The star of Breaking Bad debuts with a collection of memories and ruminations.
Cranston (b. 1956), borrowing his title and organization (sort of) from Jacques’ famous “All the world’s a stage” speech in As You Like It, offers a series of mostly short chapters that focus on the roles he’s played—in life, in film and TV, and on the stage. For a celebrity memoir, it’s unusually humble; the author makes no real mention of Golden Globe and Emmy wins, and he shows a determined effort throughout to credit and praise his co-workers. He mentions, for example, an effective gag on one of his Seinfeld appearances that came via an electrician. His narrative flows forward chronologically, broken only by abrupt shifts of focus to his various roles. His tells us about his parents—neither, especially the father, would ever qualify for a parenthood prize—and his siblings, who have been successful in their various enterprises despite, like the author, enduring a difficult childhood. (Near the end, he enters group therapy with them.) Occasionally, Cranston pauses to talk about the craft of acting, and a few of his observations sound like “takeaways” from a performance class (“Building a character is like building a house”). For the most part, the author stresses how skill and talent are fairly pointless without a lot of hard work and thought about the character and the words. He does not downplay his failures (a first marriage did not last); nor does he deny us details about his unmoored years, which included a Kerouac-ian cross-country journey with his brother. We learn as well about the perils and inconveniences of celebrity, his deep affection for his wife and daughter, and losses (parents, others). He ends with an account of his recent stage performance as Lyndon Johnson.
The highs here—and there are many—are meth-less but addictive.