What The Cast Of Breaking Bad Is Doing Today

When "Breaking Bad" made its television debut, viewers weren't prepared for what was about to hit them. It has long been a television rule of thumb that characters don't usually change or evolve over the course of a series. If Steve Urkel stopped being his quirky self on "Family Matters," for example, or if Dr. House (from "House") stopped being cranky, well, would anyone have still watched those shows? Yet, "Breaking Bad" shattered that TV trope by introducing Walter White, a mild-mannered, terminally ill high school chemistry teacher who experiences a slow descent from kindhearted family man into murderous meth kingpin.

Meanwhile, the actor cast in the leading role wasn't exactly known for his dramatic chops. Prior to "Breaking Bad," Bryan Cranston had been best known for playing a hilariously scandalous dentist on "Seinfeld" and the wacky dad on over-the-top sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle." Cranston, however, surprised everyone, as evidenced by the four Emmys he won for his portrayal of the doomed protagonist of "Breaking Bad."

There's no denying that the series has earned its place in the pantheon of television's best shows during its spectacular run from 2008 until 2013, with the show's success presenting further opportunities for Cranston and the other actors who appeared on it. In light of this, read on for a look at what the cast of "Breaking Bad" is doing today.

Bryan Cranston transitioned to film, Broadway, and mezcal

To describe "Breaking Bad" as life-changing for Bryan Cranston is both entirely true and something of an understatement. His critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning performance on the show led to opportunities he previously didn't have access to, and he capitalized on many of them. For his first post-"Breaking Bad" project, Cranston stepped away from television and onto the stage, portraying President Lyndon B. Johnson in 2014 on Broadway in "All the Way." He won his first Tony Award for the role, which he later revived for an HBO movie based on the play.

Following "Breaking Bad," Cranston appeared in several movies, including "Godzilla," "Trumbo" (for which he received an Oscar nomination), "Wakefield," "Asteroid City," and more. On the small screen, he made an Emmy-nominated appearance on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," lent his voice to the animated comedy "SuperMansion," and starred in the acclaimed drama series "Your Honor." He also returned to Broadway in 2018 for the stage adaptation of the film "Network," resulting in a second Tony sitting on his mantle. Beyond acting, in 2019 he teamed up with "Breaking Bad" co-star Aaron Paul to launch their own brand of mezcal, Dos Hombres.

Speaking with Esquire for an oral history of the show, Cranston said he immediately understood "Breaking Bad" would be a game-changer. "I knew [series creator] Vince Gilligan was attempting to do something that has never been done on television before — to change a character completely from beginning to end," he recalled.

Aaron Paul joined Westworld and reprised his Breaking Bad role in a follow-up film

Aaron Paul, who played Walter White's partner in crime Jesse Pinkman on "Breaking Bad," went on to star in several movies, including "A Long Way Down," "Need for Speed," "Dual," and others. Paul also bolstered his TV credits, starring in "The Path," "Truth Be Told," the anthology series "Black Mirror," and the final two seasons of HBO's "Westworld." Most notable for "Breaking Bad" fans, however, was when Paul revived Jesse in the Netflix 2019 standalone sequel movie "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie," revealing the character's harrowing journey after making his escape in the series finale of "Breaking Bad." 

"Breaking Bad" clearly changed Paul's life in many ways, but perhaps the most important has been the still-strong bond that he forged with Bryan Cranston. "He became one of my closest friends — my mentor — very early on," Paul told Esquire. Teaming up for Dos Hombres, he said, was not just a business venture, but an excuse for the two to spend time together — and, as Cranston pointed out in the same interview, Paul is really the brains behind the business. "He started it all. It was his idea," Cranston explained. "Someone has to be the cover girl, and that's me."

Meanwhile, Paul also became a family man. In 2022, he and his wife Laura Parsekian welcomed their second child. "Fatherhood has definitely changed me," he told Haute Living. "Having a child is the closest thing to magic that anyone can have."

Bob Odenkirk starred in prequel spin-off Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk was best known for his work as a comedian — like in the cult-hit sketch series "Mr. Show," for example — when he was cast in a guest-starring role as shady lawyer Saul Goodman in "Breaking Bad." What he thought would be a one-off acting gig, however, proved to be the most impactful of his life. Not only was he later bumped up to full-fledged cast member, Odenkirk also reprised the character in the prequel spin-off series "Better Call Saul." 

Only slightly less critically acclaimed than the original, "Better Call Saul" ran for six seasons while landing 53 Emmy nominations (but zero wins), including six nods for Odenkirk in the lead actor category. Odenkirk also reunited with "Mr. Show" partner David Cross for the 2015 sketch-comedy series "W/Bob & David" and starred in the 2023 drama series "Lucky Hank."

In the midst of "Better Call Saul," Odenkirk took an unexpected turn by starring in the 2021 action flick "Nobody," playing a ineffectual family man who is revealed to be an assassin. That same year, while on the set of "Saul," Odenkirk suffered a near-fatal heart attack. While he's recovered, he told People that nearly losing his life completely shifted his perspective on it. "I'm trying to be more present and to make some space in my life because when you race from one thing to the next you deprive yourself of the fun of the experience," he shared.

Anna Gunn starred in a remake of a British crime thriller

Anna Gunn starred in "Breaking Bad" as Skyler White, Walter's wife. Like other members of the cast, Gunn remained busy after the show ended. She co-starred with David Tennant in "Gracepoint," a U.S. remake of Tennant's British drama "Broadchurch." Other TV projects included "Shades of Blue," HBO's "Deadwood," a recurring role in the streaming comedy "Physical," and co-starring with Christoph Waltz in the Roku miniseries "Most Dangerous Game."

She's also appeared in several movies, including "Sully," "The Apology," "Land of Dreams," and, most notably, the 2016 film "Equity," a financial thriller featuring an all-female starring cast and creative team. For Gunn, the film's underlying themes were powerful ones. "For women, no matter what career, what path you choose, it's still an uphill battle to work your way up to these top leadership positions," she told The Guardian. "We really wanted to not only talk about women in Wall Street but women in all positions of life."

In 2022, Gunn spun off in a whole new direction when she starred in "Numbered Days," which was neither a film nor a TV series, but a podcast-style audio play. Interviewed about the project by Broadway World, Gunn admitted she was itching to return to theater. "Nothing concrete right now but theatre is what gives me the most joy and fulfillment as an actor, so I hope it won't be too long before I'm back on stage," she said.

Betsy Brandt went on to Life in Pieces and Saint X

Betsy Brandt is known to "Breaking Bad" fans as Marie Schrader, sister of Anna Gunn's Skyler. Her years on "Breaking Bad" proved to be a launching pad for other opportunities in Hollywood after the show ended. The first was the short-lived sitcom "The Michael J. Fox Show," axed after one season. She also appeared in recurring roles in the TV dramas "Parenthood" and "Masters of Sex," before being cast as Heather Hughes in sitcom "Life in Pieces," which ran for four seasons. After that, she recurred in the "Suits" spin-off "Pearson," the CBS sitcom "The Unicorn," and the Netflix rom-com "Love, Victor." More recently, she was part of the ensemble cast of Hulu's whodunit "Saint X." 

Brandt has also appeared in multiple movies since the end of "Breaking Bad," including "Mothers of the Bride," "Claire in Motion," "Between Us," and "Flint," a TV movie dramatizing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. 

Meanwhile, Brandt also reprised her "Breaking Bad" role in the series finale of "Better Call Saul," with her character finally receiving some closure by telling off Bob Odenkirk's Saul Goodman and Jimmy McGill after his arrest for the murder of her husband. "It was like putting on your favorite sweater that you forgot how much you loved," Brandt told Variety of stepping back into Marie's shoes for that episode. "I've missed her. I know she can be a real pain in the ass, but I've missed her, that purple-wearing, obsessed person."

RJ Mitte continued his acting career in various film and TV projects

For all six seasons of "Breaking Bad," actor RJ Mitte played Walter White Jr., son of Walter and Skyler White. Both Mitte and the character he played have cerebral palsy. Thanks to the clout Mitte received from appearing on the show, he went on to forge a successful acting career while also becoming a role model for actors with disabilities. "People with CP overcome hurdles every day," Mitte said during an appearance on the "Brain and Life" podcast. "One thing I've learned from my disability is that when there is an obstacle, you adapt and grow. You can't let that obstacle break you down and discourage you."

For Mitte, post-"Breaking Bad" projects have included both TV series and movies, primarily the latter. In addition to a recurring role in the drama series "Switched at Birth," Mitte also appeared in the Hugh Laurie-starring "Chance" and the comedy series "Now Apocalypse." In film, he's landed starring roles in "Who's Driving Doug," "The Recall," "Mower Boy," "Standing Up for Sonny," "Carol of the Bells," and the horror movie "The Unseen."

Interviewed by the Independent, Mitte expressed his gratitude for the role that paved the way for all that success. "'Breaking Bad' put me on the map," he said. "None of my projects would exist without that show and the opportunity it gave me." 

Dean Norris went Under the Dome

Having a DEA agent for a brother-in-law was just one of the challenges Walter White faced as he broke bad, and that character, Hank Schrader, was played to perfection by Dean Norris. While Hank was among the characters who didn't make it to the series finale, the role proved to be the springboard to many future screen credits for Norris. 

Among his most memorable roles: Benjamin Franklin in the historical miniseries "Sons of Liberty," power-hungry local politician Big Jim Rennie in the TV adaptation of Stephen King's "Under the Dome," the father of the titular character in Netflix's "Girlboss," U.S. Air Force officer Col. Richard Williams in "The Big Bang Theory," gay billionaire Fenton Glackland in "Scandal," gruff military dad Art in the CBS sitcom "The United States of Al," and Uncle Daddy, head of the Dixie Mafia, in the nail-salon comedy "Claws."

Despite his "Breaking Bad" character's fatal exit, Norris revived Hank for "Better Call Saul." When he received the offer to reprise the role, Norris relished the opportunity to return to the character — particularly given that he'd be returning to the cocky version of Hank seen in the series' earlier seasons. "I said, 'Hey, you know, it'd be nice for the fans to see him back in his prime again, before the PTSD and all that stuff,'" Norris told Entertainment Weekly. "And they were like, 'Yeah, he's prime Hank swagger at this point.'"

Jonathan Banks reprised his Breaking Bad role for Saul

In "Breaking Bad," Jonathan Banks played fan-favorite character Mike Ehrmantraut, the hitman-enforcer-fixer for meth kingpin Gus Fring. After the series ended, he returned to the role twice, first in "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie," and then in "Better Call Saul." In the latter, Banks' character became a big part of the storyline, with viewers witnessing how Mike himself broke bad as the series chronicled his journey from ex-cop to murderous criminal. 

In between "Breaking Bad" and "Saul," Banks appeared in numerous films and TV series — including a hilarious 11-episode stint on the beloved TV comedy "Community." He's found work in films such as "Horrible Bosses 2" and "Mudbound," also voicing a character in Pixar's "The Incredibles 2." He also worked steadily in television, appearing in shows ranging from "The Lizzie Borden Chronicles" to the sci-fi series "The Expanse," to the miniseries "The Comey Rule," in which he portrayed former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Interviewed by NPR's "Fresh Air," Banks was asked why he felt he'd been cast in so many crime roles in his career. "I'm not very pretty, so I can't play the leading man," he said. "So I'm either going to be the bad guy or the cop. And that's — you know what? It's a smart aleck answer, but it's also there's some truth in that. In the world of Hollywood and television, if you're not beautiful, you better be able to act a little bit, anyway."

Giancarlo Esposito journeyed to a galaxy far, far away for a Star Wars series

Like his "Breaking Bad" co-star Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito reprised his role as Gus Fring in "Better Call Saul," ultimately appearing in 38 episodes of the latter. In addition to playing Gus, Esposito bolstered his roster of screen credits considerably beyond the "Breaking Bad" universe. This included numerous movies, such as "Alex Cross," "They Die by Dawn," two "Maze Runner" sequels, Disney's "The Jungle Book," and the George Clooney-directed "The Money Monster," to highlight a few.

Esposito has also been active on television, in shows like the post-apocalyptic drama "Revolution," the espionage thriller "Allegiance," "The Boys," and "Dear Black People," serving as the narrator throughout the run of the latter. He's also joined the "Star Wars" franchise, playing the villainous Moff Gideon in the Disney+ series "The Mandalorian." Meanwhile, he continues to rack up credits as a voice actor, serving as the voice of Lex Luthor in the animated "Harley Quinn" series. 

All those characters later, it's Esposito's measured, subdued portrayal of Gus that remains his onscreen calling card, and in a 2022 appearance on "The Late Show with James Corden," he explained how he went about creating his iconic criminal. "I had some instincts," he said. "I had a lot of questions, but my instinct was to play against the stereotype, make this guy someone who observed, more than just spoke."

Jesse Plemons became an Oscar nominee

Prior to joining "Breaking Bad" as meth-making criminal Todd Alquist, Jesse Plemons was best known for his role in "Friday Night Lights." After "Breaking Bad," however, his Hollywood career kicked into overdrive. After solid supporting performances in the Johnny Depp-starring crime thriller "Black Mass," and the Steven Spielberg-directed Oscar-winner "Bridge of Spies," he was tapped to co-star alongside Kirsten Dunst in the second season of FX anthology series "Fargo." Not only did that project cement his reputation as a top actor, it also changed his life on a personal level when he and Dunst became a couple, marrying in 2022.

More prestige projects followed, including "Vice," Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman," "Judas and the Black Messiah," and, of course, "El Camino." In 2021, he and Dunst co-starred in the critically acclaimed Netflix movie "The Power of the Dog," for which they both received Oscar nominations. More recently, Plemons appeared in the TV miniseries "Love & Death" and Scorsese's hugely anticipated "Killers of the Flower Moon," which received a lengthy standing ovation after its debut at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.

"I like the fact that he's so hard to peg or define," Plemons said of Todd's somewhat inscrutable nature in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "He's a person who the more you look into, the more confusing he becomes ... I love the sort of rabbit hole you can go down in trying to figure him out."

Matt Jones went on to become a sitcom MVP

Of all the characters to weave their way through the fabric of "Breaking Bad," actor and comedian Matt Jones' Badger remains among the most memorable. The longtime pal of Jesse Pinkman, Badger, and his numbskull buddy Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) were responsible for many of the funnier moments on the show — such as the time he recounted the ludicrous plot for a bonkers "Star Trek" script he wrote, in which Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise crew kill time with a pie-eating contest. Jones later reprised the character in the "El Camino" movie.

Playing Badger proved to be a career breakthrough for the actor, propelling him to bigger projects than he'd landed prior to "Breaking Bad." Among these was the recurring role of NCIS Agent Ned Dorneget on "NCIS," and out-of-shape aerobics instructor Joe Force in the '80s-set comedy series "Let's Get Physical," in addition to numerous voice roles in animated series. Jones has also hit it big in CBS sitcoms as a series regular in two long-running TV comedies: "Mom," and "Bob Hearts Abishola" — both of which come from sitcom mogul Chuck Lorre.

Meanwhile, Jones was also cast in a high-profile project that never came to be: playing Dwight Schrute's (Rainn Wilson) cousin in "The Farm," a spin-off of "The Office" that never came to fruition. 

Lavell Crawford returned to his stand-up comedy roots and lost over 100 pounds

Comedian Lavell Crawford only appeared in 11 episodes of "Breaking Bad," but his character — Saul Goodman's bodyguard and right-hand man Huell Babineaux — made a big enough impression on viewers that he was brought back for several episodes of "Better Call Saul." And while Crawford didn't appear in "El Camino," he hilariously reprised the character for "Waiting with Huell," a 62-hour live-streamed countdown special preceding the film's Netflix debut, a riff on Huell left waiting in a DEA safe house.

Playing Huell proved hugely beneficial for Crawford's career, presenting him with a whole new level of acting opportunities. These included roles in two Adam Sandler movies ("The Ridiculous Six" and "Hubie Halloween"), Tyler Perry's "Boo! A Madea Halloween," and several others. Crawford has also established himself as a voice actor in some Adult Swim cartoons, ranging from "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" to "Pastacolypse."

Through it all, Crawford has continued on with his original vocation as a stand-up comic. His higher profile has led to his own comedy specials, 2021's "The Comedy Vaccine," and the 2023 offering "THEE Lavell Crawford." "Breaking Bad" fans who tuned into those specials may notice Crawford's slimmer frame, given that he shed more than 100 pounds after the show. "I was weighing about 475," Crawford revealed in an interview with VLADTV. "I lost the weight, I don't have diabetes or high blood pressure no more."

Krysten Ritter went from sitcom to superhero

Krysten Ritter appeared in nine episodes of "Breaking Bad," playing Jesse's girlfriend, Jane, who meets her end after suffocating — while watched by Walt, who could have saved her life but chooses not to. (Jane made a brief return in "El Camino.") The high-profile role did wonders for Ritter's career, bumping her up from supporting parts to starring roles in films like "Vamps," and "Refuge," both released in 2012. That same year, she was cast in the titular role in the ABC sitcom "Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23," which ran for two seasons. In 2015, she starred as the titular super-powered heroine in Netflix's Marvel series "Jessica Jones," which was canceled after three seasons.

Interestingly, Ritter has crossed paths with some of her "Breaking Bad" alums over the years. In 2021, she co-starred with Aaron Paul in the podcast drama "The Coldest Case," and in 2023, appeared alongside Jesse Plemons in "Love & Death." 

While Ritter would happily agree that "Breaking Bad" laid the groundwork for her future stardom, she certainly didn't anticipate that outcome when she landed the part. "I did 'Breaking Bad' thinking, 'No one will see this. I'll just do it because it's awesome.' And it's turned out to be like the biggest credit I have in my career," she marveled in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch.

From Suits to Billions, David Costabile is no longer in the background

Prior to "Breaking Bad," David Costabile had carved out a career as a character actor on the stage and screen, most notably in the HBO series "The Wire" and "Flight of the Conchords." After playing meth-making chemist Gale Boetticher in the series, however, he likewise experienced the "Breaking Bad" effect that bolstered the careers of so many other actors who appeared on the show. 

After "Breaking Bad," notable projects included the crime drama "Low Winter Sun," the conspiracy miniseries "Dig," a recurring role on "Suits," and various other film and TV roles (including playing Gale in a couple of episodes of "Better Call Saul"). In 2016, he was cast as a character who managed to eclipse Gale: Mike Wagner, aka Wags, in Showtime drama "Billions," a ruthless and hedonistic fixer for billionaire Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis).

As Costabile told The Ringer, having spent the bulk of his career playing everyman characters in a series of supporting roles, becoming recognized on the street came as something of a novelty. "I remember the very first time it happened," he recalled. "The second season [of 'Billions'] just started airing and the garbage man, he saw me, he slowed down, stopped the truck, and shouted, 'F***ing Wags! You're the f***ing man!'