Vince Gilligan has described the ending of Breaking Bad as “a victory” for Walter White. That’s not necessarily the word actress Laura Fraser would use.
Fraser stars on the hit AMC drama as Madrigal Electromotive GmbH executive (and secret methylamine supplier) Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, who’s fearful and desperate now that Walter White is out of the crystal-meth game. But as Yoda once warned, fear leads to anger — and Lydia is very angry indeed, as viewers are about to see in the series’ final few episodes.
The actress spoke with Spinoff Online about Lydia’s role in the Breaking Bad end game, her thoughts on Gilligan’s description of the finale, her experience working with Jonathan Banks (better known to fans as the late Mike Ehrmantraut), and much more.
Spinoff Online: Before we even dive into Lydia’s place in the new season, I feel like we should look back, because there’s a big time jump that takes place during the Crystal Blue Persuasion scene in “Gliding Over All.” Clearly, business is booming for Walt and Lydia in this time, but we don’t see much of their relationship — just meet-and-exchanges here and there. Can you shed any light on the Walt-Lydia dynamic the viewer never got to see?
Laura Fraser: It’s a good question. … It must have been an odd relationship — unbalanced — with Lydia trying to crawl back up to where she felt she was on equal footing, but never quite managing it, always being a bit disgusted that she kept being the underdog in that scenario, even though she presented it as “partners.” She and Walt never quite developed a mutual trust and respect. I feel like it wasn’t the friendliest of business partnerships. We probably didn’t see each other all that much, aside from the brief few seconds where we would meet for drop-offs and pick-ups. It was probably “mutual distaste,” I would say. [Laughs]
In the premiere, “Blood Money,” with Walt out of the meth business, business isn’t going well for Lydia. She pays him a visit at the car wash, asks him to come back, tells him there are “moving parts” at work that he needs to consider.
He’s turned her down, and she’s just boiling with fury over that. Fury gets her going. Even though she’s very frightened a lot of the time, her greed trumps her fear. It propels her forward. She becomes more and more morally bankrupt in this current season. Her choices and reaction to Walt’s rejection of her request sends her a bit over the edge. She becomes a little bit reckless. If she was cold before … just wait for the next episode.
That’s interesting, because a lot of what we’ve seen from Lydia so far, she’s just always on edge. She’s afraid that Mike’s guys are going to sell her out. Then she’s afraid that Mike’s going to kill her. Then she’s afraid that Mike’s going to kill her again. She’s always right up against the edge. With this coming season, it sounds like we might see a more aggressive side of Lydia?
I do get to explore a new degree of Lydia, another layer. I wouldn’t say she ever sits at the top of her game and relaxes, but I would say she kind of becomes a little more comfortable in “meth land,” choosing to be there more than having fallen into it by mistake. At points, I feel she doesn’t need to continue doing it, but she chooses to continue doing it.
That’s Walter White’s story in a nutshell!
It is, yeah. I agree.
The premiere really set the pace for the final season. That confrontation between Walt and Hank was something fans have waited a long time for, but probably didn’t expect to see quite so soon.
Even though I read the script and knew what was going on, when I watched that episode, it was so fucking fast. [Laughs] It kind of took my breath away. I didn’t even get a chance to register that it was over, you know? I feel like every episode is going to feel that way. It’s like when you’re enjoying the last hour of the party.
Everybody is leaving, you know it’s going to end. “Come on, we got to get going!” It’s so fast. And the writing is so incredibly tense and paced. It takes your breath away.
Even though he’s not around for the final season, I really want to ask you about working with Jonathan Banks. The majority of Lydia’s scenes in Season 5A were with Mike. He’s such an incredible character, and it’s such a shame to see him leave right before “the boom” of these final eight episodes. Can you talk a bit about working with Jonathan? I’ve interviewed him before, and there’s definitely something “Mike-like” about the guy.
He definitely has that dangerous, living-on-the-edge type of vibe. You feel that if he steps over the line, you would be in trouble. [Laughs] That’s how I felt the first time I met him. “Oh, you’re quite scary!” Because we hardly shared two sentences before we did our first scene in the diner [back in Season 5A’s “Madrigal”]. It was actually great, not getting to chit-chat before, just going into the scene. It was almost like method acting, because I really was terrified and nervous. Then after that scene, I think later in the day we did the scene where he puts the gun to my head, and I beg him not to shoot me in the face. We did that all in one day, and it was my first day of filming. At the end of it, we really got along well. He was very welcoming, telling me all about the show. I was loading him up with questions about characters’ relationships, who did what to who. And he said, “Have you not even seen the show? Go and watch it, and then come back to me and we’ll have a conversation.” It was basically, “Just fucking go watch the show. You’re going to love it.” [Laughs] He’s such an amazing actor. I was so fortunate to work with him.
And then, I went away [from the show], and when I came back, I had no idea that Mike was dead. I wasn’t in that episode, so I didn’t read the script. I was a bit shocked. I was a bit bereft. “Oh, my God, Jonathan’s gone?” It was almost like he was really dead.
As the show comes to an end, a lot of people are talking about Breaking Bad‘s legacy, its place in television history. That’s a heavy topic to weigh in on, but what can you say about your experience with the show? Lydia entered late in the game, but she’s certainly a valued part of the story. Can you talk about your experience filming the series, and interacting with the fandom and culture surrounding Breaking Bad?
It’s totally surreal. It doesn’t feel quite real. I feel incredibly fortunate. I sort of stumbled upon it. I feel like I gate-crashed the best party of the year. I can’t believe I’m part of it. Even some of my friends, when I told them I was going to be on Breaking Bad, they said, “You’re going to be on Breaking Bad? You’re on Breaking Bad? You clearly have that wrong. You’re clearly not on that show.” So I just feel so lucky. It’s a totally trippy experience. It’s mad. I love it.
Wrapping up, everyone is wondering how the show’s going to end. Vince Gilligan has described the ending as “a victory.” Do you have another word you would use to describe the ending, or do you side with Vince?
Whew. He described the ending of the show as victorious? Well, he could mean anything. Does he mean that’s how he felt when he wrote the end of the show? Is he describing it as how the end of the show appears to people? I don’t know! It’s totally subjective, isn’t it? Everyone’s going to see it as they see it, not as it is. For me, just reading it, I was, as usual, astonished and delighted by it.
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.