Q&A – Dean Norris (Hank Schrader)

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The veteran actor explains how easily an on-screen beat-down can take a dangerous turn, discusses the only Breaking Bad episode he won’t let his kids watch and dishes about how his police persona helps him get out of speeding tickets.

Q: Hank has been doing a lot of fist-fighting this season. Do you have any special fight training?

A: I earned a black belt when I was in high school. And I did a lot of boxing and full contact karate in college. It kind of stays with you. I didn’t have any stunt guys in that bar scene and it was great working with [UFC fighter] Keith Jardine. I said, “Hey man, I’m generally pretty good at this but I just hope — don’t move. I’d hate to hit you.” He’s like, “Yeah, you can hit me. It doesn’t matter.” [Laughs] That’s the kind of dudes we need on the fights all the time. If I make a mistake it doesn’t matter. He’s been hit by a lot worse.

Q: How did you make Hank’s beating of Jesse look so convincing without either of you getting hurt?

A: I was sweating on that one. We did that so many times from so many different angles. Unfortunately, there was one shot where we did use a stunt guy for Jesse and man I just barely caught his tooth and his lip with the pinky of my fist. I felt so bad. Then they stick Aaron in there and I said, “Aaron, I almost never make that same mistake twice.”

Q: How do your kids react? Are they kids old enough to watch the show?

A: Yeah, I’m sure they’re not old enough according to some people, but I let ‘em watch. The seven-year-old and the four-and-a-half-year-old are both boys and they watch. I just explain to them constantly that it’s acting, it’s pretend and these are my friends. The four-and-a- half-year-old is really funny because we reenact the Tuco shootout from “Grilled” on a regular basis and he plays Tuco. He likes to play the bad guy. And now we reenact the fight from the bar on a regular basis. I won’t let them see me get shot in episode seven — that might just be too much — but the fights and things like that I let them see.

Q: What was the hardest part about filming the shootout with the Cousins?

A: Oh man, everything. We did a lot of re-shoots and we did that in December and it was cold, and I’m laying on the asphalt for a lot of it. We’d start shooting at six-thirty in the morning so I’d really get down on the ground at the last second. Also, I’m glad I did a lot of action films in the ’80s and ’90s, so I’m used to dealing with squibs. It’s a lot of pressure because it takes a lot of time to set that stuff up. Then there are things in the car, tubes and stuff to shoot the window out, and if you happen to get in the way of that it would put a nice little hole in your arm or certainly in your face. The director’s yelling, “The one thing you’ve got to remember is don’t look over here.” Then the other guy comes up and says, “Now the one thing you’ve got to remember is don’t move here too quickly.” Then the third guy, “Now the only thing you’ve got to remember is make sure you do this.” It’s only one thing but there’s ten different people that have one thing. I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t safe, but you start getting jacked up into the scene and you really have to concentrate and do it by the numbers.

Q: Have you ever used the fact that you play a cop to get out of paying a traffic ticket?

A: I swear to God I just got a speeding ticket and my wife’s like, “Take your hat off. Take your hat off.” Usually they can recognize me better without a hat. But I didn’t take my hat off quick enough, and he’d already written a ticket. I got out of one on the way to Albuquerque this year. We were all traveling out for the beginning of the season and he only gave me a warning. It could have been the fact that I play a cop or it could have been the fact that he looked back to see like four kids in the car and decided to cut me a break. I’m not sure. [Laughs] Look, I’ll use whatever I can because, unfortunately, I get in that situation too often.

Click here to read an interview with the actor who plays the man Hank pummeled into submission: Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman)

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