Book Reviews

Book Review: A Life in Parts – Bryan Cranston

Written by Omair Alavi

He might be famous as Walter White of Breaking Bad, but there is more to the actor who struggled for a long time before achieving fame

Veteran film and theatre actor Bryan Cranston is right now one of the most famous names in the world, thanks to his successful TV show Breaking Bad. However, there is a history behind that character, which Bryan Cranston explains in his collection of memories ‘A Life in Parts.’ He talks about being fired from his first job as a paperboy, doing odd jobs to survive in the world, and being part of a murder investigation, all before becoming an actor, and if that doesn’t attract you, nothing will.

Since Bryan Cranston’s career graph hasn’t been like any other actor’s, his recollection also had to be different. He doesn’t abide by the chapter-wise discussion but talks about the key points of his life, instead of discussing everything. That’s one of the reasons that makes this book something one could read in one or two sittings. The tone of his discussion is so comforting that the reader feels connected from the first page, and doesn’t miss the pictures until the last page.

According to Cranston, he and his brother had to face a lot of challenges when they were growing up. His life changed when his father left his mother to marry another woman, leaving them penniless, hurt, and confused. That one incident made him realize the importance of family, and he vowed never to let his own down if he ever became successful. How he managed to do that, and what were the key steps he took that helped him become successful, he bears all in these pages.

The narrative is honest and gripping and comes out like talking to a relative whom you have known for a long time. The way he talks about the past seems as if he is taking the reader back in time and guiding him or her in his world. That’s why even the chronologically-moving narrative doesn’t bore the readers at all, even though he moved back and forth on occasions, depending on how his state of mind at that time impacted him later in life.

You can call it a memoir but one without juice – regarding his colleagues, but there is dirt here all right. He discloses details about his failed relationship where the girl became a stalker once he decided to dump her due to her substance abuse. How that relationship changed him makes that episode of his life a must-read, as does the incident where he tries to save a man from an accident, only to realize that he tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a car.

Not only does he talk about his estranged father who went on to live past his ninetieth birthday but also about his mother who kept on meeting men once her husband ditched her. He also tells the reader about his law enforcement career that was over before it could start, discloses details about the bike ride he took with his brother that opened his mind towards life as an actor, and also discusses his two marriages – the first one that wasn’t successful and the second one that is.

Being the real-life good guy Bryan Cranston is, he credits everyone who has helped him in his career be it the electricity guy at Seinfeld, or one of the producers of the X-Files who later recruited him for his career-defining role in Breaking Bad. He does criticize those whom he felt weren’t loyal to their work or were either trying too hard when they should have gone with the flow, but he doesn’t badmouth anyone for the sake of increasing the sales of this book.

The experiences he mentions here can be termed as a catalyst to his performances; he explains how being in an emotionally-draining relationship helped him be Walter White in front of the camera; how thinking about his own daughter made him give the expressions that were required in one specific scene and how growing up without a father helped him deliver a perfect performance in front of the camera. That’s not all, he talks about the many guest appearances, the failed pilots, and the odd jobs he did to earn his own place in the TV industry.

This book would easily serve as a lesson to those who believe that success can be achieved easily because according to Bryan, nothing comes for free. He had to work hard to make a name for himself, and even Breaking Bad didn’t come to him, he had to prove his worth as the bumbling father Hal on Malcolm in the Middle to make others notice him. He tells the readers that it was during that series he tried everything he wanted to do as an actor and got the confidence that helped him in bagging the lead role in Breaking Bad.

While talking about his six years as Walter White aka Heisenberg, he talks about his experience of working with a professional cast and crew. However, that doesn’t stop him from giving spoilers without realizing that some of the readers might not have seen the series. He not only reveals a few important conflict points of the series but spoils it for those who might not have seen the show. Nonetheless, most of the people who would go for this book would do so after watching Breaking Bad, so there’s no harm done here.

If you didn’t know that the man behind the Breaking Bad drug dealer began his career when he was seven with a TV commercial directed by his father, or that he was shaken after being kissed by a fellow actress during his acting class, or that he got his first adult-commercial because he learned mountain climbing during the break between the audition and selection, then you need to brush up on your knowledge regarding Bryan Cranston.

‘A Life in Parts’ is not a book that would help you become a better actor but it might help you become a better person. The first-person account by Bryan Cranston is so engrossing that it will make you feel like a different person when you are done with the book. However, fans of the veteran actor would be disappointed for he doesn’t talk about his films including Contagion, Argo, and Godzilla as well as those that became more popular after Breaking Bad.

Omair Alavi – BOL News

About the author

Omair Alavi