Bryan Cranston

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Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston (43604294241) (cropped).jpg
Cranston at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2018
Bryan Lee Cranston

(1956-03-07) March 7, 1956 (age 65)
Alma materLos Angeles Valley College
  • Actor
  • director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1980–present
Full list
  • Mickey Middleton
    (m. 1977; div. 1982)
  • Robin Dearden
    (m. 1989)
ChildrenTaylor Dearden
AwardsFull list

Bryan Lee Cranston (born March 7, 1956) is an American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. He is best known for his roles as Walter White in the AMC crime drama series Breaking Bad (2008–2013), Hal in the Fox sitcom Malcolm in the Middle (2000–2006), and Dr. Tim Whatley in the NBC sitcom Seinfeld (1994–1997).

Cranston's performance on Breaking Bad earned him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series four times (2008, 2009, 2010, and 2014).[1] After becoming a producer of the show in 2011, he also won the award for Outstanding Drama Series twice.[2] Breaking Bad also earned Cranston five Golden Globe nominations (with one win) and nine Screen Actors Guild Award nominations (with four wins). He was previously nominated three times for the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in Malcolm in the Middle. Cranston co-developed and occasionally appeared in the crime drama series Sneaky Pete (2015–2019) and served as a director for episodes of Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, and The Office.

In 2014, Cranston earned a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Broadway play All the Way, a role he reprised in the HBO 2016 television film of the same name. In 2018, he received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Play for his portrayal of Howard Beale in the play Network at London's National Theatre, later winning his second Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for the same role on Broadway. For portraying Dalton Trumbo in the film Trumbo (2015), he received nominations for Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe Award, all for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

He has also appeared in several acclaimed films, such as Saving Private Ryan (1998), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Drive (2011), Argo (2012), Godzilla (2014), and The Upside (2017). He also provided voice acting in the films Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012), Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016), and Isle of Dogs (2018).

Early life[edit]

Bryan Lee Cranston was born on March 7, 1956,[3] in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California,[4] the second of three children born to Annalisa (née Sell; 1923–2004), a radio actress, and Joseph Louis Cranston (1924–2014), an actor and former amateur boxer.[5][6][7] His father was of Austrian-Jewish, German, and Irish descent, while his mother was the daughter of German immigrants.[8][9][10] He has an older brother, Kyle, and a younger sister, Amy. Cranston was raised in Canoga Park, California.[2][11][12] His father held many jobs before deciding to become an actor, but did not secure enough roles to provide for his family. He eventually walked out on the family when Cranston was 11 years old, and they did not see each other again until a 22-year-old Cranston and his brother Kyle decided to track him down.[5] He then maintained a relationship with his father until his father's death in 2014.[13]

Cranston has claimed that he based his portrayal of Walter White on his own father, who had a slumped posture "like the weight of the world was on his shoulders".[5] After his father left, he was raised partly by his maternal grandparents,[14][15] living on their poultry farm in Yucaipa, California. He has called his parents "broken people" who were "incapacitated as far as parenting" and caused the family to lose their house in a foreclosure.[15] In 1968, when he was 12 years old, he encountered Charles Manson while riding horses with his cousin at the Spahn Ranch.[16][17] This happened about a year before Manson ordered the Tate-LaBianca murders.[18] Cranston graduated from Canoga Park High School, where he was a member of the school's chemistry club,[19] and earned an associate degree in police science from Los Angeles Valley College in 1976.[20] While at Los Angeles Valley College, he took an acting class for an elective, which inspired him to pursue a career in acting, saying “And at 19 years old, all of a sudden, my life changed.”[21]


Early work[edit]

Cranston (right) with Aaron Paul and Vince Gilligan in 2010

After college, Cranston began his acting career in local and regional theaters, getting his start at the Granada Theater in the San Fernando Valley. He had previously performed as a youth, but his show business parents had mixed feelings about their son being involved in the profession, so he did not continue until years later.[7] Cranston was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church, and performed weddings for $150 a service to help with his income.[22][23] He also worked as a waiter, night-shift security guard at the gates of a private LA community, truck loader, camera operator for a video dating service, and CCTV security guard at a supermarket.[24]

Cranston started working regularly in the late 1980s, mostly doing minor roles and advertisements.[25] He was an original cast member of the ABC soap opera Loving, where he played Douglas Donovan from 1983 to 1985.[7] Cranston starred in the short-lived series Raising Miranda in 1988. Cranston played Tom Logan in an episode of the first season of the TV series Baywatch in 1989. Cranston's voice acting includes English dubbing of Japanese anime (for which he primarily used the non-union pseudonym Lee Stone),[26] including Macross Plus and Armitage III: Poly-Matrix, and most notably, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie as Fei-Long, and the children's series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Cranston did voice work for the 1993–94 first season of that series, playing characters such as Twin Man and Snizzard, for which he was paid about $50 an hour for two or three hours of daily work. The Blue Power Ranger, Billy Cranston, was thought to be named for him but this has since proven false.[27][28]

Career breakthrough and Malcolm in the Middle[edit]

In 1994, Cranston got the recurring role of Dr. Tim Whatley, Jerry's dentist, on Seinfeld. He played the role until 1997.

In 1996, he played the first of his two biographical roles as an astronaut when he portrayed Gus Grissom in the film That Thing You Do!

In 1997, he played a supporting role in the Michael Dudikoff action vehicle, the air hijack picture Strategic Command, alongside Richard Norton, Paul Winfield, and Stephen Quadros.[29] Later that year he had a small role in Babylon 5 as Ericsson, a starship captain who sacrifices himself as part of a plan to save the galaxy.

In 1998, Cranston appeared in the episode "Drive" of The X-Files written by Vince Gilligan. That same year, he played his second astronaut role when he portrayed Buzz Aldrin in the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. In 1999, Cranston wrote and directed the film Last Chance.[30] That same year he made his second appearance for a recurring role on the CBS sitcom The King of Queens, playing Doug Heffernan's neighbor, Tim Sacksky. In 1998, he appeared in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, as one-armed War Department Colonel I.W. Bryce, who reported to General George Marshall that Private Ryan was the last survivor of his brothers, and his assumed location. His theatrical credits include starring roles in The God of Hell, Chapter Two, The Taming of the Shrew, A Doll's House, Barefoot in the Park, Eastern Standard, Wrestlers and The Steven Weed Show, for which he won a Drama-Logue Award.[31]

In 2000, Cranston landed a leading role as Hal on the comedy series Malcolm in the Middle. He would remain with the show until its end in 2006. Cranston ended up directing several episodes of the show and received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performance.[32] Cranston reprised his role in a cutaway gag during the Family Guy episode "I Take Thee Quagmire", killing Lois (his wife on Malcolm in the Middle) with a refrigerator door, and in a leaked alternate ending of Breaking Bad with Jane Kaczmarek reprising her role as Lois.[33]

He has had guest roles in many television series, including a white-collar criminal searching for his estranged wife and daughter on The Flash, and a lawyer attempting to free the title character from a contract in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He also had a guest role in late 2006 on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, playing Ted Mosby's obnoxious co-worker and former boss Hammond Druthers. He played Lucifer in the ABC Family miniseries Fallen and appeared as Nick Wrigley, an irresponsible uncle who accidentally brings Christmas close to destruction when he steals Santa's sleigh to have a crazy ride, in the 2001 Disney Channel Original Movie 'Twas the Night. In that same year, he provided the voice of Gary's father in Gary & Mike. He appeared as the more successful business colleague of Greg Kinnear's character in the film Little Miss Sunshine (2006). In September 2008, Cranston narrated a pre-teen adventure/fantasy audiobook called Adventures with Kazmir the Flying Camel.[34]

Breaking Bad to present[edit]

From 2008 to 2013, Cranston starred in the AMC series Breaking Bad, created by Vince Gilligan, in which he played Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Walter teams up with former student Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul), to manufacture and sell methamphetamine to ensure the well-being of Walter's family after he dies. Cranston's work on the series was met with widespread critical acclaim, winning him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in each of the show's first three seasons and being nominated in 2012 and 2013 for seasons four and five (winning again in 2014 for the second half of season 5). Cranston and Bill Cosby are the only actors to have won the award three consecutive times.[2] Cranston was also a producer for the fourth and fifth seasons of the series, and directed three episodes of the show during its run.

Cranston at the All the Way premiere at the LBJ Library, Austin in 2016

In 2011, Cranston had supporting roles in three successful films, the drama The Lincoln Lawyer, as well as the thrillers Drive and Contagion. He voiced James Gordon in the animated film Batman: Year One (2011).[35] In 2012, he had supporting roles in John Carter, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted as Vitaly the tiger, and Rock of Ages, and a major role in the hostage drama Argo. He also lent his voice to several episodes of the animated series Robot Chicken.[36] In 2012, he starred in the remake of the 1990 film Total Recall, as Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen, the corrupted president of a fictional war-ravaged United Federation of Britain. In the same year, he made a guest appearance as Kenneth Parcell's step-father, Ron, on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, and was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[37]

From September 2013 to June 2014, Cranston played U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson in the American Repertory Theater and Broadway productions of All the Way, in a performance that has received widespread acclaim, and he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for the role.[38][39][40][41] He also played scientist Joe Brody in the 2014 reboot of Godzilla.[42]

Cranston has produced an instructional DVD called KidSmartz, which is designed to teach families how to stay safe from child abductors and Internet predators. KidSmartz raises money for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children by donating half the proceeds from sales. Also, following the success of Breaking Bad, the year 2014 saw reports of Cranston developing new TV projects in collaboration with Sony Pictures Television.[43] In 2016, it was announced that he would star in an episode of the Channel 4/Amazon Video series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, and would also serve as an executive producer on the series.[44][45]

On July 16, 2014, it was announced that Cranston would star in an HBO adaptation of his hit play All the Way. Steven Spielberg was set to be an executive producer on the film.[46] Following the film's premiere on May 21, 2016, Cranston's performance was widely praised by critics, garnering eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations and a Television Critics Choice Award nomination.[47] In 2015, Cranston starred as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in the biopic Trumbo, for which he received his first Academy award nomination.[48] In 2016, Cranston voiced Li, the biological father of Po, in Kung Fu Panda 3.[49] Also that year, he appeared in the films The Infiltrator and Wakefield. Cranston's memoir, A Life in Parts, was published on October 11, 2016, became a New York Times bestseller, and received positive reviews.[50][51][52] In 2017, he voiced Zordon in Lionsgate's Power Rangers, which marked his return to the franchise after providing voices for the first season.[53]

Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, and Cranston at the Isle of Dogs press conference at Berlinale 2018

Cranston starred in a stage adaptation of the 1976 film Network playing Howard Beale, directed by Ivo van Hove at the West End Royal National Theatre, opening in November 2017.[54] The play, with Cranston as star, transferred to Broadway, opening at the Belasco Theatre on December 6, 2018.[55] Cranston received the 2019 Drama League Award, Distinguished Performance Award.,[56] as well as his second Tony Award for best lead actor in a play.[57]

In 2017, he acted the role of Phillip Lacasse, a wealthy paraplegic in the movie The Upside along with Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman. The film had scheduled a release in 2018, but was delayed because of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations scandal. It was eventually released on January 11, 2019.[58]

He was part of the ensemble cast of the 2018 animated film Isle of Dogs, by Wes Anderson, which premiered at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, where he played the lead dog Chief. The film was released on March 23, 2018.[59]

Cranston appeared in the ninth season of the HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm, playing Larry David's therapist. In October 2018, Cranston became the voice for a new series of Ford commercials featuring the tagline 'Built Ford Proud'.[60] In 2020, he starred as the lead human, Mack, in the Disney film The One and Only Ivan. In 2019, his production company Moonshot Entertainment signed a deal with Warner Bros. Television.[61] He also appeared in the miniseries Your Honor, playing a judge and the father of a boy who accidentally kills someone.

Charity work[edit]

In April 2014, Cranston presented at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition with Idina Menzel, Fran Drescher, and Denzel Washington, after raising donations at his Broadway show All the Way.[62]


Cranston has stated, "Dick Van Dyke influenced me a lot... you know, his physical comedy and his ability to be loose in his body."[63] In a 2016 interview with Larry King, he stated that he would love to work with Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, and Dustin Hoffman.[64]

Personal life[edit]

Cranston and wife Robin Dearden in September 2008

From 1977 to 1982, Cranston was married to writer Mickey Middleton.[65] On July 8, 1989,[66] he married Robin Dearden,[67] whom he had met on the set of the series Airwolf in 1984; he was playing the villain of the week and she played a hostage he held at gunpoint. Their daughter, actress Taylor Dearden Cranston (born February 12, 1993),[68] played an extra in the Breaking Bad episode "No Más", directed by her father.

Cranston played baseball when he was a student and remains a collector of baseball memorabilia.[7] He is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. When he accepted his third Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Cranston thanked his wife and daughter and told them he loves them "more than baseball". The family has a beach house in Ventura County, California, which Cranston designed.[1][69]

While filming Breaking Bad, Cranston lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[70] He was a co-owner of the former independent theater Cinemas Palme d'Or in Palm Desert, California.[71][72]

To commemorate the final episode of Breaking Bad, Cranston and castmate Aaron Paul both got Breaking Bad tattoos on the last day of filming; Cranston's tattoo consists of the show's logo on his right ring finger, while Paul's tattoo consists of "no half measures" on his biceps.[73]

Cranston and Breaking Bad co-star Aaron Paul announced the release of their signature mezcal, Dos Hombres, in July 2019.[74]

In July 2019, Cranston donated to the Congressional Election Campaign of Valerie Plame for New Mexico's 3rd congressional district.[75]

In March 2020, Cranston contracted COVID-19 during the global COVID-19 pandemic, and recovered with mild symptoms. By December 2020, his sense of smell had only partially recovered.[76][77]

Filmography and awards[edit]


  • A Life in Parts (autobiography, published in 2016) ISBN 978-1-4767-9385-6


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External links[edit]