Charles Baker would like you to know he's not Skinny Pete, the character he plays on AMC's Breaking Bad. As convincing as he is playing the role of a drug addict and dealer, he's an actor who's deeply enjoying having been able to be a part of one of TV's best series. While we wait for the final episodes, BFTV connected with Charles to ask him about wrapping his role on the show, and being confused with the part he inhabits on TV.
He called being invited back for the final season "Glorious, you know? I spent the entire series as an on-call actor. They never really told me if I was going to come back until they called me back. My hope beyond hopes was that I would get to play in the final season at least a little."
While he took care not to spoil anything about what's to come on Breaking Bad, Charles did share his favorite moment from the show with us, and it also comes from the fifth and final season. "The scene where I play on the keyboard [in 'Hazard Pay'] was pretty endearing to me," he explained, "because I was a music major in college. I'd studied music since I was a child. It wasn't until college that I made the switch from musical theater to straight acting. So I was able to actually perform piano in front of millions of people."
If you missed that scene, here it is again, courtesy of YouTube.
Not only did that moment mean a lot to Charles himself, but it also left an impression on the show's viewing audience, because he told us that some people don't realize he's not actually Skinny Pete. "One of the first comments that I saw was, 'After seeing the scene, it made me realize that the guy playing Skinny Pete is really an actor,'" he said. "That kind of struck me. I thought, 'What did you think I was?'
"And as time went by, I realized there are a lot of people who just really don't realize that I'm not a meth addict from New Mexico that they happened to pull off the streets. I'd love people to know that I am actually an actor. I'm a regular guy. I'm a lot different from the guy I play on television. Give me a chance and I can be other people. I don't always have to be the drug addict."
But there's definitely a special place for Breaking Bad in his heart as well. "Every time I went to the set, it was like a family reunion to me," he said. "It was almost like going back in time. I lived in Texas while we were shooting, and I'd drive home to Texas for a month or a year and then come back, and it's the same peopl,e the same costumes, and the same locations. It was almost all kind of blurred into one moment. I'm really going to miss that a lot.
"It really hasn't hit me yet," he said of the show coming to an end. "I don't think it's going to until I actually watch it. I left the set [and] I was actually at peace and pretty calm about it. I haven't had that closure yet of actually seeing our work come to fruition. I may just be in the denial stage. [But] I'm really optimistic. I know I'm going to be seeing Bryan [Cranston] and [Aaron Paul] all over film and television the next few years. I hope I get to work with them some of those times."
How exactly do you leave behind one of the most critically acclaimed shows in recent memory? Charles confided that it hasn't been easy. "I tell everybody it kind of ruined me for other shows," he admitted. "There are a lot of really good shows out there and I've been lucky to be involved with some of them. But that they can be as good as Breaking Bad? That's a pretty hard order to fill. It's hard for me to read a script and go 'Oh, that's great' anymore because I'm so used to reading the Breaking Bad scripts."
Charles does have two dream follow-up gigs in mind, and both are similarly praised drama series often mentioned as being on the same level with the AMC hit. "I've been dying to get on Sons of Anarchy. I love that show. I love the Shakespearan aspect of the story that it has. Shakespeare is one of my earlier loves when I first started in theater. And I like riding motorcycles. That's one show I'd love to be on," he said.
"I'd love to be on Game of Thrones. That show is just incredible and Michelle MacLaren, who was the director and executive producer on Breaking Bad, also directed a couple episodes of Game of Thrones. To be able to work with Peter Dinklage would be one of the greatest experiences, next to working with Bryan and Aaron."
While he's waiting for FX or HBO to call, there are plenty of other lines on his resume that he'd encourage Breaking Bad fans to take a look at if they really want to see the work of Charles Baker. "I'm actually really proud of a lot of things," he said. "To The Wonder is another one that kind of ruined me. I have a real small part in a film which a lot of really big name actors were cut out of.
"Then Ain't Them Bodies Saints by David Lowery, who is an absolute genius. That comes out in theaters August 16. I play a character named Bear; it's kind of a different approach for me.
"And then [the NBC TV series] The Blacklist premieres September 23 and I play Grey. Grey is, if James Spader were Batman, Grey would be his Alfred."
But what Charles is most proud of are his accomplishments off-screen, which he credits to his time on Breaking Bad. "I have two older children. One's 25 and one's about to turn 21. And I didn't get to see a lot of them when they were younger," explained the father of four. "But one of the things that being an actor and being on Breaking Bad has really done for me was help me get reconnected with them.
"[Before] I wasn't really happy with my life and I wasn't really happy with myself. I decided I wanted to be somebody that people liked being around and I wanted to be somebody that my kids would be proud of - so I needed to be happy with what I did and be an example to my kids," he continued. "It's about loving what you do and being happy with who you are. And when I did that I became a lot better person and things came together. Now I have a great relationship with my kids, all of them. They respect me for following my dream."
We respect him for doing that, as well as giving us one of the more memorable supporting performances in the history of a great show. It's no wonder people confuse him for Skinny Pete. Yet as much as we like his character, we've discovered that Charles Baker is a person to remember in his own right.
Breaking Bad returns for the second half of its final season on AMC beginning tonight. You can also keep up with Charles by following him on Twitter (@CharlesEBaker).