tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg April 7, 2014 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
title on a broadway house, it stopped me cold. i couldn't move. i couldn't believe it. to see this whole thing happening -- >> an emotional moment. >> you have hopes and aspirations that something like this could happen but you never actually think it is going to really. then it does -- >> was there one person that you wanted to pick up the phone -- you did? >> it was with my wife and i called my wife and my daughter and i said, i have to show you a little picture. i took a picture of that and i sent it to her. it was like, you're kidding me. my wife is screaming and my daughter is laughing. to them i am just a goofy guy who lives at home. >> and you are seeing a guy that is above the marquee on broadway. >> bryan cranston makes his broadway debut playing president
>> here is the entrance that we have going backstage. here we have some props that i want to show you. his favorite drink. that is all he needed. hoover's favorite prop. >> people forget that lyndon johnson was the guy who put this stuff in the white house. that taping. >> he did. he told nixon, he said, you are going to need this because you are going to forget what people tell you in private. he considered a recorded phone call private. [laughter] make sure they tell you in person -- and for the memoirs. he planted that seed. nixon was going, maybe he is right. i wanted to show you something. these are my earlobes. this one is left. i just put them on with a little glue.
i can't see what i'm doing. >> that's good. >> it gives me an extra -- >> they just hang there. >> it's like i am wearing heavy earrings. would you like to try them on? >> this is the phone. >> remember these? the old rotary dial. >> these are the hats? >> we have 20 different actors and we have like 38 different characters so people are taking on and off wigs all over the place. it is a madhouse back here during a show. >> jack kennedy would never wear a hat and johnson wore a cowboy hat all the time. >> he looked right in a cowboy hat. it is a very dangerous thing for a president to wear any kind of hat. remember michael dukakis? the helmet. he lost the election right there.
>> it looked like this doesn't belong. >> i remember candidate obama was given a sombrero. "put it on, put it on." he hands it off. that's an election killer. >> when have you done theater before this? when was the last time? >> i did two plays a year and a half between the end of "malcolm in the middle" and the beginning of "breaking bad." >> you're always anxious to get back if you can find time. >> if you get a play that resonates within you and makes sense and seems challenging, that is what you are looking for. >> we then sat down for an extended interview about this role and his career. you finished "breaking bad" and you were on top of the world. why this? why lyndon johnson on broadway for bryan cranston?
>> i think any actor looks towards doing broadway as the pinnacle of their career and i certainly had it on my bucket list. to be able to do a broadway show, that was pretty exciting for me if that was possible. the zeitgeist of "breaking bad" created such a fervor that it got a lot of attention and i was caught up in that maelstrom of energy. i thought i had an opportunity. so i knew after 14 years of doing television, seven with "malcolm in the middle" and six with "breaking bad," that it was time to push away, time to step away from that ubiquitous nature of television. and hide out, so to speak, in the theater. do a play that was hopefully important and a character that i can sink my teeth into. this was both of those things.
>> how much did you know about lyndon johnson other than the fact that during vietnam he was the president? >> i think the interesting concept is that for most people when they think of lyndon johnson they think of the failures of vietnam and that is his legacy. here we are in the 50th anniversary of the first year of his presidency and civil rights act -- >> which this play is about. >> the first year of his presidency. i think it is credible and important to be able to revisit that legacy. not in a historical revisionist sort of way, but to say what were the accomplishments that he took?
>> there are people who think vietnam is a kind of a scar, but it is important for a kind of balancing for what he accomplished in extraordinary legislative achievements and the great society. >> i agree. you don't want to diminish the unfortunate condition of the vietnam. even lyndon johnson, in my research, i was listening to the many tapes, phone conversations, he was talking to his mentor dick russell and he was saying, "i just don't see how we can win this. why are we even there? we don't have any business there. why would i send kids over there to die. for what?" he was lamenting the fact that there was no rightful place for
america to be involved in that war. the escalation was certainly on his shoulders. he listens to his advisors and generals and robert mcnamara and pushed forward. i think my theory is that it was his political hubris that did that. >> political hubris. >> that he did not want to be known as the first president to lose a war. >> he said that. >> he did not want to be vulnerable to attacks by barry goldwater during the campaign of 1964 that he was weak, soft on military. and scared, have the red scare come in and be a factor in that election. >> he was an interesting guy. a lot of people think he was the most interesting president after roosevelt. probably the most interesting guy to inhabit the office. just the largeness of the personality. unbelievable. >> i think it was bill moyers
who said lyndon b. johnson is 11 of the most interesting people i have ever met. he is the full spectrum of emotion. you cannot assign any one adjective to lyndon johnson, you have to use all of them. he is mercurial and passionate and interesting and wallowing in self-pity. brazen and funny and embracing and threatening and ferocious. you would never know what part of lyndon johnson you were going to receive when you walked into his office. >> it probably depended on what his needs were. >> his political acumen, the flipside of that political hubris hubris coin was unmatched since roosevelt. he knew everyone. everyone in the house of representatives, the senate. he knew what those senators and congressmen wanted for their own political base and needs. he gave them, he worked hard to
give them what they wanted so he could get from them what he needed. >> politics was a transaction. >> it was a beautiful thing. he loved it. he lived for it. >> loved the game. >> it was brutal on him. it cost him blood, sweat, and tears but i think that is the difference. >> dick russell said he would rip your arm off and beat you over the head with it. >> metaphorically and maybe literally, too. >> when you began to figure out -- you talked about before as an actor how you began to get inside a character. by the end of your process, you are him. tell me -- >> in a way, yes. whenever an actor first starts a production, a play, a movie, the character is floating somewhere out there. the more research you do and the more you allow that character to
be absorbed into your being, the more secure you feel. it feels like there is a transitional period to where you got it, you are going, and it comes inside. from that point on, you hold on and you let that character live and when you read the source material or comments from the director or writer about the text or your character, and then goes to that filter you created. it either sits well or not. night after night, i am trying something new. >> really? >> absolutely. >> give me an example of that. >> there is a passage in the play where i am manipulating hoover. >> j. edgar hoover. >> hoover played brilliantly by michael mckean. i just got off the phone with the governor from mississippi
who is also named johnson. he is not doing anything about looking for these three boys, the three boys who went missing during freedom summer. i convinced the governor that i am going to send the fbi down there. no, no, no. better than sending down the federal marshals than u.s. army. i tell hoover the governor wants the fbi to look into these kids. so you're manipulating all the time. hoover says, i would be happy to, but we don't have jurisdictional probably. i said, no, i talked to bobby about that. it occurred to me that i was probably lying about that, too. last night or the night before i said, i talked to bobby about that and i indicate to my -- walter jenkins, i go, i talked to bobby about that indicating i have no idea what i talked to them about. it got a laugh.
you are constantly allowing it to stay alive. i don't think i ever really wanted to set in concrete where no matter what happens, no matter what audience you have it at any given time, you're doing the same performance night after night. the same words but a different feeling to it. >> doesn't matter how you felt? sometimes people talk about actors give a different performance because they are feeling different that night. >> very true. i think it is important to be honest about that and if you are not feeling well, you may have to augment your natural performance and maybe play it under a little bit. hopefully, with the same intensity or same intention as those places but not maybe with the same volume or energy? >> what does the audience do for you? >> it is wonderful to be able to
feel the immediate response, even subtle gasps or push backs in their seating when they are offended by something, you can feel it. sometimes you go in for the jugular, as lyndon would if he sensed blood in the water >> he could sense blood in the water. he would know if you were weak. he knew what you needed and wanted and what you were scared of. there is this -- with lincoln and the great performance we saw by daniel day-lewis who won an academy award. he had photographs and history books. you had robert carol who has a very live biography. you had audio recordings. you had people that knew him. you had video of him making speeches. >> so there is no excuse for me to be bad. it is that where you are going?
>> it is a piece of cake. come on. there was this -- he is my height. 6'3". you are less than that. >> that's true i am just at 6. >> everybody talks about how they don't even sense -- they sense the towering presence of him. how did you come up with the idea of being able to suggest that lyndon johnson physically towered over these people? >> three inch lifts. that's how i do it. last night, i had another conversation with the head of wardrobe and i said, i want you to go into everyone's wardrobe, grab their shoes, and take the heels of the shoes down another inch. don't even tell them -- and i was serious. take them down because the
johnson treatment, that was a big part of it. he used his size and his girth to be able to intimidate. he invaded their space. he was right in there and he'd bend people backwards. >> there's the famous photo of the senator from rhode island, he was leaning back. >> it could be in a good way or he could be poking the chest. >> it is helpful to have all that material. >> it is. i don't have his girth. he was always battling his weight. he had terrible eating habits. it just wasn't important to them. eating was a sustenance. >> politics was important. >> politics. i have two inch lifts. i have height envy with you.
when i saw you i went damn you and your frame. >> i wish i had your talent. a trade-off. >> i also have some prosthetic earlobes. i put on these earlobes and they give me an extra inch. every inch matters. >> wouldn't you love to have a conversation with him? what would you ask? >> hmm. i think the most important thing -- i would probably ask something that no one else would ask him or that i think no one would ask him. that would be something like a childhood memory. i would want to get into -- what was your first pet? was the first thing that you ever really got so excited about?
>> that is such a good instinct. i used to be the producer for bill moyers and we did an interview with billwith jimmy carter. he just got the nomination and the campaign didn't really start. we talked about it and bill asked him about his first memories of growing up. this was almost like then-candidate carter went back into that time and place and so the emotional charge of the interview was elevated because he had engaged. it wasn't just a political interview. it was, this is where i came from. the thing i would love to explore with him, it is the notion of where his fear was. where was his fear and was his vulnerability. it would show you the balance between insecurity and overconfidence.
>> his mother who he admired and loved but was also very strict for the time. she was the disciplinarian and the tough one of the family. there were times when he would -- she would withhold affection from young lyndon it she was displeased with his behavior or grades for whatever the case may be. would almost be like he wasn't in the room, like he was invisible. to a young boy, that created such an emptiness and an extreme desire to be loved. that is what i found to be the emotional core of lyndon johnson. >> that need to be loved.
>> the need, the absolute, desperate desire to be loved. >> the interesting thing is that people say, i didn't necessarily like him but i loved him. i knew beyond all this stuff -- the ends justify the means. >> the end was so valuable and altruistic and important, but the means that he got there were treacherous and unapologetic. he would just take your nose and rub it into your own fecal matter. he would just -- oh, my god. he was unbelievable. >> lbj was charming, witty. violent and vile. cruel and utterly terrible.
is there any link here between walter white and lyndon johnson? the strains of personality, one real and one fictional. >> walter white is real -- no, lyndon johnson was real, too. >> walter white became real in many people's minds. >> he was real to me. i can't play someone unless you make him real. yeah, there are similarities. i think both had created and allowed the incredible drive and ambition to be unleashed. >> the ends justify the means. walter white saving his family so he can do whatever he wants. >> it is for my family and for lyndon johnson it is for the betterment of the country. i am cutting your balls off for the betterment of the country.
>> it was necessary to protect the country. listen to this. talking to his tailor. >> joe, your father is the one that makes the clothes? >> yes, sir. >> you all made me some real, light weight slacks that he made for me about six months ago. it is kind of a light brown and light green -- rather soft green and soft brown and real lightweight. i need about six pairs for summer wear. >> do you recall the size? i want to make sure we get them right for you. >> wouldn't you have the measurements there? i could send you a pair. i want them a half inch larger in the waist.
i want to or three inches of stuff left back in there so i could take them back. so, leave me at least two and a half inches in the back. make it half inch bigger in the waist. make the pocket at least an inch longer. my money and my knife fall out. the pockets when you sit down -- the knife and the money comes out so i need at least another inch in the pockets. now, another thing, the crotch, down where your nuts hang is always a little too tight. give me an inch so i can let out there because it cuts me. it is like riding a wire fence. these are the best i have had anywhere in the united states. when i gain a little weight, they cut me under there. leave me -- you never do have much margin. leave me about an inch from
where the zipper ends. under my, back to my bunghole so i can let it out if i need to. >> there you go. >> this is the president of the united states talking. >> talking to his tailor. >> mr. hagar. you can tell he is eating and drinking. he is doing three, or five things that one time when he always did. he got involved in every little detail. the measurements -- he wanted an inch more deeper in his pockets. the telling of the time -- so my pocket knife does not fall out. the president of the united states carrying a pocket knife. you never know when i would have to whittle. [laughter]
i gonna have to cut the budget. here is what we are going to do. >> how did you get the voice? >> going down to the hill country helps a lot. dropping the "ing." >> no "ing" on it. >> you get the hard "r" of the midwest which is different from the soft "r" of the south. it was a twang to it. gonna, and git going. >> do you do this on your own or through somebody who understands dialect? >> i do it on my own and we have a dialect expert who helps you pick apart words -- cutting a word short.
it really helps. just being open to it and listening. >> tell me about the satisfaction of being here, being on stage, having a new audience every day, having a chance to mold it and shape it. >> it is deeply gratifying. this is my joy. i love to act. i love to come to the theater. a day off is great for rest. >> you don't speak on day offs? >> not on mondays. >> it would be a bad interview if we had this on monday. >> i look forward to coming to the theater. >> when do you come for an evening performance. >> i am here an hour and a half before -- usually people get here half an hour before.
i am the first one here. i take my time. i put my own makeup on and my ears, do my hair. >> have you done that for always? >> on this show. on film and television, you have people doing that for you but you are there much earlier. for walter white, i'm usually in the makeup chair at 6:00 in the morning, every morning. >> those are my hours. >> i know. we are simpatico. >> we also have good things happening later in life. you were 51 before you started "breaking bad." >> i think it helped.
i know that this business owes me nothing. this life owes me nothing. everything that you're able to achieve is a gift and i never forget that. i know that there are careers -- acting careers that sometimes go nowhere. i have no idea why this happened to me. i love it. i am always involved in it. there was a tremendous amount of luck that is necessary to have a successful career. >> does fame change things? >> yes. in many good ways and many not so good ways. i don't seek fame. it is a byproduct of what i love to do. the good things -- first of all, financial security. i never have to work another day in my life but i don't work for money anyway. i have people who are incentivized to have me earn a good living. [laughter] i trust them. i don't even know what i am
making doing this play. >> you really don't? >> i know the ballpark. i don't read the contract. i say to my agent, are you happy? if they go, well, i think we can get more then try to get more. i don't want to sound like i need money. money is great. i have had none and having it is much better. it is not what motivates me. >> there was a time in your life in which you like to go out and observe -- go to the mall and just see how people are. get a sense of things that might be tools to use. >> that is an actor's job. i tell young actors, if you are bored ever, you are never doing enough work.
what can i do if i'm not acting? work, work, work. you can go to an airport or restaurant or a mall and you observe human behavior. you take it in. that couple that is silently arguing. how fascinating to watch them not say a word but you know -- >> see the difference between men talking to men and women talking to women. >> or a woman and a man and the energy that changes with the flirtation she may be showing or not. it is all human behavior and no matter what the condition, you could be working. the interesting thing about fame -- i was talking to david duchovny about this. he said a very interesting thing. once the observer becomes the observed, your cover is blown. their behavior changes.
if i am recognized, they change their behavior and all bets are off. and makes it harder and harder for me to do that. >> somebody told me a great acting coach would ask young actors to walk around. since they were thinking about walking, they would think they were being observed. they would have a consciousness. they would ask them to think about something else. once they began thinking about something else, didn't have the sense of being observed. the walk would change. it became more natural. >> that is why you go onstage, you have to have a thought of what is my objective for this? what is just happening? what do i need to do so that you are not thinking how am i sitting? how am i -- otherwise you become self-conscious and you are not
>> what are your dreams now? now that we've seen "breaking bad" have all the success that i was lucky enough to be a part of. >> in the final episode. >> the second to last episode. >> for us, it has always been science first. >> would you go back, please? there. >> what this? >> just yesterday, your charity announced a $28 million grant for drug abuse treatment centers throughout the southwest. >> the southwest is our home and we cannot just ignore what is going on in our own backyard.
>> there are people who suggest other motives. the new york times wrote a column suggesting that the grant was a kind of publicity maneuver to shore up the start price -- the stock price because of your association with walter white. >> that is not exactly -- >> to cleanse yourself of having a methamphetamine kingpin as cofounder of your company. >> i'm glad you brought that up. i have to believe that the investing public understands we are talking about a person who was there early on but let virtually nothing to do with the creation of the company and growing it to what it is today. >> what was walter white's contribution? >> to be honest -- honey? >> the company name. >> your appearance gave credence. it gave people the sense that this is real. >> this was so huge. i never seen anything like it in terms about people took note of
the fact that something you associate with "breaking bad." you understood that. you look back at that experience and obviously it shaped your life. >> i knew when i read that pilot script by vince gilligan at there was something very special. >> that good of a script? >> it was terrific. i related to this man. i knew men like him who missed opportunities in their lives and became functioning, still functioning, still loving to their families, still paying their bills but there was something that died in the interior. they are putting one step in front of the other. they are in a deep depression and in doing some of the research, i found in broad
strokes, when people are in deep depression, there are two basic ways it manifests -- either externally or internally. and externally, "that boss, he screwed me and otherwise my life would be completely different." ready to blame my ex-wife. >> somebody else's fault. >> or it is me and i missed it. i go into a shell. that was walter white. he went into a shell. he didn't care about his looks, his weight, his clothes. he was invisible to himself and the world. this ironic diagnosis of terminal cancer was his get out of jail for free card. it exploded his emotion. >> it gave him purpose to live. >> even if it was just for a short time. i loved it.
it was for me. i was good at it. that was the brilliance of vince's writing to have him confess to that hubris, that ego. it was a full maturation of that character. that he came to completely understand who he was and the evil that men do. >> your father was one of those men, just physically. >> i always thought that walter white was much older than he was chronologically. i wanted to give him sloped shoulders and his posture was bad. he was a little overweight. i wanted to give him the weightiness of a man who was 25, 30 years older. my upbringing was a mess to be honest. it was a mess.
it was like living two different lives. up until 10 years old, it was a model life. >> they were both there. >> my dad was always one of my coaches in sports. my mom was the team mom and the tupperware lady. always making our costumes for hollow wean. active, active. when they realized they didn't want -- my dad didn't want to be with my mother anymore and split up, it exploded. it wasn't like coming to an understanding. it exploded and their emotional immaturity damaged the rest of the structure. i didn't see my father for 10 years. >> no phone call, no nothing? >> didn't see him. he had a breakdown.
he was 48, late 40's. >> was it about success? >> it was about the lack of success. it was about the frustration of not -- he was an actor. it was about his frustration of not being a star. he wanted to be a star like a lot of people. he didn't handle it well when he was getting to be a certain age. i am sure there are complications that are much deeper than that that i wasn't privy to. he was of a generation where revealing those inner thoughts, men would rather go to the grave than admit what they considered weakness. or to be able to say, i felt this and -- to this day, he is nearing 90 --
>> he has seen everything good that happened to you? >> he just seen it all. >> all of us want to say, i did ok, dad. >> and he is extremely proud. extremely proud. he has changed. as men do, tough guys soften with age. he cries openly now. >> what is interesting about lyndon johnson -- lyndon johnson went back to the texas hill country after saying he would not run for another term started smoking again. he knew he was nailing a nail into his coffin. what was that about? >> he was a great prognosticator. he knew he was going to die of a heart attack.
he had two heart attacks. he did. 64 years old. which is young. >> absolutely. he knew he was going to die so it was like courting death. >> maybe that is why he thought, to hell with it. it is going to happen anyway. had he run for reelection and won in 1968, he would've died three days after his term would've ended. he died in january of 1973. but, if he were elected to a second term, i think he would've died in office and so did lady bird johnson. the amount of stress and the way vietnam was rolling out, he just was not capable of commanding that war. he was not able to know how to
end that war. >> when you think of what that meant to the country, that tore the country apart. how much he hated it because he had his drive -- his drive was to do something about education and poverty and all those things that roosevelt wanted to do, his great political mentor. >> and he did. >> you would hope in a case like that somebody -- if we are at a place where we are doing the wrong things whether it is destructive or not. >> lyndon was addicted as well. he didn't read. he never read a book.
he didn't go to the theater, concerts, sporting events. >> he went to baseball to court richard russell. >> his arena was politics. the only books he ever read were biographies of presidents that he admired. he was a machine of politics and he had true, good, altrusitic intentions. he did not care how he got there. his accomplishments domestically are unparalleled from roosevelt. >> is that why the people who loved him loved him? in the and they knew however despicable he might be in terms of personality, that his heart in the end was in the right place. >> he got things done. >> which brings me to the president obama comparison.
"if only the president was more like lyndon johnson, he would be able to do more with the republicans in the congress." >> i think that is unfair to our president. >> so do i. >> i think it is unfair to say that. i think there are two distinct differences that don't allow the system to work as it did in johnson's day. one is our president's own past experience. he did not have the years in the house of representatives and the senate that johnson had. johnson had 12 years in the house, 12 years in the senate, rose to the most powerful position in the senate before taking on the vice presidency. he knew all the players, knew everything about them, knew their lives, would be able to break the ice.
we need to get that bill. he would catch them. he just complimented my wife and now i have to help him. president obama has the experience. he didn't have all those years. the second thing -- i don't think the temperament, the attitude and the sensibility in johnson's days -- and this is just my opinion -- was this is politics. it is a horse trade. if you want to get something that you really need and want for the betterment of the country, it is going to cost you. >> you do something for me. >> blood, sweat, and tears to get that done. >> now, it is arms folded. we are not even going to compliment the other side. >> it is a zero-sum game.
if you succeed,i fail. if i fail, you succeed. >> yes. i think the wrong point of view is applied. i think in johnson's day, the intention was let's do something for the betterment of the country. now, it is let's win. we are doing something to win for our side to win. is that best for the country? many times it is not. i think our president is unfortunate to be in this day and age, to live in that kind of cesspool of attitude. >> he knew the game but also he had majority. he also had the fact that the people wanted the country to do well after the assassination of president kennedy.
johnson knew he had that window of opportunity. the other thing that is fascinating is the idea of bobby kennedy. here is a guy with all that he had became vice president and diminished. >> lyndon johnson hated being vice president. it was compared to the senate majority leader. why did he take it? i think that he got trounced by kennedy in the primary and he saw the handwriting on the wall. he thought, "my opportunity to get into become president is limited by age." this, you know, king arthur just came in. oh, my god. he is going to be president. he is going to be president for eight years. whoever his vice president is will have the inside track to be the next president for eight years. so up i am going to get in, i am looking 16 years down the road
and i missed my window of opportunity. i think it was a catalytic move on his part. i have to bite the bullet, except as vice presidency, bring the south with me, and bide my time. hopefully, in eight years, get the nod. >> that is why i want you to be the floor manager of this bill. >> i assume the senate majority leader -- >> i need someone more personable. people like you, hubert. even dick russell likes you. i am under a lot of pressure to announce my running mate for the election. [laughter] people tell me i ought to pick bobby kennedy but i am not so sure of his loyalty. there was a time when he and the rest of his harvard blue bloods would look down their nose at me like i was some -- >> here you are on the stage. where was your ambition after
this? what is it that bryan cranston wants to do or need to do? >> i need to rest. i go pretty hard at it. it is so much fun. i am having a great time, but i think when this is over, when i finally leave the stage for the last time. i am going to collapse. your body has a tendency to hold on, hold on. it is a very physically demanding thing. i love putting it all out there. i think i just want to relax for a while and let it rest. see what happens next. >> thank you for doing this. great to see you. >> after school, dirty, ragged and hungry because most of them did not have any breakfast.
they were so on fire to learn, it made you feel good. they would come a day for each and every one of them where i would see the light in their eyes die because they discover the world hated them because of the color of their skin. as a southerner, i have had to bite my tongue on this issue my entire life. my mouth was full of blood. not anymore. this ain't about the constitution. this is about those who want more, wanting to hang onto what they want at the expense of those who got nothing and feel good about it. uncle dick could talk about his rights until he is blue at the
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