In Depth

AMC: 'Breaking Bad'

In 2008, AMC won a Peabody Award for “Mad Men.” This year, the network’s other original drama series, “Breaking Bad,” has been recognized. The Peabody board cited the bleak, harrowing, sometimes improbably funny “Breaking Bad,” the story of a mild-mannered, dying science teacher’s decision to secure his family’s future by cooking methamphetamine.

“Breaking Bad” is a show that could be described as a slow earthquake; people aren’t prepared for what it is, and when they watch it, they’re knocked out of their seats. “That’s a great analogy,” said series star Bryan Cranston, who was offered his Emmy-winning role as Walter White because writer-creator Vince Gilligan had worked with him on “The X-Files.”

Mr. Cranston got together with Mr. Gilligan, and a meeting that was supposed to take 20 minutes turned into 90 minutes as they built on each other’s ideas.

Still, despite his enthusiasm for the project, Mr. Cranston wasn’t sure AMC was the right network. “I was dubious because they do movies. Were they serious about doing this series?” he said. “It was such a good script, and I didn’t want to put my heart into it and have them film three episodes and say, ‘That’s it, it’s over.’”

He took the extraordinary step of calling for a meeting with Rob Sorcher, AMC’s VP of programming at the time, who let actions speak louder than words: He sent Mr. Cranston a DVD of the “Mad Men” pilot. “I called him back and said, ‘That’s it. I’m in,’” the actor said.

AMC has committed to a third season of “Breaking Bad.” Still, Mr. Cranston hopes Mr. Gilligan will have enough time to fully tell Walter White’s story. “My main concern was that, because we’re in this fickle business of television, we don’t know if we’re going to be able to have the duration as it should be told. We have no guarantee that we’re going to have five or six years to tell this story, this journey of Walt’s … from a staid, normal guy who never got a traffic ticket to a drug-dealing criminal,” he said.

With an Emmy and now a Peabody to show for their efforts, “Breaking Bad” is likely to get the chance to tell the whole story.