I first was “introduced” to Bryan Cranston as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle. Of course,this was later in his career so any talk of Malcolm doesn’t come until about 50% through this book. I was instantly drawn into this book, the writing style is great and really makes you feel like you are there with Bryan as he relives his early life – starting out as an actor, having that no longer seem to be his passion after his father left and then rediscovering it again later on. I loved reading about all the sneaky things he did as a young adult – especially when he was selling sun screen as a lifeguard at the pool.
Just a note – I have not seen Breaking Bad in its entirety and I’m not sure I ever will – but if you are someone who has not yet seen the show and may eventually want to watch it, you may want to get that out of the way before reading this book because it does contain some spoilers pretty much right from the beginning of the book.
Each chapter name is the “part” that Bryan played in that story – whether it be as an actor or as a family member – son, nephew, etc. A very interesting read about a very versatile actor.
I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.
About the Book
A poignant, intimate, funny, inspiring memoir—both a coming-of-age story and a meditation on creativity, devotion, and craft—from Bryan Cranston, beloved and acclaimed star of one of history’s most successful TV shows, Breaking Bad.
Bryan Cranston landed his first role at seven, when his father, a struggling actor and director, cast him in a United Way commercial. Soon, Bryan was haunting the local movie theater, memorizing and reenacting favorite scenes with his older brother. Acting was clearly the boy’s destiny—until one day his father disappeared. Suddenly, destiny took a back seat to survival.
Seeking something more stable, perhaps subconsciously trying to distance himself from his absent father, Cranston decided on a career in law enforcement. But then, a young man on a classic cross-country motorcycle trip, Cranston one day found himself stranded at a rest area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. To pass the time he read a tattered copy of Hedda Gabler, and in a flash he found himself face-to-face once again with his original calling. Suddenly he thought: This was what he wanted to do, what he would do, with the rest of his life. Act.
In his riveting memoir, A Life in Parts, Cranston traces his zigzag journey from his chaotic childhood to his dramatic epiphany, and beyond, to mega-stardom and a cult-like following, by vividly revisiting the many parts he’s played, on camera (astronaut, dentist, detective, candy bar spokesperson, President of the United States, etc.) and off (paperboy, farmhand, security guard, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, son, brother, lover, husband, father). With great humor, and much humility, Cranston chronicles his unlikely rise from a soap opera regular, trying to learn the ropes and the politics of show business on the fly, to a recurring spot as Tim Whatley on Seinfeld, finding himself an indelible part of popular culture. He recalls his run as the well-meaning goofball, Hal, on Malcolm in the Middle, proving to writers and fans that he was willing to do anything, anything, for a laugh, and he gives a bracing account of his challenging run on Broadway as President Lyndon Johnson, pushing himself to the limit as he prepared, physically and mentally, for a tour de force that would win him a Tony, to go along with his four Emmys.
Of course, Cranston dives deep into the grittiest, most fascinating details of his greatest role, explaining how he searched inward for the personal darkness that would help him create one of the most riveting performances ever captured on screen: Walter White, chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin.
Discussing his failures as few men do, describing his work as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about innate talent, its benefits, challenges, and proper maintenance, but ultimately A Life in Parts is about the necessity and transformative power of hard work.