Actor Bryan Cranston speaks with his "The Heisenberg Hat" on during a donation ceremony of artifacts from AMC's "Breaking Bad" show at Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington DC on Nov. 10, 2015
Kris Connor—Getty Images
November 10, 2015 11:36 PM EST

Bryan Cranston is known for his wise-cracking, outgoing personality both on- and off-screen. But, it turns out, he was a far cry from the class clown in school while growing up.

“I was introverted in high school. I was unremarkable. There was nothing special about me, nothing unique,” Cranston admitted in a new interview with Playboy, in which the actor opens up about his painful childhood.

Cranston, 59, said that his shy demeanor in high school began after his father abandoned his family when he was 11, leaving Cranston and his brother at home with his alcoholic mother.

“My father disappeared when I was 11, and I didn’t see him again until I was 22. My mother was an alcoholic. I was reeling from all of it, because up until the age of 11, it was a good childhood, he said. “Then the rug got pulled out from under me.”

Cranston said he always felt like he was waiting for the next part of his life to fall apart. “I lost the mother to alcoholism; I lost the father physically; I lost the home. Our house went into foreclosure. So then I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

The Breaking Bad actor said he thought if he remained unnoticed, trouble would eventually stop following him.

“I was too shaken to be assertive. It felt safer to keep my back against the wall, to just observe.”

But Cranston certainly didn’t let his troubled past hold him back in life. Instead, he used his experiences as inspiration for some of his more dramatic roles, including his breakout part as Walter White in Breaking Bad. Cranston revealed that he based much of the character on his father, both mentally and physically.

“My dad had Walter’s body shape. He carried the burden of missed opportunities on his shoulders, and therefore they were rounded,” he said.

And while Cranston considers being an actor his “highest professional achievement,” working steadily since he was 26 and racking up an impressive resume including a gig on the hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle and in the filmGodzilla, he admits that his passion for politics could lead him to his biggest role yet.

“I’m a closeted politician in my heart. I would love to be involved in politics, just for the altruistic feeling of making people’s lives better,” he said. “I think at some point in my life, if I stop acting and am living in a little community, like a town of 700 people – nothing as big as Los Angeles – I might throw my hat in the ring and become a candidate for mayor.”

This article first appeared on

Contact us at

Read More From TIME

Related Stories