This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the premiere of Breaking Bad. The AMC series followed Walter White, a chemistry teacher who turns to manufacturing methamphetamine after he develops cancer. It was an entirely new idea in TV to present a perfectly sympathetic character who gradually descends into complete villainhood and takes the audience with him. To celebrate the anniversary, Esquire assembled the people behind the show: Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and others, to tell the story behind the story.
Charlie Collier, President of AMC, SundanceTV, and AMC Studios: I remember the day Breaking Bad hit my desk, because it was like nothing else I’d seen. At the time, we [AMC] had committed to Mad Men as our first scripted original series, but had not yet aired it. Having greenlit that, we were getting every historical pitch—flappers, Motown—and we wanted to steer clear. Having been American Movie Classics, we didn’t now want to become an “original classics” network known for period shows.
Vince Gilligan: Breaking Bad was dead by the time AMC came into the picture. I was emotionally moving onto other things, thinking, Well, we fought the good fight, but this show was just too damn crazy. A show about a guy cooking crystal meth and he’s the hero? What did I expect? When I got a call from my agent saying, "Hey, the folks at AMC want to meet with you about your project," I said, "Which project?" That’s how far gone I was. My response was "AMC? The channel where they play Short Circuit 2 ten times a day?" Little did I know they were undergoing a renaissance at that point.
Breaking Bad was an artistic treasure, but it also had some lucky breaks: AMC's rebranding, the writer's strike, and Netflix and the rise of binge-watching. Read the oral history of Breaking Bad at Esquire. -via Metafilter