Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston breaks down 'Breaking Bad'

Oct. 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM ET

We’re all just the right set of circumstances away from going from good to “Breaking Bad” — at least that what the man behind meth-cooking antihero Walter White believes.

During a Thursday morning visit to TODAY, actor Bryan Cranston explained what he sees as the essence of the role that’s earned him three Emmy awards — so far — and heaps of critical praise.

“If you had a year to live, how would you live your life? Or what would you do for a million dollars? How far would you go? Walter White plays that out in a very dangerous way,” Cranston told TODAY's Matt Lauer. “What I’ve learned from this experience is that anyone of us, even the weakest person among us, could become a horrible, dangerous person, given the right set of circumstances.”

And as White proves, sometimes there’s no turning back.

“He’s down the road too far now,” the star explained. “It started off very altruistic. He wanted to leave something for his family so he wouldn’t leave them penniless and have their thoughts of him as this shriveled, old, dying man. So he decided to do something risky for the first time in his life — use his chemistry background, cook crystal meth, make as much money as he can for his family and then die. That was the simple plan.”

But there was nothing simple about the process that led Cranston to the part. After his days on “Malcolm in the Middle,” the actor found himself turning down a series of goofy dad roles in order to avoid being typecast.

“The industry has a tendency to want to pigeonhole an actor. ‘Oh, he does drama. Oh, he does comedy.’ But I don’t want to help them do that. So as soon as I’m done with something, I want to veer off and do something else.”

Cranston has a while before he’ll have to veer off again.

“We have 16 episodes after this Sunday’s finale of season four, (so) two more years,” he said.

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