TORONTO, ONTARIO – SEPTEMBER 07: Dean Norris attends the The Creative Coalition’s Annual Spotlight Initiative Awards Dinner Gala at Nordstrom Supper Suite at MARBL Restaurant on September 07, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Dominik Magdziak/Getty Images)
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Dean Norris: ‘It was really fun to get to play the early Hank’

Breaking Bad had quite an awards pedigree. Bryan Cranston won the Golden Globe for playing Walter White and was nominated three more times for it. Aaron Paul received a nomination for being Jesse Pinkman and Vince Gilligan was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama. But surely Dean Norris, who played DEA Agent Hank Schrader, was responsible for some of the best scenes in the show’s five seasons, as he played a game of cat and mouse with his secret nemesis and brother-in-law (Walter). Even if he was not recognized by awards, Norris was key to the success of Breaking Bad, and his return to the character in a couple of episodes of Saul’s Season Five.

  And it was an amazing moment and I was lucky to have my buddy and my partner there Steven Michael Quezada.  And it was just fantastic.

  I think as Better Call Saul was inching closer to Breaking Bad, that they might have Hank come in there.  Peter Gould had kind of talked to me, just casually, about getting back in there.  So I think once it got close I thought maybe it would come about.

Breaking Bad. So did you have to play it differently?

Breaking Bad.  It was before the PTSD, it was before all of the bad stuff caused him to be a different guy.  So I thought that was really fun to go back and play the younger, more fun and confident Hank.

  And they tried to put things to hide behind when we on the set outside.  But at the end of the day, I thought they were going to keep it quiet up until the actual episode, but I think they must have figured they can’t do it and they announced it at the TCA and I was surprised that they announced it actually.

  And I just tried to find the truth of the character in the writing, and I attribute the fun of that character mostly due to the great writing. 

  But he was a jovial guy, he loved what he did. He really loved being a law enforcement guy, and I think that was clear at the beginning of Breaking Bad. 

Breaking Bad.  But it seems to me that you didn’t get an opportunity like this before.  Am I right?

  I think that’s true for all of us.  When you get something as great as this show and get to be a part of it, that’s a special moment in your career. 

Better Call Saul as a fan?

Breaking Bad and keep the quality the same.  So my hat’s off to them because they continue to do a great job, this season, in particular, is very good.

  We stayed friends over the years and when we first started Breaking Bad of course, we didn’t know each other. But now we stayed friends since Breaking Bad, so then to get to go back to Albuquerque and he and I get to play partners again. I think it is a little bit more comfortable for us and it was great working with an old friend when you are playing friends. 

  But I ended up spending a lot of time there obviously.  And I have really great memories of Albuquerque and I got to go back to all the restaurants that I liked and got to visit all the people, I have a lot of friends there, and I just got to reminisce about our old times on Breaking Bad.  

Breaking Bad was your relationship with Walter White.  Why did your relationship with Bryan work so well?

 But as it turns out, Walt turned out being pretty good being the street smart guy.  And Hank at the end used his brains to finally start getting on the track of all these guys.  So I think as the show goes on, you saw Hank in one way and Walt in a different way but Hank’s perception of Walt was completely different from who Walt really was. Hank felt like he was the older brother and Walt was his younger brother.  So Hank would rib him and give him a hard time and things like that. So when it all comes out in that garage scene, which was the last scene in the first episode of the last season, and it became oh my God, this guy is the guy I have chasing, not only that, he could possibly kill me, the betrayal was so much more intense.

One Minute.  And he sits on the bed with his wife. He has this long thing where he is pouring his heart out and he says the universe maybe is saying I am not supposed to be a cop anymore.  That was always the most touching scene for me, to see Hank, this big, strong, boisterous guy, just breakdown in front of his wife and say I have got to go do the right thing, I have got to go square myself.  And I felt that was really the heart of who Hank was, even though he knew he wouldn’t be a cop anymore, his heart told him that he needed to be that person. 

Breaking Bad in the beginning, it was a long wait until you got that role.  Did you ever think ‘I should quit and do something else’?

  Even though there wasn’t a big job like   And as long as I was doing that, I didn’t really think about doing anything else.  I mean I got literally my first few jobs when I went out and never had to do another job, like waiting or anything like that.  So as long as I was making enough money to have my family and everything, then I really wasn’t concerned about it.  And then everything else was kind of just gravy in the end. 

  What did acting give you?

  And then along with that, I would act in church plays and then obviously in high school and at Harvard I did a lot of acting.  And as it became clearer that I was less good as a musician and I wanted to be in the entertainment business, that I had a better chance being an actor and at that point that is what kind of got me going into it.  And I had done, I don’t know, 40 different plays when I was at Harvard. I love being on stage and I just love actors and I love being on set, so glad it worked out.

  And then after that did the show that I am doing now, called Claws on TNT, and it’s some fun.  I made a conscious effort to do stuff that was different from kind of the intense small cable stuff that Breaking Bad was.  And I wanted to try and broaden out and do a lot of other things like comedies, stuff like that.  And maybe at some point, I will look for another show that is a small intense show like

  It’s called Schraderbrau, which Hank brewed in   And so when the 10th anniversary of the show came around, I was like oh, thinking about making an actual beer.  So I got a partner who knows the beer business and we went and found a brewery and kind of created the taste and we brewed it.  And we are in, I think we are in five, six states now and we are up to Canada, we are in a lot of different places now.  So it continues to grow. 

  He’s doing a show here and I am doing a show here.  So we both stay pretty busy and the most times we see each other is when we are in the same location when we are doing something.