Better Call Saul writer-director Thomas Schnauz explains why the show did not digitally de-age Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in their big return.
Better Call Saul writer-director explains why the show elected not to digitally de-age Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. All suspense about Walter White and Jesse Pinkman appearing in the final season of AMC’s Breaking Bad spinoff was shut down back in April when it was confirmed that the pair would indeed drop in at some point. Fans then just had to wait for the two principal Breaking Bad characters to finally make their anticipated appearance.
Better Call Saul as it turned out would make fans wait quite awhile to finally see Pinkman and White again. But the moment at last arrived in last night’s episode “Breaking Bad,” which revisited Walt and Jesse’s first meeting with Saul Goodman, shifting the perspective to see things from Saul’s side. Interestingly enough, actors Cranston and Paul did not appear to be significantly de-aged for their scenes, despite the actors now being 14 years removed from the ages they were when they first played their characters on Breaking Bad.
The decision to not de-age Cranston and Paul may indeed have made it difficult for some fans to suspend disbelief and think they were seeing White and Pinkman as they were over a decade ago when Breaking Bad originally aired. Speaking to Variety, Better Call Saul “Breaking Bad” episode writer-director Thomas Schnauz addressed this issue and explained why the decision was made not to go overboard with de-aging effects. He said:
There’s only so much you can do before it starts looking ridiculous. We don’t do a ton of de-aging on the show. There’s a little bit of stuff on the guys’ faces to take a few lines out here and there, but other than that, Aaron is not going to look like an 18-year-old kid or however old Jesse was during this time period. … I do sort of dread people cutting this scene into the world of “Breaking Bad” and trying to match the way they look then and now, but it’s not something you can worry too much about. It is what it is. We’re telling a story and you can roll with it or you start picking at: “He looks much older than he did in the original scene.” We decided to go for it, and I’m glad we did.
The question of whether Better Call Saul should do more to de-age its characters for the sake of timeline consistency has of course been brought up many times over the course of its six seasons. Schnauz indeed has addressed the issue himself on a prior occasion, telling fans on Twitter awhile back that the expense of de-aging has a lot to do with why the show doesn’t go down that road. Instead of using de-aging to make characters like Saul Goodman and Gus Fring literally look younger, the show counts on its compelling writing, directing and acting to hold the audience in a state of suspended disbelief, where they simply don’t question the reality of what they’re seeing.
It’s of course up to each individual viewer to decide whether they’re able to suspend disbelief when it comes to discrepancies between the ages of actors and the characters they’re playing. It’s arguable that someone like Paul, who looks very different today than he did when he played Pinkman on Breaking Bad, is hard to accept as a much younger character. “Breaking Bad” the episode did use some old-school tricks involving lighting and angles to try to lessen the jarring effect of seeing these characters played by actors who are no longer the right age. But ultimately there’s only so much that can be done and it is down to the viewer to either go with it or not. Either way, Better Call Saul delivered a fine return for Walt and Jesse, giving fans a different angle on events in Breaking Bad while memorably allowing the beloved characters to share the screen one more time.
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