You can't really fault Anna Gunn for craving a little peace and quiet. After six seasons of playing Skyler White — the steel-spined wife of crystal-meth kingpin Walter White on AMC's Breaking Bad — the 45-year-old actress has earned the right to take a breath. She surveys her surroundings — a lush community garden in NYC's East Village — which bring to mind her own Hollywood Hills, Calif., backyard. "It feels like a little haven — it's been a good retreat," says Gunn. "Now that I'm done with the show, I'm thinking of growing vegetables. I could never really make the commitment before."
It's no wonder. Breaking Bad, which ends its lauded run on Sept. 29, has been much more than a mere job for Gunn. Her work as Skyler gets her stopped at grocery stores — recently, a butcher at her local market began shrieking at the sight of her, and it took Gunn several moments to realize it was out of excitement rather than a severed finger — and garnered her Emmy nods for the past two years in a row. "It's gonna take a little while to process this whole thing," says Gunn. "The show has skyrocketed in such a way that all of us are a bit stunned."
That "all of us" includes, of course, Gunn's on-screen husband, three-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston. While his Walter White has been on a captivating journey from milquetoast high school chemistry teacher to ruthless criminal, Skyler's trajectory has been no less remarkable. "Anna is very, very smart," says Bad creator Vince Gilligan. "It inspired my writers to make Skyler as sharp and canny as her husband, but it also forced us into a bit of a box, because she had to figure out the truth about him." When that game-changing shift opened the third season, says Gilligan, "It turned out to be a wonderful, enriching twist to our story."
With just three episodes left, Skyler's story is almost complete. Of the much-anticipated finale, Gunn will reveal only that she feels "like every single character ended exactly the way they should have."
As for Gunn's next chapter? Bravo passed on her drama pilot Rita (which cast her as a sardonic schoolteacher), though it's reportedly being shopped to other networks, and she's already been approached about movie and theater roles. And then there's that vegetable garden to tend to.
Clearly, she's not going to settle for low-hanging fruit. "On my last day [shooting Bad], I realized on my drive home I had this huge grin on my face, because things like this don't come around often. And to have had that is extraordinary."
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
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