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Krysten Ritter on Breaking Bad: Team Walter White Until the Bitter End

Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter) - Breaking Bad - Season 2, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/AMC
Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter) - Breaking Bad - Season 2, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/AMC Photo: Lewis Jacobs / AMC

Breaking Bad fans often approach me and want to talk about the scene where my character, Jane, chokes on her own vomit and dies. It’s been happening more and more often as people are continuing to find the show via Netflix — plus it’s pretty much cultural jury duty at this point. Never in a million years did I think I would get so much attention for fake-choking on a concoction of oatmeal and Mylanta. That’s just enough pasty disgustingness to make you want to puke for real, and at one point some of the puke mix even got in Aaron Paul’s ear, but of course he didn’t care; he’s an amazing, beautifully available gem of an actor, always supportive, playful, encouraging, and present — an onion ring in a pile of mere French fries. Mylanta and oatmeal or not, I’m lucky, proud, and honored to be a part of what may well be the best TV series of all time.

I remember thinking it was pretty fucked up that Walt would just let a young girl — me, for all intents and purposes — die in front of him, but I certainly didn’t realize that it would be such a pivotal moment for the show and for Walter White. That decision was his turning point and there was no going back. 

In the buildup to Jane’s final days, I didn’t really process what was happening. I remember the hair and makeup girls saying how weird and sad it would be to shoot, but for me that never sunk in. I was busy thumping around on my Nintendo DS with Aaron during down time and just excited to have death makeup and walk around set looking all scary. 

It wasn’t until we shot the scene where Jesse is trying to revive Jane, pretty aggressively, that it started to fuck with my head … I was in an upper body cast to protect me from Aaron pounding on my chest. The thing was pinching me, I couldn’t get a full breath of air, and I had this incredible actor on top of me losing his shit. I think at one point I said, “Aaron, I love you, but you can’t hit me this hard!”

I could feel his hot tears falling on me. I wanted to cry, too. It was overwhelming. I thought if I were dead this is what it would be like. Someone would be trying to revive me, people might be sad, shocked, scared (okay, maybe a happy ex-boyfriend or two). Imagining my real-life loved ones reacting to my own real-life death is intense. It was such a scary and powerful thing to experience when, technically, I wasn’t supposed to be experiencing anything. I was supposed to be dead. Even now, years later, I get a lump in my throat when I think about it — but it’s hard to know whether that comes from my experiences as Jane, my time as an actress on set, or my emotional reactions as a huge fan of the show.

I watch Breaking Bad on Sunday nights like everyone else and feel pretty strongly that every episode should be served with about a pound of Xanax. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy watching something I was a part of because I’m all too familiar with the behind-the-scenes action, and it’s impossible to turn off the running commentary in my head … but in this case, it’s as if I’ve forgotten I’m the actress who played Jane. You’d think I’d bear Walt some serious ill will considering he sat there and watched Jane die, but I’m still rooting for everything to work out for the guy. Every week that goes by, a few more “Team Walter White” members drop off — still addicted to the show, but no longer on his side … But I’m still holding tight and I’m not ready to get off the roller coaster. Like everyone else, I will miss my Breaking Bad–induced stress and emotional turmoil, and I’ll feel sad when the final scene fades out. Seriously: What the heck will I do with my Sunday nights?! Book club, anybody?

Krysten Ritter on Breaking Bad and Walter White