Q&A – Michael Bowen (Uncle Jack)

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Actor Michael Bowen, who plays Todd’s uncle Jack on AMC’s Breaking Bad, talks about the real life hit-man who inspired his performance and discusses some unfinished business he has with Aaron Paul.

Q: Jack is a pretty tough dude. Have you ever known anybody like him?

A: Deadly serious, quiet-types of people? I’ve met a few of those. I’m not saying names; I grew up in San Francisco and it’s obviously quite different, but I was surrounded by a lot of interesting characters — revolutionary-type people. For this Jack character I had to do some stuff to learn about how someone gets to this state, being a calculated sociopath.

Q: Did you model Jack on anyone in particular?

A: I was thinking about Richard Kuklinski, who they called “The Iceman.” He was a contract killer on the East Coast for the mob, meanwhile he was maintaining an entirely upper middle class, family life, with children, a wife, and a home. And if you watch, “The Iceman Tapes”, which you can find on YouTube, Richard Kuklinkski has this kind of quiet confidence. And a lot of the inspiration I got for the character was from him. It’s not about miming the guy per se, but it was about absorbing this calm, frighteningly matter-of-fact air he has when describing horribly vicious things.

Q: You’ve played a few badasses in the past. How does Jack stack up?

A: I’ve played quite a few, but he’s probably the baddest I’ve played. He doesn’t need to say anything and you know that it’s dead serious. It’s the polar opposite of who I am. I grew in a very liberal family. My mom was Jewish, my dad was like living with the great Santini who was a hippie. I get home now and it’s like I better do the dishes, or fix my wife’s car. I have girls — I have 5-year-old girl, I have a 20-year-old girl, I have an 18-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy. They and my wife run the show. It’s pretty funny.

Q: You co-starred with Aaron Paul in The Last House on the Left

A: Aaron actually murdered me in South Africa in [that movie]!

Q: Do you harbor fantasies that Jack would take revenge on your behalf?

A: You know, I didn’t even see Aaron on set. I saw him on the airplane with his fiancée. He asked me where I was going and I told him; he was really excited. But Jack’s very capable…

VIDEO: Making of Episode 508, “Gliding Over All”

Q: Jack tries to tell Walt his plan to kill ten guys in two minutes isn’t doable… then he caves and gets it done. Have you ever had a similar experience, where someone talked you into doing something you thought was impossible?

A: I mean, I’ve discovered things on motorcycles that I didn’t know I could do for one… Oh, and I’ve been convinced by my wife that there are certain dishes that I’m actually able to wash!

Click here to read an interview with Jesse Plemons, who plays Jack’s nephew Todd on Breaking Bad.

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