yet.”  As we enter season five we see a Saul who’s lost all his confidence, now finding himself in the role of “the cleaner” that Mike once occupied. 

While many fans are infuriated with the fact that Hank cannot recognize that Walter is the elusive “Heinsenburg,” Gilligan explained that Walt is a person who is truly hiding in plain sight.  “We all see a person a certain way.  It would be ridiculous for him to think that Walt is Heinsenburg.”

While much of the evening’s panel gravitated towards elements of season five’s premier episode, a few additional points of interest came out of the panel.  Bryan Cranston discussed his initial interest in playing Walter White, stating “I desperately wanted to be involved because that transition hadn’t been done before on television, a character that goes from good to bad.”    Gilligan discussed the writing style that will be the focus of the first half of season five.  “It’s shocking but also very funny.  There is a lot of dark humor.”

When asked if there was a perfect way for the show to end, Gilligan laughed.    “The conqueror wept.  Will that mean at the end of the whole series the last shot will be of Walter weeping?  We don’t know.”