Breaking Bad: The Vital Marie Reaction Shot Betsy Brandt Made Happen

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the series finale of Breaking Bad.]

In the last piece we ran on Betsy Brandt’s experience working on Breaking Bad, she stressed the importance of the collaborative nature of the project and having her voice heard. In that particular clip from our Collider Ladies Night conversation, she was referencing a moment that happens pretty early on in Breaking Bad’s run – the intervention scene with the talking pillow in Season 1 Episode 5. Back then, it was just about asking for another take. When the time came to shoot the final episodes of the series, however, Brandt found herself with the opportunity to change a pivotal scene for the better by getting her character the moment she needed.


Image via AMC

In Season 5 Episode 14, “Ozymandias,” Marie (Brandt) learns about Hank’s (Dean Norris) death while Skylar (Anna Gunn) is on the phone with Walt (Bryan Cranston). Much of that conversation plays out in close-ups on Skylar and Walt. It isn’t until Hank is brought up that we cut to two shots of Marie, one signaling that she knows the topic of conversation has shifted and then a devastating second shot capturing Marie’s reaction to learning about Hank’s fate. Could you imagine that scene playing out without Marie’s reaction to Hank’s death? I certainly couldn’t and, it turns out, Brandt’s input was key to making that happen.

She did stress that this was a long time ago and that “so much of it runs together for” her, but took a moment to break down how that moment evolved at her request:

“There needs to be a reaction of her – it was a phone call. Because she finds out on a phone call, and I said, ‘I need my side of that.’ And Vince [Gilligan] was like, ‘Well, we were gonna shoot it like this. It was gonna be a stylized thing.’ And then [I] said, ‘I just really feel like I want her to have that,’ and they were like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna shoot it. We don’t know if we’re gonna use it. We may stick with Plan A.’ But they ended up using it where you see her.”

Brandt also discussed Marie’s headspace in that particulate scene, and her own expectations for that moment as well: 


Image via AMC

“Then the day that we shot it, I had no expectations and I just wanted to go in and – the scene prior where Walt calls and he’s on the phone with Skylar and there’s no word from Hank and I’m like, what’s happening, and I haven’t heard anything from him, she’s aware then and there’s just a current of worry because his job is dangerous and she knows this. And now that we all kind of know what’s going on, it raises the stakes even more. Again, such good television! Even when you’re in it, you’re aware. And I just really love that they respected me enough to shoot that. And then that we did end up using it. But when I found out, when she gets that news, I think it was more shock at the immeasurable loss and I think there’s a moment of, how can I go on? And I don’t want to. And then I think she gets her shit together, you know? She gets rid of the purple because there’s nothing left to do that for anymore. I think she finally got it.”

As for life after the events of Breaking Bad for Marie, Brandt did note: 

“I had someone ask me once if I thought Marie killed herself after the show. And I said, ‘Absolutely not!’ Because she knows he would never want her to do that!”

If you’re looking for more from Brandt on Breaking Bad, we do have one more clip coming your way before the launch of her full Collider Ladies Night interview on Friday in celebration of Brandt’s episode of the AMC anthology series, Soulmates, which is due to air on Monday, November 9th.

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