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Actor Jonathan Banks plays Mike on Breaking Bad. In an exclusive interview with AMCtv.com, he talks about what he would do if he was trapped in a car with his character from the show and the worst drive he ever took with anyone.
Q: I'm headlining this interview "Jonathan Banks is so old school that he insists on talking on a landline."
A: [Laughs] Well, first of all, Jonathan Banks is so old school -- and underline old -- that he can't hear on his cell.
Q: Let's talk about Season 4, Episode 5. What's the worst car ride you've ever been on in your life?
A: One of my friends and I had gone camping and we were on our way back from the Sierras. We picked up a guy who was hitchhiking. He immediately got in the car and started cursing to himself. If the guy had had a weapon we would have been in bad shape. But we got him out of the car pretty quick. The operative phrase was "get out," and he did.
Q: Mike allowing Jesse to smoke in his car is a key moment in Episode 5. Can anyone smoke in your car?
A: You gotta realize I grew up in the age of Camel Straights and Lucky Strikes. Old Gold. Our cars used to smell like ashtrays. But nobody smokes in my car now. Especially with my kids, what are you kidding?
Q: When was the cut-off between being able to smoke in your car and not being able to?
A: Probably when my twins were born, my youngest children. About that time I quit smoking. And that's been, I don't know, 20, 22 years ago, something like that.
Q: Mike seems to use his silence as a weapon. Do you use silence that way?
A: Boy do I believe in silence. I honestly believe that the camera tells everything. Trust what you're feeling and it will pretty much come through.
Q: You often get cast as villains. Who are some of your favorite bad-guys in film?
A: If you don't know the movie Shane, then you should rent it in the next hour and go and see a master bad guy, Jack Palance, shooting Elisha Cook Jr. in the mud. Richard Widmark pushing the little old lady in the wheelchair down the stairs in Kiss of Death. In Braveheart, the guy who played the king, Partick McGoohan. Boy I could do this forever, I truly enjoy bad guys. One of my daughters is behind me saying Captain Hook. There's a great bad guy.
Q: Why do you like bad guys so much?
A: I don't think I can ever answer that question satisfactorily for myself. But one reason is that I do like the absolute raw rage.
Q: Mike and Jesse develop an almost silent understanding of each other during the course of their work together. Is this reflective of your relationship with Aaron?
A: I don't think Aaron and I practiced anything. Aaron is such a damn pleasure to be around, that kind of kinship came pretty easily. I look at him -- he's obviously young enough to be my son -- and I just think the world of him.
Q: It seems like you as an actor are one of the most likely to have your persona confused with your character's.
A: It's very hard for me to differentiate between Mike and myself. I just liked this character so much; it fits, it wears easily. I still wonder about his whole backstory. It's going to be what Vince and the rest of the writers decide because Mike is their creation, whatever his backstory is, it's sad and it's poignant the way I see it. At the same time, it's obvious Mike has not given up on the world entirely if he is taking his granddaughter to the zoo and he still finds joy in her description of a rhinoceros horn.
Q: You've talked a lot about Mike's story. Have you ever talked to the writers about anything in the script related to your character?
A: I am not one of those who calls ever. But if I had my way, I would sit there with them in the room and say, now look guys, here's the right thing to do. If I was in Los Angeles, they would have padlocks on the writers room door to keep me out. There would be signs going down the freeway that said "Jonathan Banks Turn Back."