Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top 10 Strangest Pre-Breaking Bad Roles of Breaking Bad Actors

Breaking Bad concluded in September, but some of the buzz around the show has continued. The popularity of the final season inspired plenty of people to watch it, and a spinoff around character Saul Goodman will be starting up this fall.

At this point, I'm probably going to limit my blog posts on Breaking Bad to two more posts: one more "defining moments" post on the last eight episodes and this idea, which grew out of the various jokes about the previous roles of the actors (one of the best suggestions linking Walter White with Bryan Cranston's other famous role has Breaking Bad as a prequel to Malcolm in the Middle).

So with no further ado, here are the top 10 strangest pre-Breaking Bad roles of Breaking Bad actors.

10. RJ Mitte: Jock on Hannah Montana

Mitte's first on-screen role was a background, non-speaking part on the hit Disney Channel show that starred Miley Cyrus back before her tongue went all Venom-y. He's credited only as "School Jock," wearing a letter jacket in one scene. A few years later, Mitte started playing Walter White Jr.

9. Anna Gunn: Jerry's Girlfriend on Seinfeld

This is probably one of the better known examples. In her pre-Skyler White days, Anna Gunn was one of the 57 girlfriends Jerry has in the course of Seinfeld. She plays this role in the episode "The Glasses," in which George thinks he sees Jerry's girlfriend Amy making out with Jerry's cousin.

Anna Gunn has been in the film and TV industry since 1992, when she appeared on an episode of Quantum Leap.

You may have also spotted her in the 1998 thriller Enemy of the State, playing a character named Emily Reynolds.

8. Aaron Paul: Johnny Knoxville Wannabe on The X-Files

A few years ago I watched all episodes of The X-Files and tallied up a body count of all the people, aliens, and creatures to die over the course of the popular show. I also checked the IMDB page on each episode and made a note of any before-they-were-famous types to make an appearance.

One of them happened to be Aaron Paul, giving us a glimpse of what Jesse Pinkman may have been like in high school. He plays David "Sky Commander Winky" Winkle, a student who puts together videos on teenagers doing stupid things for a project he dubs The Dumb Ass Show. He also antagonizes a classmate with a variety of insect powers, earning him a retaliatory back rash.

If you were home sick at the right time in the year 2000, you may have also seen him make it all the way to the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right using his birth name of Aaron Sturtevant.

7. Matt Jones: Deep-Frying a Turkey on Gilmore Girls

According to his IMDB page, Matt Jones didn't really come onto the scene until he began playing Brendan "Badger" Mayhew in Breaking Bad. But he does have a single role from 2002: a fellow named Morgan in an episode of Gilmore Girls. He apparently doesn't have any lines; Morgan doesn't appear in a transcript of the episode, though Jones is part of a family that deep-fries their turkey for Thanksgiving.

6. Steven Michael Quezada: "Mexican" in Beerfest

Before Albuquerque's film industry became especially prominent with Breaking Bad, the city hosted the comedy troupe Broken Lizard (best known for Super Troopers) as they made the 2006 comedy Beerfest. Steven Michael Quezada won a small role, credited only as "Mexican," as one of his earlier roles prior to playing Hank's partner Steven Gomez.

It's also worth noting that Quezada, an Albuquerque native, was elected to a school board seat in the city in February of 2013, during the break between the first and last halves of the show's final season. I couldn't find a screenshot from his appearance in Beerfest, but that picture up top is from the ABQ's schools website.

5. Laura Fraser: "The Future" in Vanilla Sky

I never saw Vanilla Sky, the bizarre sci-fi movie starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz. It might be known mostly for a scene where Cruise's character runs through a deserted Times Square (and the movie's decision, unorthodox at the time, to not edit the World Trade Center out while many other films and TV shows in late 2001 were doing so after the buildings' destruction).

Laura Fraser, nearly a decade before playing Madrigal Electromotive's nervy and scheming executive Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, is the voice of the unseen entity that speaks to Cruise and delivers the last line in the movie. She's credited as "The Future."

4. Bryan Cranston: Villain in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Bryan Cranston's more recent alter ego of Hal on Malcolm in the Middle might lack the villainy that comes to characterize Walter White, and many of his other roles involve rather kind-hearted people. It's not like he never played the bad guy, though. He voiced a couple of villains who fought a group of teenage superheroes in the campy series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

There was also that time he walked on the Moon. Cranston played Buzz Aldrin in From the Earth to the Moon, the terrific miniseries on the early days of the space program.

And he was that one-armed officer who sends Tom Hanks et al out after Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan.

3. Giancarlo Esposito: Big Bird's Camp Counselor on Sesame Street

Even in his first appearance, it becomes clear that Gustavo Fring's genial kindness is only the crunchy candy shell over a core of cold ruthlessness. So it's a little disconcerting to see him palling around with Big Bird, especially after his role as a meth kingpin working behind a fried chicken franchise front.


Giancarlo Esposito got the part of a camp counselor on the popular children's show after running out of options in the acting world, but admitted in an Onion AV Club interview that it was a pretty great experience. He was also one of the voices in the chorus that sang the theme for The Electric Company.

2. Dean Norris: Martian Mutant on Total Recall 

Dean Norris must have a thing for science fiction. I'm not just saying this because the guy who played Hank Schrader once played a Martian mutant named Tony in the film Total Recall.


He also played an officer in Starship Troopers.

He apparently really likes the Terminator series. He was leading the SWAT team that found a dying Miles Dyson at Skynet HQ in Terminator 2...

...and returned in the short-lived series The Sarah Connor Chronicles to play a nuclear power plant manager in a couple of episodes.

1. Jonathan Banks: Helping Girls Understand Periods

Yes, the actor behind the coldly efficient yet warmhearted fixer Mike Ehrmantraut had his first credited screen acting role as a doofy high school boyfriend  in Linda's Film on Menstruation, a 1974 public service announcement on...well, you know. Skip to 11:05 to see Banks ask if vaginas can control the weather.


I'm going to wager that Jonathan Banks is able to look back on this and laugh. He's been in comedy roles, after all, like that time he played one of the air traffic controllers in the 1980 comedy classic Airplane!

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