Before he became the iconic Walter White in AMC’s hit series “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston made a memorable appearance in an episode of “The X-Files.” This seemingly unrelated role would become the catalyst for one of television’s most unforgettable characters.
The X-Files Episode “Drive”
In the “Drive” episode of “The X-Files” (Season six, episode two), Cranston played a seemingly deranged man suffering from a painful pressure in his head. After a high-stakes police car chase, he kidnaps FBI special agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and drives to meet Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) to relieve his mysterious suffering.
The episode, written by Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad,” aired in November 1998 and attracted 18.5 million viewers. Cranston’s performance was so compelling that it caught Gilligan’s eye, leading to a future collaboration.
Casting Cranston: A Perfect Fit
Cranston’s role in “The X-Files” almost didn’t happen. Another actor had been cast, but casting director Rick Millikan allowed Cranston to audition, recognizing that he was the right choice for the role.
Vince Gilligan saw in Cranston the ability to be both intimidating and sympathetic, a rare skill that would later define his portrayal of Walter White. Cranston’s ability to humanize even the most twisted characters convinced Gilligan that he was the perfect fit for “Breaking Bad.”
When it came time to cast Walter White, AMC executives were skeptical about Cranston, envisioning him as Hal, the goofy father from “Malcolm in the Middle.” However, after watching the “Drive” episode of “The X-Files,” they were convinced that Cranston was the right man for the complex role.
Bryan Cranston’s talent for transformation and adaptation has been evident throughout his career. From his recurring appearance as Dr. Tim Whatley in “Seinfeld” to serious projects like “Argo,” “Godzilla,” and the ongoing legal drama “Your Honor,” Cranston has proven his versatility.
A Lasting Collaboration
The collaboration between Cranston and Gilligan on “The X-Files” led to a partnership that would redefine television drama. “Breaking Bad” became a cultural phenomenon, and Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White is considered one of the greatest performances in TV history.
Even a decade after “Breaking Bad” ended, fans hope that Cranston and Gilligan will work together again, whether on another dramatic series or a light-hearted comedy.
Bryan Cranston’s appearance on “The X-Files” was more than just a guest spot; it was an audition for a role that would change his career and the landscape of television.
His portrayal of a deranged man in a single episode led to the creation of Walter White, a character that continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.
It’s a testament to the power of storytelling, the vision of creators, and the talent of actors who can bring complex characters to life. The connection between “The X-Files” and “Breaking Bad” is a fascinating piece of TV history that reminds us that sometimes, the most unexpected paths lead to the most extraordinary destinations.