Staff writer Sarah Rewers gives a recap of TV’s most talked about show, and sits down with USF Alum and Breaking Bad Story Editor Gennifer Hutchinson.
*Spoiler Alert: You may not want to read this if you have not watched the last season yet.*
The epic drama series is over. For those of us that fell in love with the show and its incredible twists and turns, not to mention the outstanding acting, what do we do now? The show has ended, Walt and Hank are dead and Jesse is free.
We are now left with nothing but the task of reflecting on one of the best — if not the best — drama series ever created.
AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is not a show that fans watch superficially. This show requires digestion. It’s difficult to watch a ruthless jackass shoot Hank (after hearing his last words to Walt: “You’re the smartest guy I’ve ever met, and you’re too stupid to see he made up his mind ten minutes ago”) or the hated Todd pop a bullet into Andrea’s head without any warning. We have to let our brains adjust and interpret.
Not only is the narrative excellent and well-done, but also the aesthetic qualities create images that we hold with us after each episode. Namely, the cinematography adds to the show’s appeal. Remember Season 4, Episode 1 when the camera zoomed in on the blood from one of the many murder scenes and then smoothly transitioned to a guy eating fries and ketchup? Those details are very smart and they become almost tangible to us.
Another impressive aspect of the show is the fact that the occurring events are not always presented in chronological order. This is not an unusual tactic — Quentin Tarantino is known for doing this in his movies — but it definitely creates tension and interest for the viewer. “Breaking Bad” is able to do this without letting all the facts become murky.
To do some digesting for myself, I spoke with “Breaking Bad” story editor Gennifer Hutchison, who graduated from USF with an undergraduate degree in media studies.
Foghorn: What led you to this job? How were you able to jump from college grad pursuing media career to famous TV writer?
GH: I worked in the industry for ten or twelve years as an assistant. I got a job as a production assistant for “Nash Bridges.” Then, I got a job on “X Files” as a production assistant. Vince Gilligan (the creator of “Breaking Bad”) was the writer/producer for “X Files” so I worked for him there. Once I heard that Vince was starting a new TV show for AMC, I immediately read the script and contacted him. First, I was a writer’s assistant.
My big break came when Vince allowed me to write a freelance script for “Breaking Bad.” He liked it, so he used it for Season 3, Episode 8 and hired me as a staff writer for the show. From then on, I was promoted each season, until I eventually became the executive story editor.
Foghorn:What, in your opinion was the main theme of the show? Specifically, what is your view of Walter White and what are your thoughts on his changed personality?
GH: When Vince created the show, his idea was to create a character and change him. His vision was to take a guy and watch him change. That’s what’s really interesting about “Breaking Bad.” We thought about what felt organic. We always approached it from a character’s standpoint. We took it step by step, until he descended into a criminal. We thought really hard about what would make sense for him. We did the same for all the characters.
Foghorn: I read somewhere that Bryan Cranston thought the ending of the show was “perfect and unforgiving.” Do you think everyone had this ending in mind throughout all the previous seasons? Did you pretty much know where the show was going to go or was it still up in the air by the middle seasons?
GH: We all had general ideas of what would happen to the characters. We all knew Walt should die, and we talked about different scenarios that could happen. We didn’t know if he would die after being shot or if it would be the cancer. Also, we all knew Jesse should go away. It was generally all up for grabs.
Foghorn: Going back to your experience at USF, I read a quote from you about how Professor Barker-Plummer influenced you during your time here. Is there anything in particular that you learned from her, or from any professor here, that you still hold with you today?
GH: All my Professors influenced me. It was really upsetting when Andrew Goodwin died. I have been thinking about him a lot since that happened, because he was really supportive. I did my senior thesis in his class. I had this idea to write it as a piece of fiction, and he said I absolutely should. And I think him letting me write something academic in a fiction form gave me confidence to communicate through fiction.
Barker-Plummer taught a lot about representation and groups. That’s what I take with me into a room, especially when I deal with characters who are the minorities. I try to make sure that they are just as real as the standard lead characters. She taught me to be mindful of those things, which was really important and helped. It’s about telling a good story without sacrificing your value systems.
Foghorn Lastly, what advice do you have for students pursuing similar media-related careers?
GH: The thing you learn is that no one makes it the same way. It’s nothing like becoming a doctor or an accountant. It’s a very fluid process. The one common thread is that you have to really want to do this. It’s very competitive. Even when you’re in your darkest moments, you have to know that this is what you want to do. You need to be persistent and confident.
Also, if you want to be a writer you should be writing. You should always be practicing your craft. Talent plus luck is the way you make it. You have to be there when that person says ‘hey why don’t I give you a shot.’