When many discuss and rank the greatest television shows of all time, the same names are regularly repeated, solidifying their justification for such an accolade. Shows like The Sopranos, Lost, and The Simpsons are just a taste of the world-beating titles that are mentioned consistently, but there is one title that is often spoken about more than the rest.
Premiering on AMC back in 2008, Breaking Bad instantly blew fans and critics away with its incredible acting and water-tight script, earning 16 Primetime Emmys among 58 nominations and many other prestigious accolades. Across its 5-year run, Breaking Bad consistently produced some of television’s best and most well-loved episodes, which all culminated in September 2013 when arguably one of the greatest series finales of all-time hit our screens.
So, with it almost an entire decade since those final credits rolled, here is a comprehensive look at the cast and characters that created the show’s astronomical legacy and where they are ten years on.
Bryan Cranston as Walter White
Often heralded as one of the best casting choices of all time, Bryan Cranston’s performance as the chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin has already accumulated an enormous legacy, with his performance throughout the show’s run acting as the anchor for a captivated audience.
After being diagnosed with lung cancer, White decides to take control of his own destiny and discover a side to his personality that would give Sigmund Freud a psychoanalytic field day. Cranston’s performance as Walter White led to three Primetime Emmy’s for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor, which only then led to subsequent award success, including Tony Awards and Academy Award nominations for more recent roles. Since Breaking Bad, Cranston’s already brilliant career exploded into super-stardom, with appearances in the likes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Trumbo, and, most recently, the Wes Anderson film Asteroid City, with Cranston announcing just before its release that he would be retiring from acting.
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman
As the perfect yet often flawed partner to Walter White, Jesse Pinkman’s character arc across the show’s run is just as encapsulating as White’s. As a low-achieving academic student, Pinkman’s life is turned upside down from word go in Breaking Bad, with his often misjudged empathetic side nicely juxtaposed by White’s ruthless nature. Since Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul, like Cranston, has had a wonderful career, with a huge filmography that includes the likes of Need for Speed and Central Intelligence. Most recently, Paul has appeared in the latest season of Black Mirror as Cliff in “Beyond the Sea”, a brilliantly tragic season 6 story.
Dean Norris as Hank Schrader
As a caring family man and DEA agent, Hank Schrader finds himself wrapped up often, unfortunately, in the tragic narrative of Breaking Bad. Unbeknownst to Schrader, the investigation he leads into the meth kingpin “Heisenburg” is actually leading him to his brother-in-law Walter White, which is just one of the numerous calamitous events that cause his eventual PTSD. Dean Norris performed the character flawlessly, which came as no surprise to fans who had already appreciated his wonderful breadth of work by the time he appeared in Breaking Bad. Since the show finished, Norris has appeared in the likes of Remember and Superstore, with his terrific talent seemingly always on our screens. Norris is scheduled to star in the André Øvredal-directed sequel to 2019’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, alongside many other upcoming projects.
Anna Gunn as Skyler White
The relationship between Walter White and his wife Skyler is often the backbone of the story in Breaking Bad, with the strained pull on their relationship and its eventual demise arguably mirroring the same arc of Walter White’s final years of life. Skyler’s sometimes reckless actions always had family at heart, with her honest acceptance of the consequences the ultimate sign of her good nature. Since winning two Primetime Emmy’s for her role in the show, Anna Gunn has gone on to appear in the likes of Equity and Sully, with her scheduled to appear alongside the likes of Amy Ryan and Colin Farrell in the upcoming detective series Sugar.
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman
As a Goodman by name but certainly not by nature, Saul Goodman is a malevolent and manipulative con-artist with his own gain at heart by any means necessary. Despite being dastardly and often cruel, Saul Goodman is one of the more captivating performances in the entire series, so much so that he earned his own spin-off, Better Call Saul, which itself went on to achieve legendary status and is even considered a greater achievement than Breaking Bad by some fans. Bob Odenkirk can’t have quite known just how influential taking the role of Saul Goodman would be for his life, with his post-Breaking Bad career still very much centering around the character. As a talented writer and actor, Odenkirk has most recently appeared in the hit show The Bear, demonstrating that he has somewhat of a Midas touch when it comes to television.
Giancarlo Esposito as Gustavo “Gus” Fring
Another of Breaking Bad’s most well-known and notoriously evil villains, Gus Fring, is the owner of a rival meth empire to Walter White’s and acts as the cold and calculated opposite of Walter’s often erratic behavior. Giancarlo Esposito’s performance is so on point it managed to stand out among the plethora of other world-class performances, with many even suggesting Gus deserved his own Better Call Saul style spin-off. With such a brilliantly evil performance, it is no surprise that Esposito has managed to make a name for himself as a sure-fire villainous hit for casting teams ever since Breaking Bad, with turns as Stan Edgar in The Boys and Moff Gideon in The Mandalorian just two of his most well-known portrayals, with his surprising return to season 3 of The Mandalorian delighting fan. Esposito is set to star in the upcoming TV spin-off of the Guy Ritchie film The Gentlemen, as well as the voice of Baxter Stockman in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Many other extraordinary actors appeared throughout Breaking Bad’s 5-year run, and with a myriad of wonderful performances littered throughout the show’s history, it is no surprise that so many have consistently gone on to achieve successful ensuing careers, with all of them owing at least some of their success to the part they played in the almost incomparable legacy of Breaking Bad.