The X-Files Episode That Led To Breaking Bad

By Jessica Goudreault | Updated

bryan cranston x-files
Bryan Cranston in The X-Files

Before Bryan Cranston was cast as the infamous Walter White in the AMC hit TV series Breaking Bad, he landed a role in one episode of the sci-fi TV show The X-Files. The episode, “Drive” (Season six, episode two) was actually written by Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad. Nearly ten years later, Gilligan recounted Bryan Cranston’s dramatic performance in The X-Files, and decided to cast the actor as Walter White in Breaking Bad; a decision they would both be thankful for.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan first worked with Bryan Cranston on The X-Files episode “Drive.”

During The X-Files episode, Bryan Cranston plays a seemingly deranged man who is suffering from a painful pressure in his head. After being involved in a high-stakes police car chase, he ends up kidnapping FBI special agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). The two drive to meet Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) to try and relieve the mysterious suffering before it is too late.

The X-Files episode aired in November 1998, with 18.5 million people tuning in to watch the suspenseful story play out.

Much like his antagonistic character in Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston was able to humanize the role in The X-Files and gain sympathy from the audience. Vince Gilligan chose to cast him for the role because it proved that the actor could even humanize the twisted drug dealer Walter White.

Only Bryan Cranston could have pulled off Walter White, which Vince Gilligan realized from watching the star’s performance on The X-Files.

Bryan Cranston almost did not get this pivotal role in The X-Files episode. In fact, a different actor had already been cast as the deranged man. But when the casting director, Rick Millikan, allowed Bryan Cranston to audition, he knew he was the right choice for the role.

bryan cranston x-files
Bryan Cranston and David Duchovny in The X-Files

Vince Gilligan knew that Bryan Cranston would be the perfect actor to take on The X-Files character because he could be scary and intimidating but also have a sympathetic side that made audiences feel for him. It’s a very impressive skill that can be very difficult to pull off, but fans of Breaking Bad know that Bryan Cranston can pull at your heartstrings while simultaneously stabbing you in the back.

When it came time to cast the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad, AMC executives couldn’t see why Vince Gilligan wanted to cast Bryan Cranston in the complex role. They envisioned him as Hal, the goofy father from the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. But after watching The X-Files episode, they knew he was the right man for the job.

AMC executives thought of Bryan Cranston as a sitcom dad from Malcolm in the Middle, and not as one of the most conflicted villians in The X-Files.

Bryan Cranston is an incredibly talented actor who is able to transform and adapt to so many different roles. One of his first big roles was his recurring appearance as Dr. Tim Whatley in the classic sitcom Seinfeld, a role known and loved by many. Since then, he has taken on all sorts of serious projects (apart from The X-Files and Breaking Bad), like Argo, Godzilla, and, most recently, the ongoing legal drama series Your Honor.

Even though it has been ten years since Breaking Bad came to an end,we hope that Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan will work together again on another project, whether it’s another dramatic TV series or a light-hearted comedy.