It’s “Breaking Bad,” Emmy-winning actor/producer Bryan Cranston told IndieWire, that changed his life in many ways — especially the fact that “it’s given me opportunities to have more control of my destiny, [be] financially secure, so I don’t need to ever make a decision based on financial need.”
And that means when he chooses to appear in a project, such as the Amazon Prime series “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,” it’s because he believes in it. “I can pick and choose what I want to do, where I want to go, what stories I want to tell, whether that’s on stage, or on a film, in a series. Whether I’m producing, or acting, or directing, or writing, I’m free to be able to look at all aspects of it.”
“Electric Dreams,” an anthology series based on the writings of the iconic writer behind stories like “Minority Report” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (the basis for “Blade Runner”) features a diverse range of stories with directors including Dee Rees, Alan Taylor, Francesca Gregorini, David Farr, and Julian Jarrold.
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“Those futuristic sci-fi stories can relate to what we’re dealing with now,” Cranston said. “That’s the goal, and that’s the aim to allow adventure and imagination take hold. Maybe it’s a cautionary tale, maybe it’s just pure entertainment, but, it’s all still very valuable.”
Cranston produces the series alongside Ronald D. Moore, Michael Dinner, James Degus, and Isa Dick Hackett, and also stars in one episode. When it comes to casting himself, Cranston said that when Sony and Amazon asked if he’d appear in “Electric Dreams,” his response was “If it’s appropriate. I don’t want to damage the story.”
And in going over the 10 potential episodes, he kept coming back to “Human Is,” the sixth installment. “It’s an intimate story, it’s a small story, really,” he said about the story of a woman (Essie Davis) whose loveless marriage undergoes a massive change when her husband (Cranston) returns from a space mission, and may be under the influence of an alien consciousness.
“Human Is” was written by Jessica Mecklenburg and directed by Gregorini, which was something Cranston pushed for. “I wanted to have a woman to write it, woman direct it, and a woman lead, and have that triumvirate [tell a story] about what it is to be a human being,” he said.
Why was that? “I just felt it was a more natural fit,” he said. “It’s not that a man can’t be a director on something like that, or have a sensitivity to that. I just thought it would be good to engage…” He trailed off.
“This industry is still predominantly run by men, white men, white older men,” he said. “I’m perfectly in that category. It’s then up to us to change that dynamic to allow for more integration of women, and people of color.”
Added Cranston, “If we’re lucky enough to get a second season of ‘Electric Dreams,’ I want to see even more diversity, I want to go even deeper. I want to hear different languages, and different cultures. Because my goal there is to show the entire world how connected we are, how we are so much closer to each other than we realize. To address our fears of racism, or sexism, xenophobia, and be able to have people wonder, ‘Why is that?’ Just to see if there could be some cultural good connected to the entertainment factor.”
That sort of change, Cranston said, is “vital. If we cut women or minorities out of that equation, we’re cutting off a myriad of stories that could blossom from it, from a perspective that older white men don’t have by and large. I can’t know what you feel, I can imagine, I could ask questions, I can’t know it; only you know it. I want your perspective on it.”
It speaks in general to what excites Cranston as a producer, a role he’s grown to truly enjoy over the years. “I didn’t know that I would love it, but I do love the idea of supporting someone else’s vision,” he said. “Nurturing that relationship with the producer, and the writer, and collectively finding the right director for that piece. It’s all part of the storytelling complex, and we’re all related.”
“People in our industry know how much work goes in, but because I love to tell stories,” he continued. “It’s not something that I have to force myself to do at all, ever. I naturally start thinking in story structure, and character, and I’ll talk to myself in a character with an accent, or an old man, or a young boy. It’s just what I do. I don’t play golf, so I work instead.”
“Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams” premieres Friday, January 12 on Amazon Prime.