Also Credited As:Bryan L Cranston, Bryan Lee Cranston
|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer|
|Bryan Lee Cranston on March 7, 1956 in Canoga Park, California, USA|
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Born Bryan Lee Cranston on March 7, 1956 in California's San Fernando Valley, he was the son of actor Joe Cranston, who appeared frequently in television series in the early 1950s. Cranston made his acting debut in a United Way television commercial at the age of eight, but his interests centered on sports and law enforcement, which he pursued through college. After earning a degree in Police Science, he took a cross-country road trip with his brother Kyle (also a professional actor) and discovered a genuine passion for performing while wintering in Daytona Beach, FL. The brothers found work in a local community theater, and soon after, were made part of the regular company. Cranston soon returned to California and continued to act in local theater productions. His first television credit came on a 1982 episode of "C.H.i.P.s" (NBC, 1977-1983), which was quickly followed by a season on the daytime soap "Loving" (ABC, 1983-1995). Over the next decade, Cranston would become a fixture of episodic series, TV movies and miniseries, including "North and South, Book II" (1986), "I Know My First Name is Steven" (1989) and the short-lived sitcom "Raising Miranda" (CBS, 1988), which cast him as the titular teenager's offbeat uncle. One of his numerous guest shots even introduced him to his second wife, actress Robin Dearden, who played captive to his villain of the week on a 1986 episode of "Airwolf" (CBS, 1984-87).
In addition to his onscreen appearances, Cranston also lent his voice to several television commercials, as well as the American versions of numerous Japanese animated and live-action science fiction films and television series, including "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" (Fox, 1993-96). Reportedly, the Blue Power Ranger was named "Billy Cranston" as a tribute to him. For many of these dubbing projects, Cranston was billed as Lee Stone. In 1994, Cranston was cast as Dr. Tim Whatley, the dentist whose eccentric behavior irks Jerry to no end on "Seinfeld." The character turned up in several significant episodes, including "The Yada Yada," in which Jerry was convinced that Whatley's recent conversion to Judaism was based entirely on his desire to tell ethnic jokes, and "The Jimmy," which has Jerry fearing that the dentist has taken advantage of him while under sedation. Cranston then returned briefly to work as a series regular with "The Louie Show" (CBS, 1996), a vehicle for comic Louie Anderson, who played a shrink with the by-now standard roster of wacky patients (among them, Cranston's kook of a policeman). The series lasted just six episodes, and Cranston resumed his busy schedule of episodic and TV movie work. In 1996, he earned his first big theatrical feature showcase as ill-fated astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom in Tom Hanks' delightful "That Thing You Do!" (1996). Two years later, he would reunite with Hanks and the space program to play Buzz Aldrin in the epic miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" (1998).
Cranston's voice and carriage were put to excellent use as a tough, one-armed Army colonel who gives the order to rescue a missing G.I. in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). The following year found him directing his first feature film, "Last Chance" (1999), a gentle romance in which he also co-starred with his wife. The film performed well on the festival circuit and even took top prize at several showings. He later began a three-year recurring stint as Tim Sacksky, neighbor and irritant to Kevin James and Leah Remini on "The King of Queens."
In 2000, Cranston was tapped to play father to Frankie Muniz's pint-sized genius on the comedy "Malcolm in the Middle." The series turned out to be a considerable hit with young and old audiences, who saw Cranston shed his semi-regular, officious TV persona to play a man seemingly trapped between his childish loves and pursuits (and fears, which included puppets) and his day-to-day existence as a white-collar worker and father to three highly mischievous boys. Unlike most TV dads, Hal could be counted on to either join in the hijinks or make them worse, much to the consternation of his disciplinarian wife Lois (Jane Kaczmarek). Waiting for Hal to explode with glee or terror or exasperation was among the high points of the long-running series, and Cranston's unbridled performance earned him three Emmy nominations and a nod from the Golden Globes and Satellite Awards between 2002 and 2006. Cranston also began directing episodes of "Malcolm" in 2003, corralling members of the show's crew to assist him in producing "KidSmartz" (2003), an instructional DVD for parents and children alike on how to prevent abduction. The project earned high praise from several noteworthy publications and advocates, including John Walsh who had, himself, lost his son to abduction.
While working on "Malcolm," Cranston also kept busy as a guest star in TV movies and features, most of which called for his comic abilities. He was a ne'er-do-well uncle who accidentally steals Santa's sleigh in "Twas the Night" (2001) before playing St. Nick himself in "The Santa Claus Brothers" that same year. Cranston also appeared as a business connection for Greg Kinnear's desperate motivational speaker in "Little Miss Sunshine" (2006) and had a recurring role as Lucifer in "Fallen" (2006), an ABC Family miniseries about a teenager who discovers that he's part angel. He was also a former boss and nemesis for Ted (Josh Radnor) in several episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005- ).
After "Malcolm left the airwaves in 2007, Cranston returned to series work with "Breaking Bad," a dark comedy from "X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) co-producer Vince Gilligan for the American Movie Classics network. Cranston was top-billed as a high school chemistry teacher who struggles to support his pregnant wife and a son with cerebral palsy. When he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he uses his knowledge of chemicals to devise a plan to manufacture meth in order to support his family after his death. Much of the series' drama and comedy came from how Cranston's formerly mild-mannered character adapted to the outlaw lifestyle and its unusual and often dangerous participants, while attempting to evade a local DEA agent, who also happened to be his brother-in-law. Critics were unanimous in their praise of Cranston's dramatic performance in the series, which ended its first season run early due to the 2007-08 Writers Guild strike. Despite the interruption, he surprised no one by taking home the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Cranston repeated the triumph when he won the same award the following two years.