In the dysfunctional family of Malcolm in the Middle, Bryan Cranston’s character Hal is the well-intentioned but constantly distracted father who’s a gentle counterpoint to firebrand wife and mother Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) and their four chaos-creating sons.
In real life, Mr. Cranston is dedicated to making Hal a crowd pleaser, executive producer/creator Linwood Boomer said.
“Bryan is a person and an actor of enormous conviction who invests a gigantic amount in making something honest and funny,” Mr. Boomer said, adding that he hopes Mr. Cranston will be recognized for directing Malcolm’s Stereo Store episode in addition to his acting work. “His level of commitment to the show is extraordinary, and his choices are fearless, fresh and inventive. Hal is essentially a really sweet character, not unlike Stan Laurel.”
Mr. Cranston approached the role with a keen eye from the beginnings of the show, which debuted on Fox in January 2000.
“When I was going into the audition, Lois is so aggressive and on top of things, I realized that rather than compete with that, I had to turn to what would complement it,” Mr. Cranston said. “Hal is very sensitive, very gentle, and that’s a legitimate and supportive counterpoint to Lois.”
A native Angeleno, Mr. Cranston began his acting career while still in his teens, on Days of Our Lives, and has since worked steadily in a series of TV series, miniseries and features. (He was a war department colonel in Saving Private Ryan.) He has also racked up a string of guest appearances, most notably recurring roles as Dr. Tim Whatley on Seinfeld and Tim on King of Queens.
From the outset on Malcolm, Mr. Cranston said, he insisted on one characteristic: that Hal not be a disinterested dad but rather a man very involved in his family.
“Originally, Hal was a very underwritten character,” Mr. Boomer admitted, adding that the character was “based on my dad, who was always a cipher to me.”
Whether he’s teaching his sons the high art of Roller Blading or introducing them to NASCAR racing, Mr. Cranston’s Hal means well, even if he doesn’t always hit the mark.
“His emotional center is always well intentioned,” Mr. Cranston said. “The underlying element to all the physical comedy-which you don’t want to hit audiences over the head with-is that the intentions come out of love. That’s what makes Malcolm in the Middle resonate with audiences.”