The role in the pilot of Hal, the father to four rambunctious boys, was all but an afterthought. “I imagined him as just remote, distant,” remembers creator Linwood Boomer. “It was a writer’s conceit that just lay there on the page like a turd.” The part was so underwritten that Cranston’s audition, held on the set as it was being constructed, consisted mostly of listening to a fight between the mom and one of her sons. Cranston pulled out a pipe and just watched, head swiveling back and forth between the readers. Boomer fell off his chair laughing.
“People say that, but I literally fell off my metal chair,” he says. “He just had this vast inner life going on. You realize, ‘This guy looks like he’s listening, but he’s actually building a rocket ship in his head.’