Q. How much did you have with the pilot script? How detailed a series arc did you have?
A. Great question. It really depends on the kind of people you’re selling to. With the people I was pitching, I didn’t have to give them anything but the pilot.
A lot of people did say, this is a great pilot, but I don’t get where it goes after the first episode. I told them, it's Mr. Chips turns into Scarface. I've said that 100 times.
But I'd give a few highlight moments. Most of them in fact never happened. Like, Jesse Pinkman dies. I always assumed he'd die in a big season ender at the end of Season One, in a drug deal instigated by Walt. That would be a terrible burden of guilt for Walt to carry, and guilt and rage are great fuel for further drama.
But I so enjoyed working with Aaron Paul from the pilot onwards… it must have been very early, I realized, there's no way in hell I’m going to kill this guy off. By episode 2 or 3 I sat him down and told him, "Hey, by the way, I was going to kill you off." And he really freaked out. I said, "No, this is a compliment to you that I’m not going to kill you off."
For a long time after that, every time Bryan Cranston (playing Walter White) would get the script first, he'd tell Aaron, "Ohhh, buddy, it was nice working with you!"
Anyway, when I was pitching, I’d pitch these crazy moments -- what Stanley Kubrick calls non-submergible moments, moments that don't submerge into memory -- that we have never done in 3 years on the show. But for Sony/AMC I didn’t need those.
Still, it’s good to be as prepared as you can, even if it’s only a sales too that you’ll never use later. Once they’re pregnant, they’re pregnant.
I don’t know how you figure out something 100 hours in advance. It has to be a free flowing story telling process. There are so many realities that you can’t foresee. Like, Jesse Pinkman's house was sold out from under us. The owners of the house sold it. So we needed new plot elements to explain why he’s no longer in the house. So we had his mom and dad find the meth lab in his basement, and his name isn't on the lease.
The important thing is to believe in it. If you're selling something you don't believe in, that if you're successful you're going to have to live with for years … there's easier ways of making money.
Labels: Banff, interviews, showrunner