BRYAN CRANSTON

Bryan Cranston takes the anchor desk as mad prophet of the airwaves Howard Beale in the hit Broadway play inspired by Paddy Chayefsky’s classic, “Network.” Now, the “Breaking Bad” star is here to share his take on the media and life in and out of the public eye.

For more info on “Network” click here.

Aired on May 16, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> I WAS MAD AS HELL And I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE.

ACTOR PETER FINCH PORTRAYED PETER BEAL IN THE 1976 OSCAR WINNING FILM 'NETWORK.'

IT ARRIVED MORE THAN 40 YEARS OLD.

IT WAS WHERE TV NEWS AND TABLOID TELEVISION WERE HEADED AND IT FEELS JUST AS PERTINENT TO OUR TIME AS IT DID BACK THEN.

THE CURRENT ACCLAIMED BROADWAY ADAPTATION OF THE 1976 MOVIE 'NETWORK' STARS BRIAN CRANSTON AS THE MAD PROPHET OF THE AIR WAVES.

CRANSTON, PROBABLY BEST KNOWN FOR HIS FILM AND EMMY AWARD WINNING SERIES 'BREAKING BAD' IS ALSO AN ACCOMPLISHED STAGE PERFORMER.

WON A TONY AWARD FOR PLAYING LYNDON JOHNSON IN THE PLAY 'ALL THE WAY' AND HE BRINGS ALL OF HIS WEIGHT TO THE ACTING PART OF HOWARD BEAL AND THIS MULTI-MEDIA SPECTACLE.

WE ARE DELIED TO HAVE BRIAN CRANSTON JOIN US.

BRIAN, IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US.

I WANT TO START WITH 'NETWORK.'

YOU'VE HAD A LONG AND EXTRAORDINARILY SUCCESSFUL CAREER.

I WOULD SUSPECT THAT GIVES YOU THE LUXURY OF A LOI THE OPTIONS.

YES.

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT 'NETWORK' AND HOWARD BEAL THAT YOU SAID, THIS IS THE NEXT THING FOR ME?

IT'S ALWAYS ABOUT THE STORY FOR ME.

THAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN ANY PERFORMANCE ART IS THE FOUNDATIONAL VALUE OF THE WRITTEN WORD.

SKBL HOW FAMILIAR WERE YOU WITH THE FILM BACK IN 1976?

SAW IT WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE AND BACK THEN I THOUGHT, AS I THINK IT WAS WRITTEN, INTENDED TO BE A SATIRE, AND HOW CRAZY WOULD IT BE IF WE CAN JUST TURN ON OUR TELEVISIONS AND WATCH THE DEATH HOUR, THE VIGILANTE SHOW OR SEE AN EXECUTION ON -- YOU KNOW, HOW SILLY.

HOW CRAZCRAZY.

MADNESS TAKING OVER OUR TELEVISION.

WELL, NOW HERE WE ARE AND OUR TELEVISIONS ARE JUST A LOT SMALLER NOW.

THEY'RE IN THE PALM OF OUR HANDS, AND -- BUT THAT TECHNOLOGY IS, YOU KNOW, ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN THE CENTURY.

AND I WONDER WATCHING IT, I SAW IT AT THE SAME TIME.

AROUND THE SAME AGE, I'M A COUPLE YEARS OLDER THAN YOU SO I WAS JUST FINISHING LAW SCHOOL.

I HADN'T GOTTEN INTO THE TELEVISION NEWS BUSINESS.

IT WOULD BE 15 YEARS BEFORE I DID THAT.

I REMEMBER WATCHING THAT THINKING, THAT'S KIND OF CURIOUS THAT THEY WOULD THINK THIS IS WHAT IT COULD BECOME BECAUSE AT THE TIME, 1976, WE HAD THREE NETWORKS AND WE HAD CLRONKITE, NAMES THAT YOU RESPECTED.

RIGHT.

BUT YOU COULD TELL THAT SOMETHING WAS STARTING TO CHANGE BUT I LOOK AT IT AND SAY, HOW PROPHETIC WAS HE?

WOULD WE KNOW WHAT IT WOULD LOOK LIKE IN 2019 OR HE WAS THINKING IT MIGHT SO MAYBE I BETTER SEND OUT A WARNING ABOUT THIS?

WHAT DO YOU THINK LOOKING BACK?

WELL, PATTY HAD A VERY CHALLENGING CAREER IN TELEVISION AND FILM.

HE WAS A VERY PROUD WRITER AND HE DIDN'T APPRECIATE NOTES FROM MANAGEMENT ON THE VALUE OF SOME OF HIS WRITING.

CHANGE THAT, CHANGE THAT AND HE WASN'T PLEASED WITH THAT.

HE SAW THE MECHANISM OF TELEVISION ADJUSTING TO THE TEMPERAMENT OF ITS AUDIENCE.

I'LL BE HONEST WHEN I WAS WATCHING CRONKITE OR BRINKLEY OR ANY OF THOSE NOBLE AND REVERED ANCHOR PEOPLE OF THE DAY, IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME THAT I WAS BEING PACKAGED, THAT THEY WERE SELECTING THE STORIES THAT THEY WANTED TO TELL AND TO FEED ME.

AND THAT'S THE WAY IT IS, FRIDAY, MARCH 6th, 1981.

I REALLY THOUGHT THAT WHEN WALTER CRONKITE TOLD US ONE NEWS ITEM AFTER ANOTHER, THIS IS JUST WHAT IT IS AND THAT'S THE WAY IT IS.

AND HE WOULD -- BUT, OF COURSE, SOMEONE HAD TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT, WELL, WE ONLY HAVE TIME FOR THESE 12 STORIES AND THESE 6 NEED TO GO AWAY.

WELL, SOMEONE MADE THOSE DECISIONS OF WHAT TO SAY AND WHATNOT TO SAY.

AND YOU'D LIKE TO THINK THAT IT WAS VERY ALTRUISTIC.

NO, IT WAS THIS IS WHAT THE PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR.

THIS IS HEARSAY AND OPINION AND WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE THAT IN OUR NEWSCAST.

I TELL PEOPLE WHEN I FIRST STARTED DOING TELEVISION NEWS 30 SOME YEARS AGO, IF I EVER LET MY OPINION SEEP INTO MY REPORTING, THEY'D PULL ME OFF THE AIR.

ISN'T THAT A QUAINT NOTION TODAY.

NOW THEY PAY YOU MORE.

IF YOU DON'T GET AN OPINION IN, NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU.

ANGRIER ON THAT POINT.

GIVE ME A HOWARD BEAL.

LET'S JUMP IN ON THIS.

GET IT TO THAT POINT.

I HAD A MENTOR BY THE NAME OF FRED FRIENDLY.

YES.

YOU KNOW THE NAME.

FRED FRIENDLY WAS THE CONSCIENCE OF TELEVISION NEWS.

YES.

I STARTED DOING THINGS WITH FRED ON PBS, MODERATING THE PANELS.

FRED HAD A GREAT EXPRESSION HE WOULD SAY.

IT'S WHAT I THOUGHT AFTER WATCHING THIS.

I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU AGREE.

HE WOULD SAY THE PURPOSE OF THIS SHOW IS NOT TO MAKE UP EVERYBODY'S MIND, RATHER, IT'S TO MAKE THE AGONY OF DECISION MAKING SO INTENSE YOU CAN ESCAPE ONLY BY THINKING.

OH.

ISN'T THAT A GREAT LINE.

THAT IS SO GOOD.

IT WORKS FOR ALMOST EVERYTHING.

BUT I REMEMBER SITTING WATCHING 'NETWORK' AND IN THE END SORT OF TAKING A BREATH THINKING, FRED WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS.

NOT BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE BEEN TERRIBLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF THE NEWS, AND HE WAS, BY THE WAY, BACK THEN, BUT HE WOULD HAVE LOVED THE FACT THAT IT MADE EVERYBODY IN THE AUDIENCE THINK.

WELL, YOU MIGHT BE PLEASED TO KNOW THAT PATTY TALKED WITH FRED ON THE RESEARCH FOR THIS.

I HAD HEARD THAT.

QUITE EXTENSIVELY.

I HAD HEARD THAT.

HE HAD PASSED BUT HIS WIFE CAME TO THE SHOW.

SHE SENT ME A NOTE AND SAID, FRED WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY PROUD TO SEE THIS.

HE WOULD HAVE.

TO GET A STAMP OF APPROVAL FROM A PERSON LIKE THAT WITH THAT BACKGROUND, IT IS REALLY SATISFYING.

YOU APPRECIATE THE STORY AND THE LINE.

YES.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE STAGING BECAUSE IT'S SO DIFFERENT.

YOU KNOW, YOU START OFF AND YOU'RE COMING OUT AS HOWARD ABOUT TO ANCHOR THE NEWS AND I THINK ANY OF US WHO HAVE EVER ANCHORED A NETWORK NEWSCAST WERE STARTING TO SWEAT RIGHT AWAY THINKING THE CLOCK IS COUNTING DOWN TO IT.

AND THERE'S SO MUCH GOING ON.

YEAH.

AND I THINK ONE OF THE GREAT PARTS OF THE STAGING IS THE BIG SCREEN SORT OF BEHIND YOU.

YEAH.

IT'S AS IF WE'RE WATCHING YOU AND THEN WE'RE GETTING TO SEE WHAT THE AUDIENCE GETS TO SEE ALSO.

WHEN YOU FIRST SAW HOW THEY HAD SET THIS WHOLE THING UP, WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO EVERYTHING THAT WAS GOING ON THERE?

EVA VANHOBART AND JAN, THE SET DESIGNER, THEY LOVED THAT MULTI-MEDIA INCLUSIVE KIND OF BRING EVERYTHING AT YOU.

IT REALLY FITS.

IT'S VERY APPROPRIATE AND GERMANE FOR THIS STORY.

A NEWSROOM AND THE ACTIVITY OF IT.

AND ALSO THE -- IN TIMES THE COMPLACENCY OF IT.

WE HAVE A LIVING RESTAURANT AND BAR.

YEAH, THAT'S INTERESTING, ON THE SIDE.

KIND OF CRAZY.

THEY COME IN, THROW MORE MONEY, SIT THERE, HAVE DINNER.

AND YOU INTERACT WITH THEM ON OCCASION.

EATING AND DRINKING.

YEAH.

YEAH, IT'S CRAZY.

IN SOME WAYS ALL OF THAT ACTIVITY CENTERS YOU INTO HOWARD.

GOOD.

AND I DIDN'T THINK IT WOULD, BUT IT DID.

SO ONE OF THE THEMES, THE OVER ARCHING THEMES OF THIS IS THE NOTION OF THE POWER OF ANGER AND, AGAIN, GOING BACK TO THE FACT THAT THIS WAS WRITTEN 44 YEARS AGO?

YEAH.

AND NOW BEING PERFORMED IN 2019.

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE NOTION OF IT IS AS REAL NOW, MAYBE EVEN MORE SO THAN IT WAS WHEN PATTY PUT IT DOWN ON PAPER 44 YEARS AGO.

HE RAILED AGAINST THOSE OF US IN -- BACK IN THE DAY BEING SO ADDICTED TO TELEVISION THAT THAT'S -- WE COMPLETELY RELIED ON IT AS IF IT WAS GIVING US OUR SUSTENANCE THAT WE DEPENDED UPON LIFE.

REMEMBER, WHEN IT WAS IN OUR HOMES AND IT'S LIKE, THEY'VE GOT COLORED TV.

REMEMBER THE FIRST, THEY'VE GOT COLORED TV.

LET'S GO WATCH IT.

IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU'RE WATCHING, YOU'RE WATCHING COLOR TV.

IT WAS MIRACULOUS.

THEY HAVE A COLOR ONE.

WE WERE ADDICTED TO THIS.

THEY WERE SO TAKEN IN.

WHO'S FIGHTING OVER THE CHANNEL?

DAD'S GOT IT --

YOU HAD TO FIGHT FOR THAT HOUR.

YOU HAD TO BE THERE.

IT WENT AWAY.

THAT'S RIGHT.

IN THAT CASE IT WAS MORE LIKE LIVE THEATER BECAUSE ONCE IT WAS OVER, IT'S OVER AND THAT'S IT UNTIL THE RERUNS CAME IN AND THEN IT WAS -- THEN IT BECAME -- AND THEN THE VCRs AS BIG AS A SUITCASE.

BUT THAT WAS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT RESONATES SO STRONGLY NOW.

WE ARE EVEN MORE ADDICTED TO THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY.

OUR PHONES, OUR TELEVISIONS WHICH IS NOW IN THE PALM OF OUR HANDS.

HOW COMMON IS IT TO WALK DOWN THE STREET AND YOU'RE SEEING PEOPLE WALKING AND JUST -- IT'S REALLY AMAZING, ISN'T IT, THE ADDICTION.

AND FRIGHTENING.

AND FRIGHTENING YET I WILL CONFESS THAT I, TOO, IT'S AN AMAZING TOOL.

IT IS THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE THAT IS TRULY VALUABLE.

SO --

THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS.

BUT THE OTHER THING THAT REALLY STRUCK ME THAT IS THE POWER OF ANGER, THAT WE SHUN IT.

IT'S NOT AN EMOTION THAT WE WELCOME, BUT WHAT PATTY WAS TAPPING INTO IS THE VALUE OF THE REAL AND HONEST HUMAN EMOTION OF ANGER.

AND IN MOST CASES IT'S PROBABLY NOT VERY BENEFICIAL TO YOUR LIFE TO EXPRESS IT.

RIGHT.

BUT SOMETIMES, AND SOME PEOPLE WILL ARGUE MAYBE NOW IN OUR POLITICAL -- SOCIOPOLITICAL ENVIRONMENT NOW, MAYBE ANGER IS THE APPROPRIATE EXPRESSION.

AND IS IT WRONG TO BE PUBLICLY ANGRY IF YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC DIRECTION?

WATCHING YOU ON STAGE AND YOU ARE, YOU KNOW, SO DEEPLY INVESTED IN THE DIFFERENT EMOTIONS, AND I WAS ASTONISHED WHEN I GOT A CHANCE TO GO BACKSTAGE.

HOW IS HE NOT EXHAUSTED NOT GOING THROUGH ALL OF THAT ANGER?

WELL, BECAUSE LIKE AN ATHLETE, YOU'RE STILL ON ADRENALINE.

YOU'RE STILL -- THAT GAME IS STILL FRESH AND YOU'RE PUMPING, YOU'RE SWEATING, YOU'RE STILL FEELING THAT.

ISN'T IT TRUE THAT WHATEVER YOUR SPORT WAS, THE NEXT DAY IS WHEN YOU GO, WOW, WHAT HAPPENED THERE?

YEAH, GOOD POINT.

WHERE DID THIS BRUISE COME FROM?

I DON'T REMEMBER THAT HIT.

YEAH.

YOU'RE SORE AND YOU CAN -- IT'S THE NEXT DAY EFFECT.

AND IT IS FOR ME, TOO.

YOU GO THROUGH ALL OF THIS.

YOU'RE PUMPED.

IT'S WHAT I LOVE TO DO.

IT'S MY JOB AND I WANT TO TELL THE STORY AND I GIVE IT EVERYTHING I CAN.

I'M WEEPING.

I'M ANGRY AND ALL THIS AND IT'S THE NEXT DAY THAT I WAKE UP AND --

BUT YOU'VE GOT TO DO IT AGAIN.

GOT TO DO IT AGAIN.

LET ME ASK YOU A COUPLE OTHER LINES IN THE SHOW AND THEN I'M GOING TO TALK ABOUT YOUR CAREER A LITTLE BIT.

WE TALK ABOUT SORT OF THE TIMELESSNESS OF THIS TODAY, 2019, OF SOMETHING THAT'S ADAPTED FROM SOMETHING THAT'S WRITTEN 44 YEARS AGO.

THERE ARE TWO SPECIFIC ONES I REMEMBER.

ONE WHERE YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT -- AND LAMENTING, THE CORRUPTION OF WALL STREET AND FINANCE AND THE PARALYSIS OF POLITICS IN WASHINGTON AND THEN YOU TURN AND YOU SAY, AND THE RUSSIANS.

AND IN MY AUDIENCE IT GOT A GREAT REACTION.

EVERY DAY.

44 YEARS AGO THAT WAS WRITTEN.

NOT CHANGED.

I'M SAYING, IF PATTY WAS WRITING TODAY, THAT SAME LINE WOULD BE THERE.

SAME LINE.

WHAT DOES THAT TELL US ABOUT US?

THINGS CHANGE AND THINGS STAY THE SAME.

THE SAME IS TRUE WHEN I DELIVER A SPEECH ABOUT -- I'LL TELL YOU WHO'S BUYING UP CCA.

THE SAUDI ARABIAN INVESTMENT.

WHEW, YOU KNOW?

DID THEY ADD THAT?

NO.

NO.

THAT WAS FROM BACK THEN.

YEAH, HOW PRESCIENT IT WAS AND IT JUST -- IT'S REMARKABLE WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT HOW HE WAS ABLE TO DO THAT.

LAST THING I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT IN NETWORK, AGAIN, ANOTHER LINE AND GET YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY WHERE YOU SAY, DON'T LOOK TO US FOR THE TRUTH ESSENTIALLY.

WE'RE JUST GOING TO GIVE YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.

YEAH.

AND WHEN YOU SAID THAT LINE I THOUGHT, OH, MY.

YOU KNOW, THAT HAS TO HAVE BEEN WRITTEN YESTERDAY.

RIGHT.

AGAIN, BECAUSE THAT'S --

NO.

-- YOU KNOW, THE NOTION OF THE ECHO CHAMBERS.

I'M TALKING ABOUT BOTH SIDES.

YES.

YES.

THE NOTION OF WHERE DO YOU GO NOWADAYS IF YOU WANT SOMEBODY TO SAY TO YOU, HERE'S WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD.

LET US DISTILL IT FOR YOU --

RIGHT.

-- SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND IT AND LET US PRESENT IT TO YOU AND YOU DECIDE.

WHERE DO YOU GO?

WHERE?

RIGHT HERE.

FOR ME, THIS IS WHERE YOU GO.

THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE YOU CAN GO THAT MIGHT BE UP FOR DEBATE BUT TO ME INTO MY SENSIBILITIES AND MY TRYING TO BE OPEN AND THOUGHT FULL AND SEE -- AND HEAR ALL SIDES, THIS SEEMS TO BE THE PLACE TO GO.

WELL, IT'S -- I'VE GOT TO TELL YOU, NETWORK IS MAGNIFICENT THEATER.

IT'S WHAT THEATER IS SUPPOSED TO BE.

IT ENTERTAINS US AND IT MAKES US THINK AND YOU ARE NOT SURPRISINGLY FABULOUS IN THE ROLE.

SO IT'S BEEN A DELIGHT TO SPEND SOME TIME.

AS PEOPLE SAY, A BIG FAN FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME AND I WILL LOOK FORWARD TO WHATEVER THE NEXT PROJECTS ARE GOING TO BE.

THANK YOU.

MY PLEASURE.

IT'S BEEN FUN.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019