11 Pieces of Advice from Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle, and All The Way fame, was the third annual President’s Speaker of the Arts on Sunday, March 26. UVA alum and Breaking Bad executive producer, Mark Johnson, moderated his appearance. In the hour-and-a-half time frame they discussed Cranston’s incredible success, his work as not only an actor but producer, director, and author of a memoir, his philosophies on work and life, and the importance of arts in education. He offered students aspiring to careers in the arts some advice, as well as general advice that applies to anyone and everyone.


(Photo by chuttersnap)


1. There are always going to be people more talented than you and less talented than you, and you cannot control that. What you can do is “out work them.” Cranston continually emphasized the value of hard work throughout his conversation. He claims that his success comes from a combination of luck and work ethic.


2. You have to love what you do. He also specifically told aspiring artists of any kind in the audience that they must love what they do enough to devote their lives to it and not be willing to give up if it does not happen immediately.


3. When bad things happen, Cranston told the audience to remember that those bad moments will some day make a great story. In this moment he was speaking of stories for books, television, or film, but it also applies to life more generally.


(Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya)


4. Make sure your personal life is in order and make it a strong foundation. He claimed that his devotion to his wife and daughter allowed him to be more out of the box with his career. Cranston made sure to point out that it takes work, citing a rule that he and his wife have saying that they won’t go more than two weeks without seeing each other, despite their busy and possibly conflicting schedules.


5. “A society that does not embrace and nurture art in all forms is not an enlightened society, and will eventually wither and die,” Cranston said when asked about the importance of the arts in education.


6. Do not have regrets. It is better to go out there and try than to look back and say that you wished you had done something. This particular piece of advice came after a story about how Cranston passed on an opportunity to be in the 2016 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Spotlight.  


(Photo by Mitch Nielson)


7. Alongside his belief in hard work, Cranston told the audience not to waste time looking for any shortcuts in life. His Amazon series Sneaky Pete, which is somewhat inspired by his own troublemaking ways as a child and teen, deals with what happens to an adult who is unwilling to change and continues to try to look for shortcuts.


8. Cranston told people pursuing careers in the arts that they have to be ready for a lucky break at all times. He urged actors to always have a monologue ready and to take comedy improvisation classes.


(Photo by Neven Krcmarek)


9. There is no guarantee of success in anything, no matter how talented you are.


10. He stressed the need for artists to “find the joy in creating,” work at it, and then crossover into other artistic areas. An example he provided was that writers and directors should all take acting classes.


11. “Keep your ass working.”