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‘Breaking Bad’ creator talks chemistry, creativity behind the show

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Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 1:33 am

Vince Gilligan, creator of the hit television series “Breaking Bad,” said he never took chemistry in high school — but that didn’t stop him from creating meth-dealing chemistry teacher Walter White.

Gilligan, who was interviewed by UF journalism college master lecturer Mike Foley, spoke to a packed Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night.

Accent Speaker’s Bureau paid Gilligan $60,000 to talk about his own background as an aspiring moviemaker in his younger years to the creative processes behind the curtains of “Breaking Bad.”

Foley began the discussion with a spoiler alert, warning the crowd that anything in the show was fair game for discussion, and if anyone hadn’t finished the show, it was his or her fault.

“To me, ‘Breaking Bad’ feels like catching lightning in a bottle,” Gilligan told the crowd. “I don’t know how I’d do it again.”

He said his fascination with the “Breaking Bad” story came from the protagonist Walter White’s transformation from a plain, boring “Mr. Chips” type of character to a more eccentric “Scarface.”

“I think all of us have a good side and a dark side,” he said.

Gilligan said he drew inspiration from television shows like “The Wire,” “The Shield” and “The Sopranos,” even drawing a comparison between his Walter White and Barney Fife of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Both harbor an amazingly detailed inner life, but they also carry with them damaged self-esteem and psyches.

He said he first worked with Bryan Cranston, the actor behind Walter White, for a few days on the set of “The X-Files.”

Out of all the talented actors he met during the show’s nine years on air, he said Cranston stood out the most.

“He’s the greatest guy ever,” he said. “He’s such a chameleon.”

Foley asked Gilligan if he had ever tried methamphetamines, to which Gilligan replied no — “I think I’d be a heroin guy, myself,” he said.

Before beginning the Q-and-A session, Foley gave a cautionary statement so the crowd would remain calm.

“We will tase you,” he said.

Chris Kirschner, a 21-year-old UF journalism senior, said it was great that Gilligan appeared to talk about the creative mindset behind “Breaking Bad.”

Kirschner said learning how Gilligan went about making such a successful show was a great experience.

“I don’t think any show can be fairly compared to ‘Breaking Bad’,” Kirschner said. “It’s the perfect show.”

A version of this story ran on page 1 on 11/13/2013 under the headline "‘Breaking Bad’ creator talks chemistry"

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