VIFF FORUM: The Last Cook with BREAKING BAD Creator Vince Gilligan in 2013

“Everyone has the potential to break bad. Most of us do not break bad.” – Vince Gilligan.

Breaking Bad is a show about transition — about a good man going bad. A cancer-stricken chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) starts cooking crystal meth with his failed student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) so that he has something to leave his family. Through sheer force of will, the once good man becomes a “drug kingpin” with a long list of people he’s killed, had killed or wronged over five seasons.

Ahead of tonight’s series finale, Lost co-creator and Tomorrowland producer Damon Lindelof hosted The Last Cook, a Q&A with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan for the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Film and TV Forum. The showrunners Q&A  followed a screening of Gilligan’s favourite episode, Face Off, in front of 1,700 fans at Vancouver’s Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday night.

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A standing ovation in honour of the creator of arguably the “great television show of all time”.

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A verklempt Vince Gilligan.

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Question: When did Vince Gilligan first conceive of Breaking Bad?

Answer: In 2004, two years after The X-Files ended, Gilligan and fellow X-Files writer Thomas Schnauz were unemployed. Schnauz joked that they should cook meth to make money. He’d just read an article in the  New York Times about a man who made the neighbourhood kids sick by cooking meth in his apartment and this led to a discussion about Saddam Hussein’s mobile chemical weapons labs. So the genesis of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman cooking meth in an R.V. in the desert was “two schlubby middle-aged guys talking about being criminals.”

Question: When did Walter White start breaking bad?

Answer: Not when he started cooking meth. When he refused the Gray Matter money in the first season and kept cooking meth. He chose to be a “drug kingpin” and “robbed himself of a happier life”.

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Question: What is the coolest scene?

Answer: A guy’s head on a tortoise. Writers had to figure out ” how to get to that”.  Props made a silicone copy of actor Danny Trejo’s head. A low-budget movie later borrowed the head and Gilligan still has it (“creepy to touch”) somewhere on his property.

Question: Hardest death to figure out?

Answer: The one in Face Off, the episode that was screened for the audience —  the death of Gustavo “Gus” Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Gilligan said Gus was as smart as Walt and maybe even smarter. “We [didn’t] want our charismatic bad guy to get stupid” in order to kill him, Gilligan explained. So Gus’s achilles heel had to be emotional: “his rage against” old guy  Hector Salamanca.

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Question: Toughest death?

Answer: Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). Gilligan says crew wore black arm bands on the day they killed him off.

Question: What is the nastiest thing Walt has ever done?

Answer: Telling Jesse, as he’s being led away to be tortured, that Walt watched Jane die and chose not to save her. Why did Walt do this? Because this kid Jesse betrayed him, Gilligan said. Ratted him out to his brother-in-law Hank. Walt doesn’t takes authorship of his own problems, Gilligan explained. Walt always goes out of his way to blame other people. In this case — Jesse.

A superfan, wearing the yellow protective jump suit of the series, asks a question.

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Not sure why this guy in the tightie whities walked in to ask a question, but Vince Gilligan cracked up.

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Host Damon Lindelof has no doubt that Vince Gilligan will “stick the landing” in tonight’s series finale and neither do the fans.

Tomorrowland BB & VG

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Breaking Bad series finale airs tonight at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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