×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

“Breaking Bad” illustrates the consequences of violence

Vince Gilligan created AMC’s multi-Emmy-winning series “Breaking Bad,” about a former school teacher who turns to a life of crime when he is diagnosed with a fatal illness. The show, which bowed in January 2008, will conclude its final season this year.

“In a realistic depiction, there are con­sequences to every vio­lent action.”

Violence has always been a component of our show. We try to think through these violent moments in great detail — emotionally as well as logistically. And though we intend for them to strike a deep chord with the audience, we never mean to sensationalize them.

When it comes to depictions of violence in entertainment, it seems to me they exist in two basic forms. One is the realistic portrayal, in which there are consequences to every violent action. The other is the cartoony version, where the moment is meant to play as funny or simply cool. For instance, there’s the scene we’ve all watched a thousand times in old movies and TV shows where the hero shoots someone dead, then makes a funny quip and goes on with his day. Admittedly, I’ve written such scenes throughout my career, and may do so again in the future. But I see how a lifetime of that goofy fake stuff could tend to desensitize viewers to the real thing.

When we conceived of “Breaking Bad,” we wanted to create characters who were in the process of changing. In a sense, our show is about how life — and the problems and choices it throws at us — can slowly morph us as individuals. For the most part, the violence in the story is intended to have a transforming effect on our characters.

We work in a writers’ room and the storytelling is a group effort. We go over every step of the script, beat by beat, point by point, and discuss in great detail what the characters are feeling — their hopes, their fears, their goals and obstacles — throughout the episode. That process applies to the bloody scenes as well. We consider what happens to our characters after an incident of violence. It doesn’t matter whether they were dealing it or being dealt it: We figure there will always be repercussions, consequences to the violent act, for everyone involved. How does it darken them? How does it affect their feelings and behavior from that point onward? These are questions we ask ourselves.

When filming scenes of violence, there’s always a meat-and-potatoes component to the planning. Where do we place the squib? Where should the body fall? A lot of it comes down to choreography, to “dance steps,” as it were. But there’s another element, as well. Violence and high emotions go hand-in-hand — and any emotional moment needs to be discussed thoroughly with our actors so that they can figure out how to play it. Often, they help us writers understand how it needs to be played.

 

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Lulu Wang The Farewell

    Refusal to Compromise Hasn't Hurt 'Farewell,' 'Lighthouse' Filmmakers' Oscar Chances

    Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” is based on a true story about her own family. Observing a Chinese tradition of not telling elders when they’ve been diagnosed with a fatal disease, Wang’s relatives reunited in China in 2013 to visit with her grandmother after the family learned she had incurable cancer. Her grandmother was kept in [...]

  • Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan,

    'Little Women' Takes Giant Step Into 2020 Oscar Race

    If Wednesday night’s SAG-AFTRA screening of “Little Women” was any indication of enthusiasm for Greta Gerwig’s take on the classic tale, the cast could find themselves mainstays on the awards circuit. It was a full house — and then some — at the DGA in West Hollywood. The venue was overbooked and several people were [...]

  • Jo Jo Rabbit Once Upon a

    Why Younger Actors Could Be Crashing the Oscar Nominations

    Tatum O’Neal was only 10 years old when she became the youngest actor to win an Oscar in 1974 for her work alongside her father, Ryan O’Neal, in “Paper Moon.”  Besides O’Neal, the only other young Oscar winners have been Anna Paquin, who at age 11 went home with the supporting actress Oscar for “The Piano” [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content