Get ready for an action packed, emotionally jarring ride on the third season of AMC's "Breaking Bad" which bows March 21.
Without giving away too much, series creator Vince Gilligan promised that it would be a momentous season for the key characters. It will be especially active for Anna Gunn, who plays the long-in-the-dark wife of Bryan Cranston's Walter White, the cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who turns to meth manufacturing and dealing to support his family.
Walter will face incredible consequences for his actions over the past two seasons, Gilligan said during Saturday's TCA panel, which also included Cranston, Gunn, Aaron Paul and Bob Odenkirk.
"Walter is like Dr. Frankenstein - with good intentions he's created a monster," Gilligan said.
Cranston (pictured above left with Aaron Paul) quickly joked that "Elsa Lanchester is going to star in our show."
But quips aside, Gilligan and Cranston spoke at length about the challenge of doing a show where the character is changing so dramatically with every season.
For most TV shows, the goal is to find a formula that works for the characters and the premise and then protect it at all costs. Already, Walter is hardly the beaten down character of the pilot, but rather a guy who's starting to enjoy some of his ill-gotten power.
"This show is kind of an experiment," Gilligan said. "It's taking a character from point A all the way through to point Z."
Cranston said the shorthand they've often used is: "Turning Mr. Chips into Scarface."
"My goal is to convey this man as a real human being," Cranston said. "He's susceptible to temptation at times - he's vulnerable, unknowing, strong and weak."
Gilligan and his writing team made the decision to start the process exposing Walter's secret life to Sklyer at the end of season two. This repercussions of this revelation will be a major factor in season three.
"There are a lot of things coming up for Skyler this season," Gilligan promised. "The road she starts to go down is fascinating," Gunn (pictured right) added.
Gilligan surprised some by observing that the heart of the show rests with Aaron Paul's Jesse, the meth-fiend former student who is Walter's partner in crime. Jesse begins season three in rehab and racked with guilt and grief over the death of his girlfriend, Jane, in the season two closer.
"Jesse is the moral center of the show. He's the innocent," Gilligan said. "He has a moral center that is more properly braced and more product that even what Walt has."
Gilligan gave credit to thesp Bob Odenkirk (pictured left) for being so good in his role of low-rent lawyer Saul Goodman that he turned what was meant to be a few guest shots turned into a semi-regular role -- one that will grow in season three. The idea for the character came from "The Godfather's" Tom Hagen. Gilligan admitted to watching the first two "Godfather" pics "over and over again and ripping it off shamelessly at every turn...We figured if Michael Corleone has a consiglieri Walter White needs one too."
The Goodman character is akin to a hooker with a heart of gold, Gilligan confessed. This surprised Odenkirk. "Does he have a heart of gold? I think he'd remove it to see how much he could get for it," Odenkirk joked.
When asked whether the cancer diagnosis for White that kicked off the show would rear up again to become an important plot point, Gilligan spoke in broad strokes but made it clear that the answer is yes.
"We haven't forgotten where we started with this," he said. "We're going to keep it as real as possible. Cancer in so many ways is the villain of the piece."
-- Cynthia Littleton