Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn on Skyler’s Fear of Walt and Her Struggle for Power

Anna Gunn. Photo: Mark Davis/Getty Images

Eighteen years ago, Anna Gunn got one of her biggest breaks on TV, playing a junkie with a heart of gold on NYPD Blue. These days, the actress has come full circle with her role as Skyler White, now a shrewd moll/mom, on Breaking Bad. What’s with her fascination with the dark side? Vulture rang up the sunny-sweet actress, who gamely talked about Skyler’s future on the show, her fear of Walt, and the power trip she’s on despite it. 

Did you know that [SPOILER ALERT] Ted was going to survive to this season?
I had no idea. I had no idea if he was dead or alive, honestly.

And were you shocked to see the actor come back?
Yes, but delighted because Chris Cousins is such a wonderful actor and such a good guy that it was like, “Oh, good, okay, he’s back!” And also for Skyler, that would be such an absolutely dreadful, horrible thing if he died and she felt culpable for that. The fact that he’s in the hospital in the condition he is in is bad enough. It’s just absolutely horrifying for her, to know she had something to do with that.

And yet at the end of your scene with him, we see Skyler realizing how much power she has over him — and it seems like she likes it. Actually, we have a reader question along those lines: Isaiah wants to know if Skyler’s taking a bigger role in Walt’s criminal activity is more about her protecting the family, or is it just her being drawn to the dark side?
I think it’s a mixture of the two and that’s what I like so much about our writers. They’re exposing the true nature of human beings, which is never all black or all white, never all good or bad. I think that, ultimately, she is all about protecting her family, but the fact is that as she gets deeper into [this lifestyle], there is some degree of her being hooked in the same way Walt was hooked. She starts to experience a sense of power that she’s never had, and that empowerment and that being able to take control of things — that’s heady and seductive. And I think it does start to bring out the darker corners of her personality.

How would you like Breaking Bad to end?
Whatever way Vince brings it to a conclusion is going to be the right way, and anything that I might imagine maybe comes from a more romantic side of myself; there’s a part of me that pulls for the family and wants to see them survive this whole thing and see Walt get out of the whole business and maybe they could make it work again — but I don’t know that after all the devastation between Walt and Skyler and the roads they’ve gone down and the things that they’ve done, I don’t know that’s something you can turn back from. I really don’t.

She’s pretty scared of him now.
She’s terrified of him.

Shoot the Critic asks if you think there’s a romantic future between her and Walt. I mean, now it’s getting a little creepy every time he touches her.
Yeah, every time he touches her she thinks, I don’t know who this person is, I don’t know what he’s going to do, what he’s capable of. She’s really in this state where she’s almost afraid to breathe. When he walks into the room, it’s almost like the air is sucked [out of it] and she’s backed into the corner. It’s almost like being prey, like a deer in the woods. You think, If I don’t move too much, maybe he won’t do anything. However, I think that there’s something still alive in terms of a feeling for Walt and so I think it’s very possible that they could try to reach through the wreckage towards each other, but I don’t know how in the world that would work.

A Washington Post article suggested that Breaking Bad is an argument for Obamacare. What do you think?
Absolutely not. I don’t think Vince had any intention of creating some sort of statement about health care in particular or anything political. However, the fact is that he created a character who is going through a lot of things that are a lot of the same things that a lot of Americans are going through right now: How do I make ends meet? How do I pay for things if I’m sick? How do I take care of my family? Which I think is part of the reason people can sympathize and empathize with Walter White, and put themselves in his shoes. But I don’t think in any way Vince had a vision of, Okay, I’m going to make a political statement — in any way. I think he just happened to hit the Zeitgeist of what’s going on in our country for a lot of human beings.

Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn on Skyler’s Power Trip