Charles Baker plays the role of Skinny Pete in the popular AMC series “Breaking Bad”. The show is now in its 5th and final season and Charles took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Media Mikes about his experiences working on the show and how he turned a background character in to a recurring role on one of televisions hottest shows.
Adam Lawton: What was it that first drew you to the role of “Skinny Pete”?
Charles Baker: “Skinny Pete” wasn’t even a role when I first started on the show. He was originally just called “Skinny Stoner” and I was hired for only one episode during season 1. It was supposed to be just a day player role and what drew me to it was I was going to get to work on television. (Laughs) It was a job and people really didn’t know a lot about the show or anything like that. I had heard some things about the show but didn’t know how phenomenal it was going to be or that I was going to be a part of it.
AL: Being the role was written originally for a one time appearance were you allowed to provide any creative input or direction?
CB: Because of how things happened so consciously in season 1 they just told me they were going to bring me back for another episode and would see how things went. My first scene was very small so I came in with how I thought the role should be played and the director who worked on that episode had his own ideas about the role so what we created for that bit part kind of dictated my role for the rest of the series. A lot of times before each scene I would have to repeat one of my lines from that first episode as a way to get myself back into character. I would always have to repeat “Yo my pops is a contractor” in order for me to fall back into that speech pattern. Each time I was on the show I was working with a different director who would have their own idea for what they thought Skinny Pete was. A couple directors thought of him as a hardcore, mean, scary guy while a few others saw him has this lovable, goofy guy. However they saw the character was how they directed us. We would have to find a balance in their in order to keep consistency while still getting what they were asking for. That is how the many layers of Skinny Pete happened.
AL: Was it hard working with different directors all of the time?
CB: It was a challenge but I think it was a great learning experience. I love things like that where I have to find it in myself to make things like that work. It was better for me in the long run I think because I didn’t get stuck in a rut. I was able to give Skinny Pete more levels and layers to play with. For me it was a lot of fun and similar to an improve exercise.
AL: What do you think has been the roles biggest progression?
CB: He has kind of grown a little bit. Pete has started to follow in Jesse’s footsteps without having to learn all the harsh lessons Jesse had to learn. I think he has seen Jesse become more responsible up until the point where we see him start to be affected by the actions of his crew. You see Jesse start to become more of a business man than a thug. At the start of season 5 you see Pete acting similar in a scene between him and Badger at a music store. That’s a new step for Skinny Pete I think. He is actually taking something serious instead of just playing around.
AL: What do you think is in store for Skinny Pete as the show concludes?
CB: I wish I could tell you. I don’t even know what’s going on. That’s all part of the brilliance in how the show is shot and how tight security is. In the past If I had a scene where I don’t speak and I am just in the background I got to see that script so I knew what’s going on. With this last season they have been using a stand-in for scenes that I may or may not be in. They just didn’t tell me anything. (Laughs) If I had dialogue then it was just me. I am not even sure of what scenes I am in or not. I am ok with that because I am a huge fan of the show and I want to be surprised just like everyone else. I know Vince and the people who work on that show will never let me down. They don’t have to tell me what I am doing. They can put a blind fold on me, tell me what lines to say and I know it will be brilliant. I will trust them on that.
AL: What was it like for you working with Brian Cranston both as an actor and director?
CB: Brian is a wonderful person. Since the beginning he has been the leader and father figure of the show. Vince keeps a very tight hand on everything that happens but he is not always around during filming so Brian is the foundation and keeps everyone together. Having him direct was very natural since he has been such a guide through everything.
AL: What do you think you will miss most about playing the character?
CB: I am going to miss a lot of things. Every episode was a new adventure for me. They opened up a lot of things for Skinny Pete and gave him a lot of responsibility. To be able to sink your teeth in to a character for as long as all of have on “Breaking Bad” is great. This was a first for me as I had never played a recurring role on a series before. It was like creating an alter ego who becomes like a friend. I will certainly miss that and having a job. (Laughs)
AL: Can you tell us about some of your other upcoming/current projects?
CB: I currently have a small recurring role on the show “The Black List” with James Spader. I play a character by the name of “Grey”. He was originally called “The man in the grey flannel suit”. Luckily they shortened that down. I like to compare the role to if James Spader was Batman I would be his Alfred. I am his go to guy. It’s definitely a switch from that of Skinny Pete. Grey combs his hair and wears a suit. (Laughs) They say he drives a Bentley but I haven’t been able to do that yet. I also shot a pilot for NBC called “Murder in the First”. We are just waiting to hear if that’s going to go through. I really think it will because it’s a great show and cast. I worked on an independent film in Texas titled “Flutter” that I just saw a rough cut of the other day. It stars Lindsay Pulsipher from “Hatfields and McCoys”. From what I have seen of the film it is beautiful. I don’t know when it is coming out but I hope it is soon as I think people will really enjoy it. Lastly “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” which stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara is out now and I have a role in that as well.