Q&A: Reynaldo Villalobos (Cinematographer)

Emmy-award nominated cinematographer Reynaldo Villalobos (who also shot Risky Business) talks about shooting bright vistas and dank basements for AMC’s exclusive interview.

Q: How did you enjoy shooting Breaking Bad?

A: It’s a funny question you say “enjoy” because that’s my work. When you’re working you don’t enjoy you’re working. You’re just always solving problems and trying to make the lighting fit the story, etc. Enjoyment never comes until maybe months later and you look at the product and go, “Oh yeah, that worked,” or “Man, that didn’t work.”

Q: Was it intimidating to take over for Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll, who shot the pilot?

A: No. He’s a friend of mine. We used to work together so we came from the same place. And I know exactly what he’s doing when I look at the show, and I do the same thing. We have the same way of looking at things already. So I just looked at it, great, and then you’re off and running. Theoretically you’re kind of doing the same things, but then the show is changing, so you’ve gotta change with it. The harder part is that pilots usually have twice as much time to shoot. So you try to maintain the quality with less time.

Q: How did the show change visually for you?

A: In a way the show is still evolving. And it should be evolving with the scripts. I think it’s getting darker and darker, getting into these peoples’ minds, and you’re finding out these little secrets. On the surface it’s just normal Albuquerque, USA; but now it’s getting darker and deeper. The lead actor is becoming more alive. So what’s happening, and I think it should happen, is the lighting has to go with the story. I think it’s getting a little darker, a little moodier. Bryan’s wardrobe is also changing. It’s getting darker, he’s getting a little more hip, so colors are changing. At first it was kind of washed out, and things are now changing a bit.

Q: Speaking of Albuquerque, you’re a resident. What do you like about shooting there?

A: I like shooting here because you’re surrounded by nature, and then you have the city of Albuquerque. It’s like this impingement on nature in a way, and you see it in the show. Sometimes we’re in nature, sometimes we’re in an old building, and I like that contrast. I like to shoot wide to tight, so there was a shot in the first or second episode where Walt’s sitting up over the freeway, and I had the camera just pan from big vista, big vista, big vista, and then you came across and you see him sitting in his car on the overpass, this little white car. So I love doing that kind of stuff, and you can do it in Albuquerque because you’ve got all this nature.

Q: What was your favorite scene to shoot?

A: Well, I loved shooting in the basement where he’s going to kill the bad guy, because you can really make it shadowy. And I also enjoyed when he goes to blow up the place with the drug dealer. That was fun because he’s going in this place that’s dark and moody, and you have an excuse to shoot interestingly. So I like that stuff, and Vince is all for making it interesting looking. Nobody’s going to scream, “Oh my God! Pull back!”

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