Breaking Bad was a story of a high school teacher who became a notorious drug lord Walter White (Bryan Cranston). It has the audiences rooting for him instead of anyone else who stood in his way, including his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) even though she was understandably supporting Walter’s budding operation.
Fans were especially hard on Skyler, calling her names on social media, which led Gunn to writing an op-ed piece in The New York Times about how Skyler “had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.”
“It was transformative and incredible,” Gunn recently told EW about the experience from Skyler’s haters.
“From the get-go, we thought, ‘This is the kind of writing and the kind of story that doesn’t come along very often, so let’s really be present in it and let’s really savor it.’ And we did. All those years, we really stayed in that gift and were present in it. It shook me. As an actor, my job is not to always play characters who make everybody happy. That’s not interesting. In fact, characters that are more difficult in a way are more interesting. But when you are on a show that has become that big and people are identifying you so much with somebody that they dislike, you can’t help but feel like you get folded into it.”
Gunn, now an actor in the indie film You Can Choose Your Family, continued,
“It was very bizarre and confusing to us all. It was a combination of sexism, ideas about gender roles, and then honestly, it was the brilliance of the construct of the show. People did find a hero in Walt, but they wanted so much to connect with him so viscerally that to see the person who often was his antagonist — therefore the show’s antagonist in a way — they felt like she was in the way of him doing whatever he wanted to do, and that he should be allowed to do what he wanted to do.”
The experience with the backlash, she says, created a seismic shift and change in her life. She is grateful for it and what she learned; that it wasn’t really about her. “Change isn’t always comfortable and isn’t always pleasant, but it’s good that it was brought to people’s attention and consciousness.”
Over time, people have become woke and their perspectives are much deeper and evolved.
“Now that the show’s done, it’s kind of amazing how much it’s shifted, in particular, women will say — I mean, it still gets me kind of emotional — ‘The journey that she went through…’ They may or may not be aware of the Skyler backlash. That’s incredibly gratifying. It’s men and women who connect with that. There’s been such a shift happening in society and in our consciousness that it’s really landing much more strongly now.”
In spite of the fans opinions back when Bad was in the middle of its popularity, Gunn was nominated for the Supporting Actress Emmy 3 times. She won the award twice.