I spoke with Charles Baker about Skinny Pete and the final episodes of Breaking Bad. Charles has obviously enjoyed his journey and task of bringing Skinny Pete to life. How will it all come to an end? I do hope they keep the door open and don’t Fring the whole cast. How could they ever top that death scene? That was, and I hate how this word is overused but this definitely calls for it, epic! It was so much fun speaking with Charles. Do look for him in NBC’s new show The Blacklist, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and To the Wonder. Don’t miss the finale episodes of Breaking Bad beginning Sunday night at 9/8c on AMC.
Lena: Were you at Comic-Con when Bryan Cranston was walking around with the Walter White mask on?
Charles Baker: Unfortunately, no. I didn’t get to go. I definitely heard a lot about it.
Lena: That mask was beautiful. [Check out Landon Meier’s work. His masks are incredible. The attention to detail is astounding.]
Charles Baker: It’s amazing work that those guys do. I couldn’t believe how lifelike it was.
Lena: It’s great that he got a chance to walk around [the convention floor] and no one knew.
Charles Baker: Yes. I actually did that on Halloween, several years ago, in the beginning of Breaking Bad. I took my daughter trick-or-treating around my neighborhood dressed as Skinny Pete. It worked the same way. Nobody even thought that I was playing Skinny Pete they just thought that I was some scary guy taking his daughter trick-or-treating. It was kind of strange.
Lena: That’s great. No one went up to you and said well, you’re close – almost?
Charles Baker: I don’t even think that anybody even realized that I was trying to dress up as the character. It’s a little sad I think. [Laughing.]
Lena: [Laughing.] Aww. You are one of the best characters on the show. [Who doesn’t love Skinny Pete?]
Charles Baker: Oh, thank you.
Lena: Over the years on Breaking Bad, we’ve witnessed several sides of Skinny Pete. He has cleaned up his life only to lose his way again. Can you talk about season three when Skinny Pete, Jesse (Aaron Paul), and Badger (Matt Jones) attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings to sell meth to the recovering addicts?
Charles Baker: That was some pretty risky stuff. In actuality, a lot of AA and NA groups from what I’ve heard, I’m not a member of them, from actual members is that it’s a common problem in the groups. They’ve had several instances of having to tell people that it’s cool if they want to get clean, but don’t sell to the others. I know several people who were in different programs like that and at first they were a little riled up about the idea of us when they first saw that scene. A couple of them called me up and I had to tell them – First of all, it’s a television show and second of all, just keep watching because you might be surprised by what happens. Luckily for us, as far as the storyline, they didn’t have much success selling those drugs in the meetings and it ended up having a reverse effect. Skinny Pete ended up getting to step five. [Laughing.] A lot of them came back after that and said it was awesome. One friend told me that he had a group of recovering addicts watching the show with him and when I went that I was on step five everybody cheered, “Yeah, see it works.” I thought that was a neat little reaction.
Lena: The last time we saw Skinny Pete he was buying equipment with Badger for Jesse and Walter’s new meth lab. The writers that think this stuff up are geniuses. Will you ever be able to look at a fumigation tent the same way again?
Charles Baker: No. [Laughing.] I see a couple of those every now and again where I live and my wife and I joke about it. “Hey honey, somebody is cooking some meth.” [Laughing.] I kind of feel bad because here I am judging every exterminated house as a meth house now, thanks to the show.
Lena: Out of all the seasons, what has shocked you or really made you think the most?
Charles Baker: There was a mixed reaction on the fly episode. There were some people that thought it was the most brilliant episode ever and then others who thought it was so boring. I’m one of the ones that thought it was a magnificent episode. It was so deep on so many levels that it took a lot of understanding to get. It kind of opened my eyes on what you can do, if you do it right, on television. That’s a really hard role and dynamic. They substituted the fly for kind of the other stuff going on in his head. I couldn’t even explain it. The fact that they were able to convey this kind of story and idea in that one episode was fantastic.
Lena: As the show comes to a close, what have been some of the highlights for you?
Charles Baker: Just being a part of the show has been a highlight. In the second episode, when I came back to play Skinny Pete, I was no longer just a skinny stoner. I got to do a scene with Bryan Cranston, just the two of us in a room together. Getting to know Aaron Paul. I didn’t know much about him when the show started and it was neat watching him grow and become the incredible actor that he is. There is no doubt that he was that good when he started, but he was able to really let it show. I’m a big fan of pretty much everybody else that is in the show. [Laughing.] It’s kind of funny how they managed to bring in a lot of my favorite people: Bob Odenkirk, Raymond Cruz, Giancarlo Esposito – he’s like the actor’s actor, in my opinion. Just being able to work with these people, and meet them, and talk to them and get any kind of insight from them is beyond words. I don’t even know how to explain it.
Lena: It’s crazy how they killed Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). That was so good.
Charles Baker: Yeah, if you are going to go out, especially on that show, go out with a bang. He really went out with a bang. [Laughing.]
Lena: Skinny Pete manages to return every season. Will we be seeing more of him and Badger in these final episodes?
Charles Baker: I can’t really say, mostly because I’m not allowed to say. We shot some stuff out of sequence. We shot some stuff that was kind of cryptic to me. Honestly, I’m such a big fan of the show that I just want to see what’s happening as it’s done. I don’t want it to be ruined for me, so I didn’t ask a lot of questions about what was going on. They were being very top secret about what was going on and even among the crew there were a bunch of different jokes about how it ended and I never even found out which one was real.
Lena: Well, I hope we get to see you in more than one episode. [Laughing.]
Charles Baker: Me too! [Laughing.]
Lena: Are we going to see more of your character’s musical side?
Charles Baker: I wouldn’t expect that. I think that was kind of a special treat, not as much as I would have wanted to, but there is just too much of a story going on to take the time to go back to one of those. There are only eight episodes, so they have to skip the music and go straight to the story.
Lena: Most people didn’t know that you are actually a trained musician.
Charles Baker: It was fun and the Internet kind of blew up after that episode because of that. I was thrilled and it was kind of flattering because I’ve played piano a lot longer than I’ve acted. I had never really gotten into playing in public for audiences, so this was the first and biggest audience that I’ve ever played for. It was neat to be considered a pianist now and not just some skinny dude who got lucky and got a part as a drug addict.
Lena: Can you share any funny behind-the-scenes moments?
Charles Baker: I was so in awe of being there and so worried about not about being there anymore that I kept it straight. Pretty much any time you get to hang out with Bryan Cranston and Bob Odenkirk is a laugh riot. Dean Norris is a very funny person off-camera. He’s really funny on-camera too but off-camera he says a lot of stuff that you can’t say on-camera. He’s a lot of fun. [Laughing.] One of my favorite moments was when I met Jonathan Banks. His way of introducing himself to me was in the makeup trailer. He was sitting next to me and looked over at me and said, “Charlie, if you screw this up I’m going to punch you in the heart.” I took that as kind of a hug from Jonathan Banks. He’s another one of my heroes. That was a sweet moment for me.
Lena: Breaking Bad left off with what amounts to the most productive toilet reading session ever. I can’t wait to see how they are going to wrap this series up.
Charles Baker: I’m also very curious.
Lena: How do you feel the series progressed?
Charles Baker: Beautifully, really. It was amazing to see how they were able to take this character, who was really likeable at first, and turn him into a horrible human being and yet everyone is still rooting for him like he’s a hero. I don’t think that’s really ever been done in quite that way. To see that happen as the show progressed was really interesting. It was a neat study in character and character development. The audience could justify his actions and sympathize with his motivations. Not a lot of people really stopped and went, “Hey, he’s gone too far. I’m done.” People are still hoping that he makes it and are pulling for him and still sympathizing with him. I think that’s pretty interesting.
Lena: You have a bunch of things coming up. You are also going to be on [NBC’s new show] The Blacklist.
Charles Baker: To the Wonder [Ben Affleck, Rachael McAdams, Javier Bardem, Olga Kurylenko] was just released on DVD. I don’t have a huge role in it, but I have a pivotal role. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is getting a theatrical release on August 16th [Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Casey Affleck]. The Blacklist, which stars James Spader, is coming to NBC on September 23rd. That’s going to be a really great show. James Spader of course is magnificent as the rest of the cast is. Just keeping up with them is pretty awesome. I get to play his driver/confidant.
Lena: So you are doing more than just a guest spot?
Charles Baker: I don’t really know how long I’m going to be playing that role. Hopefully, they are going to bring me back a lot. Right now I’m in the pilot episode. He’s supposed to be kind of a regular character, but not really, so we’ll see. I did work on that show with the possibility of it being a recurring role. We haven’t discussed that any further, yet.