Walter White Meets LBJ

"Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston will take on the role of Lyndon Johnson in a play next month titled "All the Way."
Fri August 9, 2013 10:15 am
LBJ Library Photo by Lauren Gerson

How did Emmy-award-winning actor Bryan Cranston spend some of his final days before the Sunday premiere of the last season of Breaking Bad ? By flying to Austin to prepare for his next big role.

As the infamous Walter White, a science-teacher-turned-drug-kingpin, Cranston has awed and shocked audiences, making Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone look like a cuddly family man. Now Cranston will tackle another complicated charater when he stars as President Lyndon Johnson next month in a play titled All the Way. The production, which was written by Austin native (and UT alum) Robert Schenkkan, focuses on LBJ’s first year in office and will be staged at the American Repertory Theater, in Boston, on September 13.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Cranston spent time at the LBJ Presidential Library, researching the role by listening to telephone conversations from 1963 and 1964 and talking with members of the library and museum’s staff (above, Cranston with Tina Houston, the library’s deputy director, and Mark Updegrove, the library’s director). Cranston also had dinner with members of LBJ’s inner circle, including Harry Middleton and Larry Temple, and he drove out the the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall with Updegrove for a tour.

“Bryan Cranston came to the library to get a better understanding of LBJ,” Updegrove says. “He likened the process of studying for the role to acquiring pieces to a puzzle. You’re not always sure of where the piece goes, but over time the puzzle starts to take shape and a greater picture starts to emerge. The telephone tapes of LBJ doing the business of his presidency, which are the Crown Jewels of the library’s archive, were a good place to start.” So where does it end? Buzz is already flying around that the play will end up on Broadway next spring.

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