Interview: Charles Baker Talks Skinny Pete and Breaking Bad’s Final Season
For the past five seasons, we’ve come to know Charles Baker as fan favorite Skinny Pete on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Aside from the occasional urge to say “yo,” Baker, with his musical and extensive theater background, could not be further from his character on the series. With Breaking Bad counting down to its series finale, we were lucky enough to talk with Baker to understand more about his journey on the show and his future plans, which include a villainous role in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and a turn as James Spader’s confidante on upcoming NBC series The Blacklist. As his ability to play a meth addict with a flair for classical music has already shown us, Baker is quite the versatile guy.
Breaking Bad has proven to be an insane journey for the viewer. How does it feel being on set to see what it has evolved into these past five years?
It’s been kind of surreal for me. When I started I was kind of new on television and I got thrown into work with some of the best actors in the business and that was an amazing experience for me. On set, everyone seemed to know what we had, we could tell that we were making something great, and everybody was really into that, it was neat. The entire cast and crew, we are just one huge family.
On the show, Badger, Skinny Pete and Jesse are pretty inseparable and so entertaining to watch. How has it been working with Aaron Paul and Matt Jones on such beloved and fan-favorite roles?
It’s been wonderful. I started on the show kind of new to this business and Matt and Aaron kind of have a bit more experience than I did. But I’m almost eight, nine years older than those guys, so I was kind of the old man. We had a great little dichotomy going. I would go to them for acting and business advice, and they a lot of times would come to me with marriage and relationship advice. It was really kind of neat how it worked out.
We saw your piano talent peak through back in “Hazard Pay.” Has there been any Skinny Pete quirks or phrases that have blended over into your life?
I do say “yo” a lot more than I used to [laughs]. Especially right after an episode, it becomes kind of a part of your being when you’re on set. The writers are just brilliant at putting those in at the right moments where it just flows. And they kind of made that part of my thing, so a lot of times I’ll leave shooting an episode and I’ll come home and it will be “yo that” and “yo this” and it takes a while to get that out of my system.
What have you found was the reaction to Skinny Pete by fans of the show? I heard you receive a lot of art!
Yes, I have amazing art coming from fans: portraits, paintings, abstract art, some incredible stuff. Even bakers are coming up with blue cupcakes, it’s amazing to me. I’m a huge fan of all forms of art, it’s a great expression of the human spirit and just to see that we’ve inspired to show their love for us through what they do, it’s incredible.
What is it like playing character that is so far from your actual self?
It’s a lot of fun. It’s freeing. We’ve kind of discussed on set that Skinny Pete is about 28, 29 years old and I’m 42, so I kind of get to be a kid again.
What will you miss most about Breaking Bad?
A lot of things. I learned about this business through theater and in theater you do a show and you become a character for about a month and then it’s done. And when I got into TV, it wouldn’t even last a day, I would show up, I’d do my scene and that was it for that character. What I really loved about this was being able to connect to the character and keep on coming back to it and finding new things. That’s not something I’ve been able to do a lot on television yet and I’m looking forward to trying to do that more.
You’ll be in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which is scheduled to be released this month. It looks great and already picked up an award at Sundance. How was it working on that film, was it a different sort of transformation for you?
Yeah, I worked with David Lowery, the director, on a short film, Knife, in Texas right before we did Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Knife was directed by James Johnston, who was also David Lowery’s executive producer on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and David Lowery was the editor of Knife. So, I really got to know those guys in Fort Worth before anybody else did and that was a great thing.
They called me in to read for this character, Bear, who was supposed to be a big, bushy, hairy guy and they asked, “Can you grow a beard?” and I was like, “No! I actually even can’t come close to growing a beard.” And they were like, “Okay, nevermind!” [laughs]. And I came in and they liked the idea that it was called Bear, but I was nowhere near. But I did play this kind of cryptic, scary [guy] whose main goal in life is to destroy the main character. It’s a beautiful film, just incredibly done. Casey Affleck and Ben Foster’s performances are just, wow.
Any other projects in the works?
Well, I’m in the pilot of a show called The Blacklist, which comes out on NBC on September 23 that’s with James Spader. I’m his driver, butler, confidante sort of character. It’s really neat. I get to wear a suit, I drive a Bentley, my hair’s clean cut, and I speak English clearly.
So, very different from Skinny Pete?
Yes [laughs], totally different from Skinny Pete. And I really love that opportunity to play something outside of my normal range. TNT is currently looking at a pilot that I shot called Murder in the First. That’s a Steven Bochco pilot. We’re currently waiting to see if that’s going to be picked up and if it is, it will probably air June of next year. It’s a crime drama but this one goes a lot deeper than I think a lot of others have gone.
Lastly, any words of caution for viewers going into these last episodes of Breaking Bad?
Always go into Breaking Bad with caution. Hold on to your pants because it’s going to be a wild ride.
Breaking Bad airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC
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Images courtesy of AMC