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A Life in Parts

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Bryan Cranston landed his first role at seven, when his father cast him in a United Way commercial. Acting was clearly the boy's destiny, until one day his father disappeared. Destiny suddenly took a backseat to survival.

Now, in his riveting memoir, Cranston maps his zigzag journey from abandoned son to beloved star by recalling the many odd parts he's played in real life - paperboy farmhand, security guards, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, lover, husband, father.

Cranston also chronicles his evolution on camera, from soap opera player trying to master the rules of show business to legendary character actor turning in classic performances as Seinfeld dentist Tim Whatley, "a sadist with newer magazines", and Malcolm in the Middle dad Hal Wilkerson, a loveable bumbler in tighty-whities. He also gives an inspiring account of how he prepared, physically and mentally for the challenging role of President Lyndon Johnson, a tour de force that won him a Tony to go along with his four Emmys.

Of course, Cranston dives deep into the grittiest details of his greatest role, explaining how he searched inward for the personal darkness that would help him create one of the most memorable performances ever captured on screen: Walter White, chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin.

Discussing his life as few men do, describing his art as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about creativity, devotion, and craft, as well as innate talent and its challenges and benefits and proper maintenance. But ultimately "A Life in Parts" is a story about the joy the necessity, and the transformative power of simple hard work

276 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2016

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About the author

Bryan Cranston

10 books316 followers
Bryan Lee Cranston is an American actor, comedian, stage actor, voice actor, screenwriter, director and producer.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,264 reviews
Profile Image for Donna Ho Shing.
97 reviews46 followers
January 19, 2022
Take notes Tina Fey and the rest of you famous people writing memoirs. This is how it's done.
Scratch that.
Bow down people of earth. BOW DOWN! Heisenberg lives!
Bravo Bryan Cranston. BRAVO! Exceptional!
As far as celebrity memoirs go this book is a solid 5 stars.*

Can someone please take this iPad from me real quick because I'm about to go on and on about the genius that is Bryan Cranston and one of the greatest t.v. shows of all time- Breaking Bad- and when I start babbling about BB I don't shut up. If I start with that this review shan't end. I digress.

While reading I kept thinking, A Life in Parts- perfect name for the book. I read somewhere that Cranston had initially planned to name the book 'Say My Name' alluding to that famous scene in the final season of Breaking Bad but then changed his mind because he thought it sounded too pompous. Initially, I'd wished he had given the book that name but now having read it I think he made the right choice. 'A Life in Parts' is better suited. This book is more than just Breaking Bad though that was initially the reason I wanted to read it. What I found instead was a multifaceted, wonderful story of the life of one of my favorite actors and one of Hollywood's best.

Funny, insightful, surprisingly moving, immensely inspiring, I recommend this memoir to all. It was everything I wanted it to be and so much more. I loved every page of it!

*rated based on its genre (celebrity memoir)
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,051 reviews577 followers
October 5, 2022
I was, I think, unaware of Cranston until my son encouraged me to watch the opening episode of Breaking Bad. I was instantly hooked and watched the whole thing - all 62 episodes - in the course of the next month or so. I was captivated by its strange but compelling storyline and I found the performance of Cranston completely spellbinding. The character he played, chemistry teacher turned drug lord Walter White, was a work of genius and the way the plot was set out gave full reign to his skills. My wife reminded me that Cranston had played the father in the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle; I hadn’t seen many episodes but had a vague memory of an amusing but very bizarre character. But I just couldn’t associate the two – could it really be the same man playing both parts? More recently, I listened to Cranston delivering a superb reading of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and it drove home the ability of the man to bring life to words, to grab you by the scruff of the neck and haul you through a story.

This memoir provides an insight into Cranston’s upbringing, shows how he developed a hunger to become an actor and (I think most importantly) the steps he took to wring every last bit of learning out of his life experiences and training to become the performer many millions now know him to be. It’s told in short, chronologically ordered segments. Some tell the story of an event, others cogitate on the relevance or importance of something he did or witnessed; it’s a mix of vignettes that add up to a pretty concise breakdown of who Cranston believes he is and what events crafted the man and the actor.

He’s of similar age to me, born 1956 in Hollywood, California, and is the son of an actress and an aspiring actor. He grew up with an elder brother he was very close to and a younger sister who is mentioned only briefly in this book. His dad walked away from the family when Cranston was eleven and, though he eventually regained some contact with him, the relationship was never close thereafter. His mother was a flirtatious drinker and collector of men and it wasn’t long before Brian and his brother took off on their motorbikes to explore America and forge new, independent lives.

College was followed by acting roles in local and regional theatres. Any brief thoughts he’d had about a career with the police had been abandoned and all efforts were now focused on how he could learn his trade, refine his skills and earn a living as a working actor. He makes it clear that it was never about fame, it was always about the desire to earn his living doing what he enjoyed and what he felt he had some natural talent for. He took lots of acting classes and used the good, bad and ugly events he’d borne witness to to further inform his acting brain. He was like a sponge soaking up information and experiences.

It’s an easy read, Cranston is witty and a natural story teller. He keeps it sharp and to the point and is, at times, engagingly self deprecating. At other times he lets you know that he always fancied his chances of succeeding. But it’s all about the hard work, the continued learning and his determination to make his mark. It’s an inspiring story and one that lifts the lid a little on how each of us could tap into something, some skill or natural talent, if only we had the necessary single-mindedness and fortitude. If you’ve watched and enjoyed Cranston’s work, don’t miss this!

My thanks Scribner and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
March 21, 2017
Please visit www.readrantrockandroll.com to see this review and others.

A Life in Parts, by Bryan Cranston is a memoir about the author.

I really like Bryan Cranston and chose to read this so I could learn more about him, other than the parts he's played in movies and TV. I absolutely loved it. I love the way it's written because it kept my attention, stayed interesting, and went through parts of his childhood and early career.

There are many interesting things about him and experiences he had that you simply won't know if you pass up this great book. There's way more substance besides Breaking Bad here.

I would recommend this to any Cranston fan or to anyone who wants to know more about him.

4**** and glad to have read it.
Profile Image for Sharon Orlopp.
Author 1 book366 followers
December 17, 2022
Fantastic memoir by Bryan Cranston! Highly recommend!

Cranston's life has been filled with various speed bumps, such as his parent's divorce, poverty, making a living killing chickens and selling newspapers no one wanted. He dates a woman with serious mental illness who refuses to break up with him.

He didn't achieve acting success until he was in his fifties. He starred in Malcom in the Middle and Breaking Bad. As Walter White in Breaking Bad, it was the first time in a television series where the main character progresses from being a good guy to being a drug kingpin.

After those two series, Cranston was approached about many roles.

His memoir opens with Shakespeare, "One man in his time plays many parts." This book is a collection of the key parts of his life.

Other memorable passages include:

1. Actors are storytellers. Storytelling is an essential human art.

2. Swing for the impossible; shoot for the moon. (His father focused on the big moon shots rather than the required smaller shots that create credibility and work experience.)

3. Life is reduced to a toe tag at death. (He participated in autopsies as part of police training.)

4. If your home life is sane, it allows you to go insane with your work. (He has been married to Robin for over 30 years and it has helped him tremendously.)

5. Actors feast on challenging language. Actors are nourished by words. (The script for Breaking Bad was the best writing he had ever read.)

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Karen R.
839 reviews496 followers
October 13, 2016
I was expecting that Bryan Cranston’s life would be interesting or there wouldn’t have been an autobiography. What I was not expecting was that this man who I loved as Walter White in Breaking Bad, is incredibly accomplished and totally committed to his family and profession. Laser focused, intelligent, creative, very funny, mischief making and at times downright crazy, Bryan has lived his life with gusto, facing its hard knocks and highs head on. There seems to be no obstacle too great if Bryan sets his mind to something.

His life plays out in parts, Chapter titles such as Lifeguard, Security Guard, Rainmaker, Vagabond, Biker, Beast Feeder, Suspect indicate the wide scope of Bryan’s life. In one chapter “Universal Life Minister” Bryan tells a story about becoming a minister while working a summer break job. He comes across Reverend Bob, an ordained minister with the Church. “He wasn’t religious, but he had fashioned himself into the go-to guy for anyone in Southern California who wanted a nontraditional wedding. He made God a good time.” The rev tells Bryan that he mistakenly booked two weddings at the same time and wants Bryan to marry one of the couples. Bob ordains Bryan, quickly registers him as a minister, hands him a passage from Khalil Gibran and car keys and off Bryan goes to marry this couple. There is more to this story and it is laugh out loud funny.

Bryan Cranston is a creative genius and the many personal little known facts, opportunities and challenges made for an exceptionally entertaining read.
Profile Image for Jenny Bunting.
Author 18 books427 followers
April 12, 2020
This was hands down the best celebrity memoir I’ve listened to.

I highly recommend going the audiobook route for this. I assume it would be great in print but the audiobook is the only way to go, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Nina.
834 reviews209 followers
December 29, 2022
At first I thought this book wouldn’t be for me. There were too many tales of pranks and bad childhood behavior. The prose was ordinary and I thought the book might be more suited for fans. But as I continued I started to get interested in Cranston’s journey. He matured over time and I liked how he made his choices. It was particularly enjoyable to read about when he decided to become an actor, how he actually listened to his inner voice because there was nothing to distract his mind. It was also enjoyable to hear about breaking bad (which I haven’t seen) and how they worked together. It felt like being invited to a family dinner with a lot of interesting people.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,536 followers
February 6, 2017
I watched Breaking Bad from when Season 2 aired and was absolutely addicted to it. In A Life in Parts, the actor Bryan Cranston who played Walter White gives us his autobiography as a series of parts - Son, Husband, etc. - that he played in both this personal and professional lives. I admit I was impatient for more goods on Breaking Bad and had to wait for almost 200 pages to get it, and perhaps I am being unfair with a 3 or 3.5 star rating. His writing is alright - it is certainly very honest - but I felt that we were still skimming the surface sometimes. Not having read a whole ton of autobiographies, I found Malcolm X's and Miles Davis' autobiographies more engaging. It is nonetheless a fascinating look into the life of an actor and how he built his self-confidence and then how that self-confidence helped him survive and thrive.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,226 followers
March 8, 2017
That was really good. I mean really good! I knew I was going to enjoy it, because I'm a Brian Cranston/Breaking Bad fan, but this was exceptional.

Acclaimed actor Brian Cranston is a surprisingly good storyteller and the man has some stories to tell! I found this online in audiobook form with him doing the reading and that, imo, is the best way to read an autobiography. Who better to relate their life story than the person who lived it? Sure, some people absolutely suck at reading and shouldn't be allowed in a recording studio. Cranston's not one of them. He's got a great reading voice and he knows the passages requiring special inflection. At certain points, he acts this book and it's all the better for it.

As I alluded to earlier, Cranston has had an interesting life. From early childhood onward, his life has been a rollercoaster of unlikely twists and turns, pockmarked by the occasional emotional landmine. Even his parents provide intrigue and his take on their colorful pasts gives insight into his own.

After a thorough and thoroughly enjoyable retelling of his youth and early career paths, A Life in Parts takes us right up through Breaking Bad and a bit beyond. Being such a big BB fan, I knew I was going to enjoy that part of the book. However, I was extremely pleased to find myself fully engaged through out this most excellent autobio.

I give my highest recommendations for Cranston fans. Hell, I'd recommend this even if you weren't familiar with his work. If you like a good biography, this one won't let you down!

Profile Image for Emma.
974 reviews975 followers
March 20, 2017
3.5 stars

I should have taken more note of the title: a life in parts. These parts being, of course, the various roles Bryan Cranston throughout his long career and the means by which he frames his life story in this book. Life many, I hadn't even heard of him before becoming mesmerised by his portrayal of Walter White in Breaking Bad. The show and the transformation of character played so well by Cranston was unlike anything i'd seen before. It's what made me wonder about the man behind the mask. In the book, he includes an interesting section about that time but it is dealt with lightly, as it seems is all the rest. I know a lot more about what jobs he's had, how he got them, and a bit of his philosophy when it comes to acting, but i'm not sure I really learnt that much about the man. There's no daring in this autobiography, no secrets or revelations. I don't even mean anything salacious, there's nothing here that feels any deeper than would be revealed in a quick tv or print interview. It passed the time well enough, but will leave no lingering impression.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,961 followers
September 23, 2018
3.5 stars

As far as celebrity memoirs go this is a pretty decent read. It does feel like this was an honest attempt to reflect on his life even if it meant sharing memories that don't always paint him in the best light rather than just a fluffy, lighthearted attempt to make money off his fans. The first third of the book is devoted to his childhood growing up in California. His parents split up and for quite awhile he was estranged from his father. His mother turned to alcohol and ended up shipping off Bryan and his older brother to live with relatives while she moved with Bryan's younger sister into her former mother-in-law's home. The rest of the book is about his career as an actor, romantic relationships, fatherhood, and coming to terms with his childhood.

While many people loved Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad was my first opportunity to see him at work. Talk about a role of a lifetime! I can't even imagine anyone else capturing Walter White so perfectly. It was interesting to learn his thought process when acting in certain memorable scenes as well as some of the behind the scenes drama. I definitely recommend this book if you are a fan of his or just like reading memoirs.

Profile Image for Judith E.
546 reviews191 followers
September 4, 2019
Unbeknownst to 10 year old Bryan Cranston, his unstable and chaotic upbringing afforded him the opportunity to use his keen intelligence to be creative, take risks, and learn to work very, very hard. Cranston’s autobiography leads the reader through his rough beginnings, to his indecisiveness about career paths, to family relationships, and to his creative development as an accomplished actor at the top of his game as Walter White in the huge hit tv series, Breaking Bad.

Mr. Cranston gives insight into how he hones his craft. He explains how he overcame audition anxiety and he stresses the importance of being ready when good luck strolls by. His account is peppered with humor and accolades for his family, with special professed love for his older brother.

He appears to be a really nice “regular” guy with his head on straight. Not Walter-like at all. Needless to say, he perfectly narrates his book. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Diana.
303 reviews21 followers
February 4, 2019
UPDATE after reread after watching Breaking Bad:

Listening to this book the first time definitely made me want to watch the series. I waited for a while to allow myself to forget anything in this book about the show, which is kind of a lot of stuff. When I felt ready, I started watching Breaking Bad and was immediately hooked. I can definitely understand all the hype surrounding it.

This time while listening to the audio book it was a lot more fun to listen to the Walt and Heisenberg chapters and basically any other parts of the book that have anything to do with the series. Fans of Breaking Bad will likely appreciate the various details shared about it as well as some behind the scenes things included in this book.

The following is my original review as written after first read:

So I’ve never actually watched Breaking Bad before. I hear it’s good. I plan to watch it but just haven’t yet. I have seen Bryan Cranston in other things like Malcom in the Middle and Seinfeld and I thought it would be interesting to read his book.

I went with the audio version which is narrated by Cranston himself. I think anytime an author narrates his/her work, you will get the best impression of the author’s intent. I love that this was narrated by Cranston. He made me laugh a few times. It was nice to hear about his different acting jobs over the years. He shares a lot about his past and what it was like growing up, personal experiences, etc.

If you are a fan of Cranston, you will probably like this book. I enjoyed it. And now that I’ve finished, I think it’s time I see what this Breaking Bad hype is about.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,236 reviews26.6k followers
January 8, 2017
4.5 stars
Wow. This is easily the best celebrity memoir I've ever listened to. Bryan Cranston has been one of my favorite actors since I first watched Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad is my all time favorite show and I've seen every episode at least 5 times, and it will always be my favorite show, and I absolutely love Bryan Cranston as Walter White. Ever since I fell in love with Breaking Bad I have followed Bryan Cranston's career, and he has become one of my favorite humans on the planet. I adore his personality and his charm and if I'm being honest he kind of reminds me of my Dad, which might have something to do with it. Also, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook for this one. It's narrated by Bryan and it's so wonderful listening to him tell the stories of his life, so definitely try to get the audiobook for this one, it's great!

What an epic life Bryan Cranston has had. He's one of those people who have truly lived his life to the fullest, the kind of life others are envious of. He's had a handful of crazy jobs with even crazier stories, and I love how each chapter of the book is broken down into a different "part" of his life. His life truly is a life in parts. I loved hearing about his family and his struggle with growing up with a Father who eventually left them, and an alcoholic mother. I loved his stories about travelling overseas at a young age for the police academy, and how he wanted to be a cop for a long period of time. I can't believe he got his license to marry people on a whim and become a minister for a summer and married a bunch of couples. He lives his life with such spontaneity, it's inspiring. I loved hearing about his journey into becoming an actor and how he completely lied on parts of his resume to get small parts in commercials and what not. I loved hearing about his experiences on Malcom In The Middle and how he really made that character his own, instead of just going with what the writers wanted.

And of course, I loved hearing so many stories from his time as Walter White on Breaking Bad. Warning: there are tons of spoilers for Breaking Bad in this book so I strongly recommend finishing the show before reading this. Listening to some of the behind the scenes stories of Breaking Bad made me want to cry because I miss the show so much, and it makes me happy knowing the show meant so much to Bryan Cranston too. I love hearing how Bryan Cranston actually contributed a lot of his own ideas for the script, or he attempted to change the way the scene was shot, to make it better. He's so thoughtful and creative and really loves his job.

The only problem I had with this is that it ended very abruptly and I would've loved one more quick chapter at the end, but other than that I loved this. There were so many times I laughed out loud: especially when he was talking about dating this insane girl named Ava, who threatened his life. I was laughing so hard I was crying. He has an amazing personality, and he's lived an incredible life. I love that he never tells himself he can't do something, and he knows if he really puts his mind and his heart in it, he can accomplish anything. Bryan Cranson is and always will be a legend in my eyes.

Profile Image for Jack Chaucer.
Author 9 books158 followers
February 6, 2017
I don't usually read memoirs, but as a huge fan of Bryan Cranston as Walter White/Heisenberg in AMC's hit show, "Breaking Bad," how could I resist? Fascinating life story of an actor who cares so much about the work. His upbringing was not very pleasant, but he rose above it, learned from his parents' mistakes and, as he put it, let acting become his salvation. This is an interesting and inspiring read. Highly recommend, especially to "Breaking Bad" fans. It was fun to get his inside insights on the process of making such a groundbreaking show.
Profile Image for Lance Carney.
Author 13 books157 followers
May 12, 2018
My kids were hooked on Malcolm in the Middle when I discovered Bryan Cranston. I thought he was hilarious as Hal. Then my son got us to watch Breaking Bad. Wow! What range. When my daughter moved to Los Angeles and Bryan Cranston was scheduled to appear at the Los Angeles Library, she got us signed copies of his autobiography.

The book is just like watching Bryan Cranston on screen; one minute it is hilarious, the next heart-wrenching. He lays it all out in easy prose - his life told through the parts he has played, from Hal and Walter White to son, husband, father and struggling actor. Anyone interested in becoming an actor should read this book to see the kind of attitude and perserverance necessary to survive in the business. The best part? He is very self-deprecating - kind of like he's standing out in the middle of nowhere in his tighty whities. Long live Bryan Cranston!
Profile Image for Rose.
795 reviews46 followers
July 5, 2018
I love this guy. A lot of people do but many of them only got to know him as Walter White aka Heisenberg. I loved him in that role also but he had me when he played Hal, the dad on Malcolm in the Middle. It was one of my favorite sitcoms and he had what seemed to be the most enjoyable role ever to act in.

I don’t usually care much for autobiographies but this was quite well done. He discusses his life growing up. How he got into acting. The roles he had. His relationships as an adult. He’s had a very interesting and diverse life, and I enjoyed reading about it. Makes me think I should binge some MITM this weekend.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
991 reviews2,765 followers
September 10, 2016
This is a well written, entertaining memoir, from Mr. Cranston who has quite a story to tell. I first became a fan from his “Breaking Bad” series which once I started watching just couldn’t stop. I watched compulsively in spite of the deterioration of the “good guy”, Mr. White, a high school math teacher, played by Cranston.

The actor, like so many others, was not an overnight success. He went through some troubled times with his family, his actor father who never made it big, and they were forever financially strained.

He worked so many varying jobs it was interesting and entertaining to hear the stories of his work experiences. He traveled the country with his brother on a motorcycle and worked long term summer jobs. He thought for a very long time that he wanted to be a police officer, went through a lot of training, before he decided that acting was going to be his goal.

He is very honest in describing how his stable home life, long time marriage and a daughter, helped him to really treat acting as a serious career decision. He took every part that he played as a learning opportunity, including being covered in bees for Malcolm in the Middle. He also describes one of the hardest scenes that he had to play in Breaking Bad and how it affected him personally for a long time.

I would highly recommend this memoir to fans of Bryan Cranston and am looking forward to where his career will lead him next.

I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
May 14, 2018
If you are a die-hard Bryan Cranston fan then I think you will be more than satisfied with this book, if you only have a passing interest because you liked him in Breaking Bad you may be left wanting more.

This was an easy listen and I was glad to see that some of the stories I heard him tell on the Graham Norton show made it into this book as they were quite funny.

You learn a lot about the process an actor goes through to prepare for a role, the politics of the industry and how to handle rejection.

The one story that I found truly worth while was about his stalker girlfriend and his reaction to it. That was very well done and felt like you got a peek inside the mind of this man. The other stories are all good but in a sweet superficial kind of way.

This is an ordinary man that worked very hard to get where he is, there is no massive salacious scandals revealed, no deep dark secrets spilled. This is a nice man with a nice story to tell.

Oh, and if you have never watched Breaking Bad (but are planning to) be warned the book contains spoilers of the TV series.

If you are interested in trying this the audio version is the way to go.
Profile Image for Kristina.
72 reviews20 followers
November 9, 2016
This was a pretty good memoir--it doesn't go very deep but it was still an enjoyable read. I was hoping for way more behind the scenes stories and anecdotes about Cranston's experience on Breaking Bad, but, all in all, I'd definitely recommend this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ignacio.
444 reviews86 followers
July 9, 2020
¿Qué tiene un actor para decir sobre su obra? En general, lo mismo que cualquier artista: muy poco. Esto es algo que hace siglos observó Sócrates. Esperamos que los creadores nos den un punto de vista único, o una lectura impensada, sobre sus creaciones, cuando la realidad es que a menudo son quienes menos las comprenden. Descubrí, decía más o menos Sócrates, que los poetas no componen sus poemas a partir de la sabiduría, sino de una especie de inspiración y talento innato, de la misma manera que los adivinos y profetas dicen muchas cosas bellas sin saber lo que significan.

Bryan Cranston no tiene una mirada particularmente reveladora sobre el personaje más importante que le tocó interpretar – uno de los más importantes que le tocó interpretar a cualquier actor. Dice sobre Walter White las mismas cosas que podría decir cualquiera de nosotros. Dice, sospecho, lo que el propio Walter White diría si se pusiera a escribir su historia. O sea, de nuevo, muy poco. Contra lo que se podría pensar. Somos a menudo los peores jueces de nuestras propias acciones, quienes menos las comprenden.

Aunque A Life in Parts sea, ostensiblemente, parte del merchandising de Breaking Bad en tanto tal no suma demasiado. Hay quizás alguna que otra anécdota, un par de revelaciones sobre lo que ocurría tras bambalinas, sobre todo el trabajo inconcebible que hay detrás de un producto como este. Breaking Bad es uno de los contados dramas televisivos que rozan la perfección (al lado de Mad Men, The Wire y Twin Peaks), y como suele pasar en estos casos es fácil olvidarse que detrás de eso hay multitudes de gente involucrada, sets de filmación, discusiones artísticas, infinidad de errores y de circunstancias fortuitas. Cranston habla un poco de esto, aunque en resumen tengo que decir que no es lo más interesante del libro. Lo más interesante es algo de lo que voy a hablar en un par de párrafos.

El título de A Life in Parts supone un juego de palabras que es obvio en inglés: la palabra part puede significar tanto parte como rol o papel. El juego no se queda únicamente en el título. Cada uno de sus capítulos refiere a uno de los papeles que Cranston interpretó a lo largo de su vida, y no solamente como actor; al lado de los dedicados a Walter White y a Hal y a Tim Wheatley, también aparecen otros titulados “hijo”, “padre”, “estudiante”, “pintor de casas”, “vagabundo”, o “hipnotizador”.

Me hace pensar en la reflexión de Shakespeare en As You Like It, que maravillosamente se anticipó a las teorías de la personalidad como performance: “El mundo es un escenario, y todos los hombres y mujeres son meros actores; tienen sus salidas y sus entradas, y cada hombre puede representar muchos papeles (parts)”. El efecto de leer una biografía segmentada según esta observación es algo extraño; produce la impresión de una serie de islotes inconexos, apenas hilvanados por un sentido del yo – quizás lo que quería señalar Shakespeare.

Quizás esta decisión formal, en A Life in Parts, no apuntara a otra cosa más que a hacer del libro un producto más legible y vendible. Se nota la presencia del obvio ghostwriter, como en otros pasajes de cierto vuelo literario. Por ejemplo, el segundo o tercer apartado, cuando Cranston empieza a contar la historia de su familia, arranca con la frase: “Mis padres se conocieron como la mayoría de la gente se conoce: en una clase de teatro en Hollywood”. Pero la decisión formal produce también el mayor efecto de extrañamiento de esta biografía: los roles actorales aparecen en pie de igualdad con los otros, como si pertenecieran al mismo orden de realidad.

Es comprensible. Un actor de televisión pasa años y días completos encarnando al mismo personaje, y (¿cómo podría ser de otra forma?) llega a creerse que es él mismo. No le ocurre lo mismo cuando habla de otros de sus papeles, pero cuando le toca describir alguna escena de Walter White, Cranston habla del personaje y de sus acciones en primera persona. Dice “mi esposa” cuando se refiere a Skyler, “mi cuñado” cuando se trata de Hank. En un momento relata la siguiente anécdota: recuerda que estaban grabando el pasaje en el que Skyler le insiste a Walter en que firme los papeles de divorcio. En medio de esa tirantez, sin embargo, Skyler lo invita a compartir una cena familiar. Cranston, o sea Walter, siente que esa es una pequeña victoria, una esperanza; si su esposa cede en eso, quizás esté dispuesta a ceder más, y él no ve por qué, después de tal invitación, se debería sentir más inclinado que antes a concederle el divorcio. Sin embargo, el guión así lo exigía. Cranston, entonces, fue a decirles a los autores que no quería firmar el divorcio en esas condiciones. O sea, que Walter no quería hacerlo. Los autores cambiaron la escena para hacerla más tensa, para que durante esa comida Walter descubriera hasta qué punto su familia estaba destruida y el divorcio era inevitable. Probablemente el resultado final sea más creíble para el espectador, pero la modificación a fin de cuentas no apuntaba a esto sino a complacer a Walter White, que era una presencia muy real en ese set. Otra anécdota: un Cranston furioso luchó para conservar esta escena, que los guionistas habían decidido eliminar del episodio. Coincido con su análisis: es una escena grandiosa, aunque apenas dure medio minuto. El juego de miradas y de sutilezas entre los tres actores nos dice más sobre la situación, y sobre los personajes, que lo que seguramente decía la página desnuda del guión. Creo que son estos momentos los que hacen una gran serie, por delante de una historia que, si la miramos bien, es tan implausible y absurda como cualquier otra.

Pero lo que más me interesa del libro, decía, es otra cosa; es el tránsito del propio Cranston a Walter White. El resto de la biografía no es demasiado interesante. Como cualquier otro actor, la vida de Cranston se compone mayormente de clases de teatro, de castings y días de filmación, además de los trabajos más o menos llamativos que realizó en los largos períodos en los que no conseguía empleo como actor. Su llegada a Breaking Bad, como él mismo rememora, fue bastante fortuita. El azar – al que siempre hay que reconocerle su parte- fue más benévolo con él que con otros actores. Si Malcolm in the Middle hubiese sido renovado para una octava temporada, algo que por un tiempo pareció probable, otro hubiese terminado siendo Heisenberg. Más aún; Vince Gilligan, el padre de la criatura, pensó en él porque recordaba la buena impresión que le había causado la actuación de Cranston en “Drive”, un episodio de The X-Files que Gilligan escribió. Pero los ejecutivos de AMC resistieron un poco esta elección, dudando que quien hasta entonces había sido como mucho “el padre de Malcolm” pudiera estar a la altura de semejante personaje. Lo entiendo: a mí tampoco me cerraba, antes de empezar a ver Breaking Bad, que “el padre de Malcolm” interpretara un papel serio. Me imaginé que se le notaría demasiado el esfuerzo, algo así como lo que le pasa a Francella, por mucho que los críticos lo celebren. Sin embargo, desde el primer capítulo supe que a partir de ese momento cada vez que lo viera en alguna escena, el “padre de Malcolm” pasaría a ser “el que después hizo Breaking Bad”.

Mientras leía este libro, hice el experimento de volver a ver el primer episodio de Breaking Bad. Tenía la idea de que el Walter White original sería irreconocible, siendo que en mi memoria había quedado la versión ya consumada de Heisenberg. En cierta manera fue así, pero los vínculos entre el primer Walter y el último son innegables. Es lo que debería pasar con cualquier otra obra ficcional: el final tiene que parecernos sorpresivo en una primera lectura, pero inevitable en la segunda. Por ejemplo, esto es algo que nunca había notado: cuando, durante la fiesta de cumpleaños de Walter, están viendo en la televisión el laboratorio de metanfetamina que Hank acaba de desbaratar, y se ve una pila de dinero, alrededor de 700 mil dólares, Walter se muestra interesado inmediatamente – y esto ocurre antes de que le diagnostiquen cáncer, y antes de verse obligado a pensar en dejarle algo a su familia. Lo que quiere decir es que Walter siempre fue Heisenberg en potencia, y únicamente necesitaba la excusa -una, a su parecer, inobjetable- para decidirse a serlo.

Este camino va perfectamente en paralelo con la trayectoria artística de Bryan Cranston. A mí Malcolm me gustaba, y el recuerdo que tengo del padre, Hal, es que era un payaso perfecto. En esta misma biografía, Cranston dice que había una especie de costumbre entre los guionistas: plantearle las situaciones más absurdas (y peligrosas) posibles, y preguntarle si estaría dispuesto a hacerlas, para después construir el guión en reversa, a partir de tal situación. Después de siete años de interpretar a este “goofy dad”, parecía poco probable que pudiera salir del encasillamiento. Nadie se imaginaba que pudiera hacer otra cosa, así como nadie se imaginaba que el delicado profesor de química pudiera estar en secreto cocinando meta y matando gente -este alter ego contradictorio fue lo que durante mucho tiempo, al estilo de Clark Kent, lo salvó de ser descubierto. Pero Cranston, igual que White, sabía lo bueno que era, y las cosas que podía llegar a ser a pesar de que nadie se lo tomara en serio. Breaking Bad, él mismo lo reconoce, es algo más que su magnum opus; es el pináculo irrepetible de su vida. En esta otra escena, perteneciente al último capítulo, actor y personaje pronuncian al unísono el mismo parlamento: “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And… I was… really… I was alive”.
Profile Image for Mia.
332 reviews202 followers
April 17, 2017
The thing that enchanted me so much about this book, and the reason I'm giving it the highest a four star rating can be before it becomes one of my rare and coveted fives, was the way Bryan Cranston told his stories—or, more accurately, the ways he didn't.

In theory, it isn't hard to write a memoir, but in practise it's got to be difficult. Not only do you have to tell your life's story clearly and honestly, but it has to be readable and preferably enjoyable. You can't be didactic, or else the reader feels like they're being preached to. You can't be one-note: total humour seems synthetic and unbelievable, and total tragedy is exhausting at best and self-pitying at worst. You have to avoid a "back in the old days" tone, lest you come across as ancient or moored in your wonder years. You can't make yourself out to be a paragon of morality and goodness and risk the audience becoming nauseated at your narcissism, but you shouldn't self-deprecate to the point of loathing, either. The whole thing is a delicate balance.

And yet Bryan Cranston pulls it off beautifully. His storytelling feels natural and honest, and his tone is nuanced—sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes pensive, sometimes angry. He acknowledges his faults, missteps, regrets, and flaws, but his narrative confidence ultimately comes across as admirable rather than humbly bragging. His humour is well-placed and charming, never crossing the line of flippancy. The format is clever and clear rather than gimmicky. The book feels, for lack of a better word, authentic. Genuine. It truly is like Bryan Cranston sitting down across from you at your dining room table and telling you about his life over dinner, which is a really cool feeling.

Oh, and there's another very important element in writing a good memoir: your life has to be interesting! And if you haven't guessed it by now, Cranston has that component in spades too. I loved it all, from his first taste of theatre as Professor Flipnoodle; the trip to the morgue; the implosion of his home life; the motorcycle trip with all its adventures and vagrancy; all the dozens of odd jobs and strange characters; the Tunnel of Love; marrying a couple on a plane in a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops, screaming the vows above the roar of the engine. And the chicken beheading—I definitely snort-laughed while reading that one. Bryan Cranston's life is way more interesting than I was expecting, and every triumph, lesson, failure, and bizarre job opportunity was just fascinating to read about. But there are slower parts too, those precious interludes where life unfolds, apart from all the crazy adventures, and those were no less spellbinding.

You can't write off the fact that he's an actor, and acting is an inherently interesting thing, at least in my opinion. But Cranston goes beyond a cursory description of the roles he's known for, with some "behind the scenes" treats to taste; he takes you inside his journey, how he learned things, how he prepares for a role, when he realised he wanted to be an actor. He's worked a ton in his career, and every role brought some new experience, some new lesson, some new method of dealing with work or life or emotions. He talks about the process of acting, the nitty-gritty of it all. And it's fascinating. His chapters on Breaking Bad are a great example of that—he doesn't talk too much about what shooting the show was like, but rather about who he became, what he became. He takes elements from past roles, from the stoop of his father's shoulders, from all sorts of places and experiences and he imbues this character, Walter White, with life. And through it all, you can so clearly feel his excitement, his awe at this incredible and terrifying character that he inhabited for years.

Which leads me to my final praise: the voice. I'm speaking figuratively, although I've never wanted so badly to hear a book narrated by its author than this one. Of course I'd seen Bryan Cranston before—I grew up with him as the lovable and hilarious Hal from 'Malcolm in the Middle,' then lauded his performance as Walter White in 'Breaking Bad'—but I only saw a glimpse at the person behind the role in a few short interviews, where he came across as intelligent and passionate about his work. A Life in Parts gave me a much better idea of what Bryan Cranston is really like, and his voice shines so beautifully through all his vignettes and tales. I love it when an author has a clear, distinct personality that bursts through their writing, and this was a perfect example of that. He humanises himself in a way I doubt most celebrities are able to do through the written word, without it coming across as some sort of long-awaited bombshell tell-all stuffed with stale truisms and half-baked wit.

There's always that niggling fear that your idol, or even just a celebrity that seems like a nice person, is actually an asshole. I was worried about that when I started A Life in Parts, but it was completely out of my mind when I finished. The case here isn't that Bryan Cranston is secretly an asshole or a narcissist or a stereotypical vapid actor; it's that he's a guy with a fascinating life, a great sense of humour, an admirable work ethic, an abiding gratitude for what he has and what he's learned, and a fantastic knack for storytelling. He's a master at mixing the casual and the poignant to craft a coherent and immensely enjoyable memoir. And fuck me if he doesn't do it so goddamn endearingly.
Profile Image for Erin Dunn.
Author 3 books88 followers
October 6, 2016

Thank you to Edelweiss for provding a free ebook copy of A Life in Parts By: Bryan Cranston in exchange for an honest review.

Short Review Summary:
I loved learning more about Cranston and his life.

Breaking Bad is one of my all time favorite shows. I love the show a lot and personally I think that Bryan Cranston did a magnificent job in his role as Walter White. Also, Walter White is one of my all time favorite characters. I've seen Cranston in a few other roles, but I never really knew anything about him. So when I first saw that he had a memoir coming out I figured it would be interesting to find out more about the man who played such an iconic role.

The first chapter is terrific and I was hooked right away! I just love it when a book can grab you immediately. I enjoyed the look at Cranston's life growing up and how he got into the acting industry. I think that he had a really interesting upbringing.

My only complaint is that the book is a little bit slow around the middle. Luckily this didn't last long and it got right back on track. My favorite part though is all of the Breaking bad information near the end where he talks about things from the show. I really enjoyed reading his thoughts and opinions about the show, specific scenes, and about acting and working with writers/producers/etc in general.

Overall A Life in Parts is a memoir worth reading for sure. I definitely enjoyed this one and learning more about Cranston and his life. Now want to rewatch Breaking Bad!!

I recommend A Life in Parts for Breaking Bad fans and anyone interested in a remarkable actor's life.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
255 reviews40 followers
February 13, 2017

I am floored by the vibrancy of this memoir.

The title A Life in Parts can be interpreted to mean ��parts” as in “pieces,” vignettes of a life well-lived, but it more likely refers to the “roles” Cranston has played throughout his life that are used to divide the memoir into chapters—paperboy, security guard, minister, explorer, son, husband, father, and, of course, actor. He explores all the small and large moments that shaped him as a person and an artist, reflecting on his own philosophy about relationships and acting along the way.

Your attention is grabbed right at the start, wherein you’re thrown into the mindset of Walter White during a pivotal scene of Breaking Bad, followed by Cranston’s own inner turmoil. From there, the stories continue in a nearly chronological sequence, each of them self-contained and satisfying. It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but the rappelling audition and the Ava story made my jaw drop.

Cranston’s acting career is not the focus of the memoir. This is a study of human relationships, ambition, art, identity, vulnerability and confidence, risk-taking and collaboration. It is funny without trying too hard; humble without feeling sugarcoated; honest without being needlessly cruel. Oh, and the writing just happens to be spectacular:

“On a motorcycle, you feel it all, moment by moment: the soft breeze at dawn, the warmth of the early light, the bugs, the heat, the dust, the thick smell of desert blooms and the scent of dirt after a rain. The road beneath you. The elements. You have to be present so you can react and adapt to whatever you encounter. That felt like freedom.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Cranston wrote this memoir himself rather than some industry ghostwriter. Listening to him read the audiobook, you can sense that he is comfortable in the words—because they are his.

I could keep singing this book’s praises, but I think you get the point. The experience will be richer if you’ve watched Breaking Bad, but that is by no means needed in order to enjoy this book. Even if you aren’t a fan of celebrity memoirs, trust me when I say that this is legions above the rest.
Profile Image for TL .
1,820 reviews35 followers
December 15, 2016
Read mostly through Overdrive app, last part via hardback copy (from page 208 till the end)

Love Bryan Cranston more as a human being :)

Funny how you see someone in a few things... trailer for a movie or TV show, interview where they mention past things perhaps and somehow your brain doesn't connect it all together the way it should... probly just distracted, or maybe your memory sucks ;-P.

Bryan Cranston was another one of those people I had heard of (who hasn't at least heard of Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle ?) but was not high up on my radar for whatever reason.

I didn't know for instance: about his role on Seinfeld, that he worked on a soap opera, was on an X-Files episode, he had a rough childhood at times but still an interesting one...

I could go on and on but you get the general idea.

The audiobook is narrated by Bryan himself (which is always a pleasant thing to see in memoirs), the narration was hard to hear at times even with the 'volume boost' on the app (though that could have been just my phone) but it didn't deter me from enjoying Bryan's stories.

The tales Bryan tells us have a real Storyteller's atmosphere to the whole thing, no matter what the content is. He comes across an easygoing guy, respectful, a hard worker ,and a genuine person.

There is no "dishing of dirt" in that sense.. just stories from his life.. his memories. Some of my favorites was how he approached certain roles and his stories from Breaking Bad . Certain stories has me thinking about after I closed the book and doing things around the house, or out Xmas shopping. One in particular had me tensing up in my seat, repeated thoughts of "Holy shit" during the whole thing. Didn't realize until afterwards I'd been gripping the steering wheel extra tight .

Each topic he writes about has a not quite intimate feel to it, but a camaraderie I guess? Foggy brain can't think of the right phrasing haha. Maybe both? You feel a connection no matter what it is and you feel welcomed as you get these glimpses into the world Bryan lives in.

Would recommend :)
Profile Image for JanB .
1,144 reviews2,506 followers
February 1, 2017
Celebrity memoirs aren't usually a genre I'm drawn to but this one has great reviews and the audio is read by the author. I'm a huge fan of Bryan Cranston's work, especially his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad. The thought of being read to by Walter (haha) on a recent car trip was appealing and I wasn't disappointed. The book is well-written, amusing, and occasionally heartbreaking.

Thankfully, this wasn't a celebrity tell-all, but a look back on an interesting and varied life and career. This is not a story of a life of privilege and "overnight success". Mr. Cranston's achievements are the result of hard work, determination, and perhaps a tiny dash of luck.

As the title suggests, the story is told in vignettes from his life: his early life in a somewhat troubled family, the odd jobs he's held (and by odd I mean strange), his roles as a husband and father, and how he works at his craft.

Anecdotes from his roles in Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad, LBJ, and his early work on a soap opera are included, although these are sprinkled throughout and not the main focus of the book.

Recommended for everyone. If you're a fan there's much to enjoy, and if you're not familiar enough with his work to be a fan, watch Breaking Bad asap. Then read this book, preferably on audio.
Profile Image for Ashley V.
68 reviews37 followers
April 29, 2017
Important Note: This book does contain some pretty major Breaking Bad spoilers so if you haven't yet watched/finished the show and still intend to, hold off on reading this book.

As far as celebrity memoirs go, this has become one of my favourites. Bryan Cranston, most notably of Breaking Bad fame, details his life as a series of "parts" he's played both onscreen and off. Let me tell you, he could give the Dos Equis guy a run for his money as the most interesting man in the world. From playing one of TV's most notorious characters, to a job as a security guard, to a part time stint as a wedding officiant, Cranston has seen and done many interesting and strange things.

He notes that the producers of Malcolm in the Middle had a running challenge of "what crazy things can we get Bryan to do this week?" and rarely did he ever turn down a challenge be it dancing around and jiggling his belly onscreen, clad in tighty-whities or wearing a coat of live bees. This is a running theme throughout his life. No opportunity is out of the question.

His stories range from funny to heartbreaking to inspirational. It feels like a conversation with an old friend, all the while it is exceptionally well written.
Profile Image for Michelle.
166 reviews15 followers
November 30, 2016
Until Breaking Bad, I hadn't watched Bryan Cranston in any TV show. But this performance, and subsequent elevated fame from Breaking Bad made me aware of who he was. Like millions of other fans, I loved this show.

This autobiography was at times entertaining, at times sad, and at times cringe-worthy. Particularly during his early years up until his mid-20's, Bryan's off-camera life was filled with drama. Sometimes I found myself wondering "could one person possibly have this much going on?" -- dysfunctional parents, possible murder suspects, mentally unstable ex-girlfriend... he had it all and more.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Bryan himself, and I think that is the best way to experience this memoir. Bryan's later years from Malcolm in the Middle onwards were great to learn about -- I love hearing behind-the-scenes details from popular shows and how all parts finally come together for a great finished product.
Profile Image for Eve.
337 reviews470 followers
July 19, 2018
Bryan Cranston is about as badass as they come and anyone who thinks otherwise can fight me.


Bravo...... Bravo. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
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