BREAKING BAD’s Final Countdown with Skinny Pete
As the record-breaking final episodes of AMC’s BREAKING BAD began to air, with a viewership of over 5 million, I had the chance to chat with Charles Baker (Skinny Pete) and get his thoughts on the series finale.
Developing Skinny Pete
One of my first questions to Baker was how he thought Skinny Pete had changed since audiences first met him in 2008. He said, “I think he’s starting to be a little bit more responsible and a bit less childish, as much as he can be, considering his limitations.
“The challenge in playing him is not taking him too seriously, not trying to read too much into his dialogue. I find myself reading between the lines. The Directors always come to me and say, ‘Don’t do that. Just blow that off. Just let it go.’ So, sometimes you don’t have to look so hard.”
In Episode Three of this season, “Hazard Pay,” viewers got to see Skinny Pete play the piano. And the talent was real. Baker told me he was a music major in college, but that he had never really performed as a singer or pianist. He said, “I really enjoyed being able to play the piano in front of a lot of people. That was a first for me. I’m self-taught, mostly from watching other people and copying them. I worked really hard in that scene. I played the entire song all the way through, because I didn’t know how much they (the Producers) were going to use. It was nice to show off.”
With a musical background, I wondered if Baker intended to be a musician from the start. He said, “I always wanted to be an entertainer. I didn’t know where I was gonna fit in. I loved singing. I took jazz and ballet in high school. I’ve done a lot of musical theatre in high school and in college. It all started when one of my teachers at the Junior College I went to asked me to be in a play. At first I thought a play without music would be boring, but I did it. I played a lawyer, and I was actually kinda surprised at how involved I was able to get, at how much imagination I was able to use, considering I was on stage and in front of an audience.”
Skinny Pete One of a Kind
So, the acting bug bit. But, Baker doesn’t draw on any of his past characters to play Skinny Pete. Instead, he chooses to never play two characters the same way. Fact is, when he’s not “in costume,” he’s not readily recognized as Skinny Pete. He told me, “I really enjoy the fact that I can walk off the set as Skinny Pete and put on my street clothes, and no one recognizes me at first as Skinny Pete. I really enjoy that. It’s like I’m really doing my job.”
When asked if he has any special memories he will take away with him when the cameras roll for the last time on BREAKING BAD, Baker said, “Just showing up on set is an incredible memory for me. I’ll remember the first time I met Bob Odenkirk, who’s like a comedy god to me. And, I’ll remember the first time I met Jonathan Banks. He told me backstage right before a scene, ‘I’m tired. If you mess this scene up, I’m gonna punch you in the heart. He was joking, obviously. But, I’ve watched him since I was a child. He’s such a great character actor, such a great actor. For him to say that to me was just like giving me a hug.”
I was curious as to how Baker would end the series. He said, “I don’t know if anyone would agree with me, but I’ve had an idea from the beginning that Walter (Bryan Cranston) would end up being Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) teacher and do what he’s been trying to do all along. It seems his motivation has been to provide for his family. I would like to see him take Jesse as a surrogate son. He wants Jesse to have a good life, get to a better place, and be happy.”
In the Future…
So, with such a successful series nearly behind him, what’s next for Charles Baker? For starters, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, will be released to DVD on August 16. Though Baker only has a small role in the project, he considers it “an incredible, beautiful film, a unique story with a lot of action. It’s like a Bonnie and Clyde love story.”
Then, on September 23, THE BLACKLIST premieres on NBC. The series stars James Spader as Red, the FBI’s Most-Wanted criminal. He turns himself in “for reasons unknown except to him.” Baker will play Grey, Spader’s confidant. Baker said, “It’s a very different part for me. I know how to spell…it’s pretty much the opposite of Skinny Pete.”
Can’t wait to see what comes next!
Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at suite101.com, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover.