In a new interview with The New Yorker, the “Better Call Saul” co-creator reflected on the sexist fan reaction to Anna Gunn, who played the wife of Bryan Cranston’s drug-dealing high school teacher Walter White. Gunn even went on to publish a New York Times op-ed in August 2013, a month before the final season ended, clearly shaken by uproar from viewers siding with Walter and slamming Skyler.
“Back when the show first aired, Skyler was roundly disliked,” Gilligan told The New Yorker. “I think that always troubled Anna Gunn [who played Skyler]. And I can tell you it always troubled me, because Skyler, the character, did nothing to deserve that. And Anna certainly did nothing to deserve that. She played the part beautifully.”
But Gilligan now understands that the storytelling may have encouraged such reactions. He said, “I realize in hindsight that the show was rigged, in the sense that the storytelling was solely through Walt’s eyes, even in scenes he wasn’t present for. Even Gus [played by Giancarlo Esposito], his archenemy, didn’t suffer the animosity Skyler received. It’s a weird thing. I’m still thinking about it all these years later.”
Gunn won two Emmys for portraying Skyler, and previously was vocal about the backlash she received due to the die-hard fandom for Walter White, adding that it “wasn’t a pleasant thing to go through.”
And while Walter White remains a cult-like figure among “Breaking Bad” fans, Gilligan has a different take on the complicated protagonist.
“The further away I get from ‘Breaking Bad,’ the less sympathy I have for Walter,” the “Better Call Saul” creator shared. “He got thrown a lifeline early on. And, if he had been a better human being, he would’ve swallowed his pride and taken the opportunity to treat his cancer with the money his former friends offered him. He goes out on his own terms, but he leaves a trail of destruction behind him. I focus on that more than I used to.”
For Gilligan, the “spell” of Walter White “wears off,” much like how Skyler in the series felt towards her estranged husband.
“Like, wait a minute, why was this guy so great?” Gilligan asked. “He was really sanctimonious, and he was really full of himself. He had an ego the size of California. And he always saw himself as a victim. He was constantly griping about how the world shortchanged him, how his brilliance was never given its due. When you take all of that into consideration, you wind up saying, ‘Why was I rooting for this guy?'”
But fans were rooting for the lead of the prequel series “Better Call Saul” with attorney Saul played by Bob Odenkirk. The AMC show quadrupled its Season 6 viewership for last week’s series finale, making history overall as the final season became the number one acquisition driver in the history of the AMC+ streaming service.