Family & Companions
A versatile and prolific actor, Bryan Cranston displayed an authoritative voice and presence that made him a perfect fit to play policemen, doctors and the occasional villain in numerous series and occasional features, long before he became a celebrated television star. A recurring turn as an eccentric dentist on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998) and a meddling neighbor on "The King of Queens" (CBS, 1998-2007) signaled that he possessed formidable comic skills, which received a superb showcase in his Emmy-nominated performance as Hal, the manic head of the family in "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06). Following that program's conclusion, Cranstonfound the role of a lifetime with a spellbinding performance as a terminally ill high school teacher who builds a meth lab to support his family in the critically-acclaimed drama "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-2013). The role was a perfect opportunity for the actor to display fierce dramatic chops only previously hinted at in episodes of popular shows like "Walker, Texas Ranger" (CBS, 1993-2001), "Touched By an Angel" (CBS, 1994-2003) and "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000). His performance on "Breaking Bad" was hailed by critics and earned him Emmy recognition while establishing Cranston as an actor deftly capable of excelling in both comedy and drama.
Born Bryan Lee Cranston on March 7, 1956 in California's San Fernando Valley, he was the son of actor Joe Cranston, who appeared frequently in television series in the early 1950s. Cranston made his acting debut in a United Way television commercial at the age of eight, but his interests centered on sports and law enforcement, which he pursued through college. After earning a degree in Police Science, he took a cross-country road trip with his brother Kyle (also a professional actor) and discovered a genuine passion for performing while wintering in Daytona Beach, FL. The brothers found work in a local community theater, and soon after, were made part of the regular company. Cranston soon returned to California and continued to act in local theater productions. His first television credit came on a 1982 episode of "C.H.i.P.s" (NBC, 1977-1983), which was quickly followed by a season on the daytime soap "Loving" (ABC, 1983-1995). Over the next decade, Cranston would become a fixture of episodic series, TV movies and miniseries, including "North and South, Book II" (1986), "I Know My First Name is Steven" (1989) and the short-lived sitcom "Raising Miranda" (CBS, 1988), which cast him as the titular teenager's offbeat uncle. One of his numerous guest shots even introduced him to his second wife, actress Robin Dearden, who played captive to his villain of the week on a 1986 episode of "Airwolf" (CBS, 1984-87).
In addition to his onscreen appearances, Cranston also lent his voice to several television commercials, as well as the American versions of numerous Japanese animated and live-action science fiction films and television series, including "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" (Fox, 1993-96). Reportedly, the Blue Power Ranger was named "Billy Cranston" as a tribute to him. For many of these dubbing projects, Cranston was billed as Lee Stone. In 1994, Cranston was cast as Dr. Tim Whatley, the dentist whose eccentric behavior irks Jerry to no end on "Seinfeld." The character turned up in several significant episodes, including "The Yada Yada," in which Jerry was convinced that Whatley's recent conversion to Judaism was based entirely on his desire to tell ethnic jokes, and "The Jimmy," which has Jerry fearing that the dentist has taken advantage of him while under sedation. Cranston then returned briefly to work as a series regular with "The Louie Show" (CBS, 1996), a vehicle for comic Louie Anderson, who played a shrink with the by-now standard roster of wacky patients (among them, Cranston's kook of a policeman). The series lasted just six episodes, and Cranston resumed his busy schedule of episodic and TV movie work. In 1996, he earned his first big theatrical feature showcase in Tom Hanks' delightful '60s period piece "That Thing You Do!" (1996). Two years later, he would reunite with Hanks to play Buzz Aldrin in the epic miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" (1998).
Cranston's voice and carriage were put to excellent use as a tough, one-armed Army colonel who gives the order to rescue a missing G.I. in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). The following year found him directing his first feature film, "Last Chance" (1999), a gentle romance in which he also co-starred with Deardon. The film performed well on the festival circuit and even took top prize at several showings. He later began a three-year recurring stint as Tim Sacksky, neighbor and irritant to Kevin James and Leah Remini on "The King of Queens."
In 2000, Cranston was tapped to play father to Frankie Muniz's pint-sized genius on the comedy "Malcolm in the Middle." The series turned out to be a considerable hit, and saw Cranston shed his officious TV persona to play a man seemingly trapped between his childish loves and pursuits and his day-to-day existence as a white-collar worker and father to three highly mischievous boys. Unlike most TV dads, Hal could be counted on to either join in the hijinks or make them worse, much to the consternation of his disciplinarian wife Lois (Jane Kaczmarek). Waiting for Hal to explode with glee or terror or exasperation was among the consistent high points of the long-running series, and Cranston's unbridled performance earned him three Emmy nominations and a nod from the Golden Globes between 2002 and 2006. Cranston also began directing episodes of "Malcolm" in 2003, corralling members of the show's crew to assist him in producing "KidSmartz" (2003), an instructional DVD for parents and children alike on how to prevent abduction. The project earned high praise from several noteworthy publications and advocates.
While working on "Malcolm," Cranston also kept busy as a guest star in TV movies and features, most of which called for his comic abilities. He was a ne'er-do-well uncle who accidentally steals Santa's sleigh in "Twas the Night" (2001) before playing St. Nick himself in "The Santa Claus Brothers" that same year. Cranston also appeared as a business connection for Greg Kinnear's desperate motivational speaker in "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006) and had a recurring role as Lucifer in "Fallen" (2006), an ABC Family miniseries about a teenager who discovers that he's part angel. He was also a former boss and nemesis for Ted (Josh Radnor) in several episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005-14).
After "Malcolm left the airwaves in 2007, Cranston returned to series work with "Breaking Bad," a drama with dark comedic elements from "X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) co-producer Vince Gilligan for the American Movie Classics network. Cranston was top-billed as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who struggles to support his pregnant wife and a son with cerebral palsy. When he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he uses his knowledge of chemicals to devise a plan to manufacture meth in order to support his family after his death. Much of the series' drama and comedy came from how Cranston's formerly mild-mannered character adapted to the outlaw lifestyle and its unusual and often dangerous participants, while attempting to evade a local DEA agent, who also happened to be his brother-in-law. Critics were unanimous in their praise of Cranston's dramatic performance in the series, which ended its first season run early due to the 2007-08 Writers Guild strike. Despite the interruption, he surprised no one by taking home the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Cranston repeated the triumph when he won the same award in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. When the series came to an end in 2013 to thunderous acclaim, Cranston's first step was a Broadway role as former president Lyndon Baines Johnson in the historical comedy-drama "All the Way." His return to the big screen came as the lead in director Gareth Edwards' well-received reboot of the "Godzilla" (2014) franchise.
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Made TV acting debut in an episode of "CHiPs" (NBC)
Originated role of Douglas Donovan on the ABC daytime drama "Loving"
Made TV movie debut in "The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman" (NBC)
Had regular role as the uncle of the titular teen in the short-lived CBS sitcom "Raising Miranda"
Had supporting role of a policeman in the gripping fact-based miniseries "I Know My First Name is Steven" (NBC)
Made feature acting debut in "Turnaround"
Co-starred in the office-set romantic comedy "Corporate Affairs"
Co-starred as a scientist in the sci-fi thriller "DeadSpace"
Formed Quintus Productions with fellow actor Michael Goorjian and managers Leonard Grant and Eric Overholtzer
Starred in the Lizzie Borden-directed segment of the three part anthology feature "Erotique"
Played the recurring role of Dr. Tim Whatley, Jerry's dentist on "Seinfeld"
Acted in the independent comedy "Kissing Miranda"
Featured on the short-lived sitcom "The Louie Show"
Played astronaut Gus Grissom in the Tom Hanks directed "That Thing You Do!"
Cast as astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon"; executive produced by Tom Hanks
Featured in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" as a one-armed military officer
Had a recurring role on CBS' "The King of Queens" as Doug Heffernan's annoying neighbor, Tim Sacksky
Wrote and directed "Last Chance"; also co-starred with wife Robin Dearden
Had breakthrough role as the oddball father of four in the FOX sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle"; also directed several episodes
Played the irresponsible uncle who steals Santa's sleigh in the Disney Channel Movie "'Twas the Night"
Played a business colleague of Greg Kinnear's in the indie film "Little Miss Sunshine"
Guest starred as Ted's obnoxious boss on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother"
Cast as Lucifer in the ABC Family miniseries, "Fallen"
Cast as Walter White, a struggling high school chemistry teacher who turns to a life of crime, in AMC hit series "Breaking Bad"
Co-starred opposite Helen Mirren in "Love Ranch," based on the true story of a married couple who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada
Appeared in "Larry Crowne" with Tom Hanks, who also co-wrote and directed
Joined an ensemble cast for Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion"
Co-starred with Taylor Kitsch in sci-fi Western "John Carter"
Voiced character of Vitaly in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"
Played the mayor of Los Angeles in feature adaptation of the stage musical "Rock of Ages"
Co-starred in political thriller "Argo," directed by Ben Affleck
Had small featured role in the action blockbuster "Godzilla"
Played the villain Vince in Amazon series "Sneaky Pete"
Was nominated for an Oscar for playing the title character in "Trumbo"
Voiced the role of Li in "Kung Fu Panda 3"
Reprised Walter White role on an episode of "Saturday Night Light"
Appeared as himself in "The Room"-based bio-drama "The Disaster Artist"
Starred alongside Beverly D'Angelo in drama "Wakefield"
Appeared as Zordon, mentor to the Power Rangers, in "Power Rangers" film reboot
Appeared opposite Kevin Hart in the comedy drama "The Upside"
Co-starred with Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne in Richard Linklater's war-themed drama "Last Flag Flying"
Voiced Chief in Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs"
Played Mack in "The One and Only Ivan"