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May 5, 2014

“Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston takes on role of Lyndon Johnson in new Broadway play


Bryan Cranston, best known for his portrayal of a chemistry teacher turned meth cook and violent drug lord in the popular TV show “Breaking Bad,” is currently portraying President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Broadway show, “All the Way.”

The play focuses on the president’s first tumultuous year in office following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as he worked with Congress and Martin Luther King Jr. to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Cranston says he was not trying to impersonate the president, but instead “get the sense of who he is.”

“You never knew which LBJ you were going to get when you walked into the Oval Office that day,” said Cranston. “You just didn’t know. He could be high. He could be low. He could be angry. He could be happy. You know, and you had to just deal with it.”

Cranston said he prepared for the role by visiting Johnson’s presidential library in Austin and reading the many books written on him. He also listened to some of the former president’s recorded phone conversations.

“There’s a certain amount of ownership that happens when you– when you take on a character,” he said. “You absorb as much source material as you possibly can. It’s like you’re making a bouquet. You’re taking bits and pieces from each material that resonate with you. And you’re crafting your own LBJ or whomever that character would be.”

“All the Way” runs through the end of June. Meanwhile, Cranston is also writing a memoir that is due out next year, and plays a scientist in the new movie “Godzilla,” opening May 16.

Warm up questions
  1. Who was President Lyndon B. Johnson and what is he remembered for?
  2. If you were to choose an actor to play LBJ, who would you choose
  3. Who are some of your favorite actors and characters?
Discussion questions
  1. What qualities do you think make a good actor or actress? Give examples to support your answer.
  2. Would you want to see “All the Way”?  Why or why not?
  3. How is theater different from TV? Give examples.
Writing prompt

If you were to write a play about a time period in American history, what would you chose and why?  Which American president do you find most interesting and why?

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