Tells It Like It Was… and Is

Dean Norris takes listeners behind the scenes of the seminal hit, “Breaking Bad,” and shares some very personal stories of his own journey when he sits down with The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk in the latest episode of “On The Edge” – a podcast spotlighting personal stories of opportunity, discovery, and courage. In the newest episode, Norris talks about working with the DEA while shooting “Breaking Bad,” how his character evolved over the course of the show, his passion for being an activist, and personal stories from the playground of his youth. “On The Edge” is a capsule series that is part of the “At Home With The Creative Coalition” podcast.

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Highlights from “On The Edge” featuring Dean Norris –

On learning about the drug trade and working with the DEA on the set of “Breaking Bad”: 
“We had the full support of the DEA, and they kind of came in and were teaching us about the different elements of it. That was more for the producers and writers, I think, so that they could correctly write it. But they taught us the mechanics of, you know, how meth is made, and stuff like that. I certainly had a lot of DEA advisors around, so we could talk about various elements of policing and things like that. Plus, we got to go into – you know, they have training facilities, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah! Call me in!’ And we got to shoot guns and pretend we’re going into a building, and all that kind of stuff.”

On how his character Hank in “Breaking Bad” evolved over the years: 
“Well, when you first meet him, he’s a blowhard, and he was kind of the comic relief, kind of a real macho tough-guy. And it was really interesting, because in the third season, you see him break down kind of out of a PTSD situation. And he became a completely different guy during that third season. The last half of Hank, four, five, and six, was pretty depressing. He was a broken man. He had to somehow try to find his life again. I was actually pretty depressed in real life at the time. I had lost my parents during ‘Breaking Bad,’ both separately, both about three years apart. So by the time I ended ‘Breaking Bad,’ I was an orphan. And it somehow, karmically, weirdly, matched the problems that Hank was going through. Just the fact that he was going through problems, because I was already going through some depression in my own life, having lost my parents and stuff, it was a strange time. So it kind of made me affected and it probably, in some way, helped the character in the last three seasons.”

On his relationship with obesity and why he chose to raise awareness about it: 
“I’m not sure why it is considered what it is. I don’t know, because it can be a tough thing. My mom struggled with it. She tried hard, it wasn’t like she was just a lazy person or something. She was a proud woman and she was a hard worker and a really great soul. But I was certainly aware that kids would maybe make fun of it. And I think I probably got in a few fist fights because I wouldn’t accept anyone saying something about it. And she never really dwelled on it – she wasn’t super obese, but she certainly struggled with her weight. It was certainly an issue that I saw how it could affect people and that it was easy for – kids are mean, man. And it’s an easy thing for people to make fun of. So it’s an issue that I kind of understood from a personal standpoint, you know? There’s ways to be healthy and it’s good and it’s important, but it’s like, you get high blood pressure, you know? Some people have it, some people don’t. I mean, you can try to control it, you can try and do things. There is an element that you are born with certain DNA that makes you skinnier. And they say that’s true for, like, cholesterol, all that stuff. It’s either you have high cholesterol tendencies or you don’t. Even if you don’t eat any eggs or butter or whatever the thing is, most of it is already cooked-in for those kinds of things. Same thing for obesity. Yeah, so you work on the 30% you can, but that’s only 30%… People judge you by your initial looks, and that’s one of the things they judge you negatively about… I certainly remember it… clocking it in my mind that it was something that society didn’t really accept very well, or understand.”

On his passion for activism and speaking up for the ‘little guy’: 
“I remember, really early on in my life – early on being high school – always thinking that, if I ever had any fame at all, that it would be my duty in some ways to speak for people who don’t get to be spoken for. And I’ve always felt that since I was in high school. And it got more when I came out here and realized how much money people make. And you realize that there are people in Indiana – and other places, of course – but people who I grew up with, who never have a voice. And somehow if you’re the guy who makes it out of there, you have an obligation, a duty, to use your voice. Because they’re never going to get a chance to use it. There’s never going to be a boy who came from two parents who didn’t go to college who were hard workers and all that stuff, and they’re not going to get talked to on a podcast or a show. So if you don’t speak for them, who will? You know what I’m saying? And I always thought that true from an economic and financial point of view, too, which is why it always kills me when people always try to be like, ‘Hollywood actors, the elite.’ And I’m like, ‘Every actor I know… most of them came from no money. And they’re certainly not out of touch, they’re really in touch, because they came from places where their dad wasn’t CEO of Johnson & Johnson.’ Most of the actors I know came from humble beginnings.”


More about The Creative Coalition
The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating its members on issues of public importance. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns including #RightToBearArts to promote the efficacy of the arts. The Creative Coalition harnesses the unique platforms of the arts community and entertainment industry to make positive impacts on social welfare issues. For more information, visit On The Edge is graciously supported by Novo Nordisk Inc.