Can't believe Breaking Bad's final season is underway? Well, rest assured that you're in good company. Recently Wetpaint Entertainment had a chance to talk to star Charles Baker, aka Jesse's friend Skinny Pete, who shared his thoughts on the show's highly anticipated final season — amongst other things.
Check out the full interview below, where Charles dishes on the mood on set, delves into the character of Skinny Pete, and shares why being threatened by Jonathan Banks is one of his favorite Breaking Bad memories.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Even as fans, we're having a hard time wrapping our minds around the fact that Breaking Bad is coming to an end. How does it feel to you, as someone who's been with the show since the first season?
Charles Baker: A lot of the same way. I'm still kind of going through the grieving process, I think, and I might very well be in the denial stage right now. [Laughs] I don't think it will really hit me until I've seen it. It's such great experience for me. My five-year-old daughter was born right when I started this show. She grew up with it, and I watched her growing up, and I've kind of grown up with it and her. So, it's been a real kind of deep connection, and it's gonna be hard, I think.
How has being a part of this show, that's become such a cultural phenomenon, changed your life?
In pretty much every way possible. I was living in Texas when I started this show, and did actually most of it while living in Texas. Since then I've moved to LA. That's one of the main things, it made it so that I felt like I could actually make a living in LA. It's opened the doors for me a lot, as an actor, and it's kinda helped me out personally just to give me a lot more confidence. I can actually walk around with my head held up up higher than I had before.
Was the mood on set different this season, because it was the end?
It was a little different. Everyone's really proud of, one, being part of this show, but also there's a certain satisfaction to the idea that we ended it right, or that [creator] Vince [Gilligan] ended it right. He didn't try to drag it out to see how long you could make a buck off it. He didn't get silly with it. He didn't try to do what a lot of shows do, that whole Happy Days jump the shark kind of thing. I'm really proud of that, because that takes a lot of integrity, I think. I think a lot of the crew had that feeling, of just being proud, knowing that we did it right, and we went out on top.
Do you think the fans will find the ending satisfying?
I don't know how it ends, so I couldn't tell you one way or the other. I can judge based by how seasons have ended. What I think will happen is I think a lot of people will be happy. I think there will be a lot of people whose initial reaction will be [that it was] different from what they wanted it to be, but after they sit down and think about it, they'll probably realize that it was everything it should have been.
Plus, some of the best finales are controversial. The Sopranos comes to mind. Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be a smart ending.
They had a lot of time to think about it. And knowing that they aren't being rushed into ending it, and they don't have to justify a bunch of stuff they've written themselves into to try to keep up the original ideas, I think that gives them a little more power. And the fact that they have some of the greatest writers in television sitting in a room together!
One thing I think I heard at one point from Vince was that they take into account a lot of what the fans are saying, too. And a lot of times fans will point out holes that they hadn't realized, and that gives them opportunities to go back and go, OK, then we need to fill that hole. So they've got a lot of resources to work with. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that it's going to be awesome!
So, what can we expect from Skinny Pete this year?
Oh, I don't know. [Laughs] You can expect anything, but I couldn't tell you what's gonna happen!
Looking back, it feels like Skinny Pete and Badger could have easily just been kind of stereotypical side characters, but they've become fan favorites. How did you go about finding and bringing out the humanity in your character?
One thing I love about Skinny Pete and Badger, we were like that calm before the storm. We were the ones that brought a little bit of a breath of fresh air into this world of chaos and tension. Knowing that we were the comedy relief in one of the greatest dramas on television was a little bit of a mind game for us. We didn't want to be goofy funny, we wanted to be funny funny. I went with what I call the Leslie Nielsen school of comedy — I tried as hard as I could to not be funny. I tried to be as serious as possible with this rather ridiculous dialogue. Doing that, I think, is what helped humanize the character. I didn't try to play him stupid, I tried to play him real, and hopefully that had some effect.
What do you think Skinny Pete's perspective is on everything that's happening around him, and especially on the changes his buddy Jesse has gone through?
The audience knows a lot more about Jesse than actually Skinny Pete or Badger do. We aren't clued in to a lot of the horror that he's actually witnessed and been a part of, we just have an idea of the aftermath. We only see him in-between. I think there's a lot of concern, more from Skinny Peter than Badger, for his well being. It seems like Skinny Pete has been more of a long term friend, and he seems to always be there. He picked him up from the hospital, he was in the hospital with him after Tuco beat him. He was the guy that Jesse called when they were stuck in the desert.
I feel like there's some kind of concern for him, and a desire to help him, but at the same time, a respect for his space and, you know, the typical inability for most guys — for most drug addict kind of guys — to really open up about feelings too much. So we're concerned about him, and we don't really know how to express it other than to be there for him, and try to be his distraction.
And what's Jesse going to say? "Yeah, I've had to murder some people..."
I don't think they realize the extent to which he's gone. I think they might just be thinking of it like a phase he's going through. But they're definitely there for him.
Looking back, do you have any favorite memories from set?
I'm so grateful to be a part of this, and like I said, it's done so much for me. I still get a little stark struck every time I'm around somebody famous. So working on this show, with people like Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk and Bryan Cranston, it's been such an incredible experience for me. Pretty much any moment I was on that set was a favorite moment of mine!
One things that stuck out was the first time I had a scene with Jonathan Banks. He came into the scene with me and Jesse and Badger. Right before the scene he and I were off camera and he looked at me and — he was joking, obviously, but he looked at me and said, "Charlie, don't mess this up, or I'm going to punch you in the heart!" Jonathan Banks has been one of my heros. He's got such an incredible resume, he's such an incredible bad guy, it was almost like he gave me a hug, in his way. That was really, really special to me.
Bryan Cranston, when he first introduced himself to me he was just incredibly flattering, and really nice. That was another great moment for me. Then one of my favorite moments was when I brought my wife to the set and we were walking through the trailers and Bryan was in the door to a trailer in his tighty-whiteys working on his script, and just had one arm up on the door frame, legs spread wide open just standing there, enjoying the sun. My wife walks by and saw him, and I was like "Hey Bryan, I'd like you to meet my wife, if you can get some pants on..." So my wife's first introduction to Bryan Cranston was him standing in his tighty-whiteys, his signature look.
You said Breaking Bad opened a lot of doors for you. What projects do you have coming up?
I'm really excited about Ain't Them Bodies Saints, David Lowery's film, [which] comes out in theaters this month [on August 16]. It's a great movie. I have a small part, but it's a pivotal role, but more importantly it's such an incredible film. David Lowery, he is just an amazing, amazing film maker all around.
In September The Blacklist on NBC, the pilot airs. I play Grey, who is James Spader's driver slash confidant. James Spader plays Red, who is the FBI's most wanted criminal who turns himself in, in order to help the FBI catch other criminals. The way I like to describe the character is if James Spader was Batman, I'd be Alfred, his go-to guy. It's an incredible opportunity for me. It's like the polar opposite of Skinny Pete. He's clean-cut, he wears a three piece suit, he has great hair — he actually has hair, he doesn't wear a hat. [laughs] He speaks English quite well and drives a Bentley. Like I say, it's a polar opposite kind of character for me. I'm not totally sure how long I'm going to be in the show, or if I'm going to be in any more of it, but I hope that one keeps going.
I'm also doing an episode of NTSF:SD:SUV on Adult Swim, coming out sometime this month, I think it's around the 29th of August. That's a really fun 15 minute serial comedy. And To the Wonder, Terrence Malick's film, comes out on DVD this month. I have a small but pivotal role. I like the small but pivotal roles. In and out.
They make you memorable!
Well, it definitely sounds like moving to LA has worked out for you! I'm especially excited about The Blacklist. It seems like it fits well in the current TV landscape, with so many shows about serial killers, and criminals working with good guys and things like that. It seems like it could do really well.
Yeah. "Why is he doing this?" It's a really neat story. If you've seen the preview, a lot of people don't realize, I'm actually the first voice you hear. It's also the very first line in the pilot, so I'm excited.
Do you have any words to pass on to your fans?
The Breaking Bad fans are some of the greatest. It's been so incredible and inspiring to be a part of that.
For more from Charles Baker, follow him on Twitter @CharlesEbaker, and, of course, tune in to the final season of Breaking Bad starting on Sunday, August 11 on AMC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.