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Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser on Lydia, Stevia, and ‘Gross’ Todd

[If you have not seen the Breaking Bad finale: Stop, turn around, and come back later!]

And that’s why you don’t mix chamomile, soy milk, and Stevia, at least not when you're dealing with a chemist with nothing to lose. So in the end, Walt did poison Lydia, the woman to whom he’d left his blue meth empire at the end of the first half of Breaking Bad’s fifth season, solving the much-debated mystery about who the ricin was for. But Vulture wanted more Lydia closure, so we got in touch with actress Laura Fraser — who was about to watch the finale with her mom and dad in Scotland — to talk about her character's disgusting beverage of choice, what was up with Todd, and when she found out who was going to get ricin'ed.

Did you suspect Lydia was going to get the ricin after all?
I kind of thought it might be a red herring. Initially, I thought all the Stevia was just to add to her uptightness, her ridiculous, absurd nature. She’s so particular about what she’s ingesting but can also order massacres. It was funny. But I didn’t see it coming until I read the final script. “The powder comes out in a fine white column.” At one point in the description, it even said, “And why are we mentioning this?”

Did you ever ask where that chamomile-soy-milk combo came from? Sounds awful.
The writers tell you nothing. You feel like you’re committing a weird Breaking Bad crime by trying to get information. I learned very quickly that you just take it as it comes. I do think that’s vile behavior. Her other actions are pretty bad, but that drink is inexcusable. You don’t put milk in chamomile tea — that’s disgusting behavior! That’s not right. It’s grim.

Walt left his meth business to Lydia at the end of last season. Why do you think he wanted her dead in the end? To stop her from continuing to distribute blue meth?
I think you’re right there. His pride would not have allowed for that. He’d want any trace of the blue legacy to die with him. But also, c’mon, she’s gotta go! She tried to have him killed in the end, and I think he probably sensed that would happen. He had to get in there first. I don’t know if you know, but there’s a subplot that after Walt called her, she called 911, and she’s fine now. She’s recovering nicely, receiving visitors. That’s my subplot.

In a way, she dies the cruelest death.
Yeah, she’s got all the time to think about what’s going to happen, how she’s going to suffer, how her daughter is going to suffer. It’s not like she doesn’t deserve it, though. She’s not a very nice lady. I have all these images of Lydia’s daughter and Holly ending up as teenage meth addicts on the street. It’s just awful what we’ve done to these children.

When we see Lydia at the café, she and Todd are meeting face to face at the same table. What was that all about? Did you assume their relationship had developed?
I think she thinks, Well, he’s done a few things for me and gotten a few things started. My meth slave is working really nicely. Maybe I’ll give him the honor and privilege of gazing upon my business suit. But I think she’s also very irritated by everything he does. She just wants to make the most of the meeting, gracing him with her face-on presence. She’s a nutcase, I don’t know!

Peter Gould told me you and Jesse Plemons had rehearsed that first back-to-back meeting in the café, where he’s inching closer and closer to her.
If it’s a big emotional scene, I don’t like to rehearse. But for something like this, it was nice to run through what it would be. It made us giggle when we read it! Their dynamic is really quite wonky. We wanted to test it out.

Jesse wasn’t supposed to get so close originally.
Yeah, I remember I could feel his breath on me. I think Lydia was like, Oh, gross, this child is, like, at me!

Lydia’s pretty high-strung. Was the role exhausting?
I did feel a bit depleted at the end. I felt like I was so constricted and tightly wound; I felt my chest creak open at the end of the day. I wanted to laugh, I was so tense at the end of every filming day. My body really bore the brunt of Lydia. Bloody hell. She really did make me laugh, though. She’s so absurd and funny.

Were you there for the final day of shooting?
I wasn’t. I think I was there three days before the end. I missed the wrap party. My last day was my last scene. I was all decrepit and hideous for my dying scene. Bryan Cranston was right there behind the bed, whispering his lines. He really relished [saying] “good-bye, Lydia, you fucker!” you know? When I finished the scene, they gave me this massive board with all these messages from everyone. It was so sweet! I wasn’t expecting anything like that. Everyone gave me a hug. It was weird to die and then walk off set. Somebody shouted, “Call 911!”

As a viewer, did you want Walt to see justice and be punished further or did you want him to end things on his own terms, finding some peace before the cancer got him?
The spiteful, Lydia part of me wanted him to suffer a little bit more. Although the alienation toward the end, you couldn’t get much more lonely, so, he suffered almost enough.

Did you enjoy the finale?
I did. It felt like that satisfying feeling you get when you finish a jigsaw, if you’re a boring, out-of-work actor and do a lot of jigsaws. [Laughs.] Everything fit together perfectly.

Photo: AMC