Anna Gun has spoken out about the personal backlash she received over her character Skyler White in the hit TV series Breaking Bad.
The actress describes suffering sexism and abuse at the hand of the show’s fans, and adds that it ‘wasn’t a pleasant thing to go through’.
Skyler, in her pretty reasonable opposition to her husband having become an out-of-control methamphetamine manufacturer, became one of the show’s main antagonists, the reaction to which Gunn did not expect.
Speaking at a 10-year reunion of the cast, she told Entertainment Weekly: “It shook me. As an actor, my job is not to always play characters who make everybody happy. That’s not interesting.
“In fact, characters that are more difficult in a way are more interesting. But when you are on a show that has become that big and people are identifying you so much with somebody that they dislike, you can’t help but feel like you get folded into it.
“It was very bizarre and confusing to us all. It was a combination of sexism, ideas about gender roles, and then honestly, it was the brilliance of the construct of the show.
“People did find a hero in Walt, but they wanted so much to connect with him so viscerally that to see the person who often was his antagonist — therefore the show’s antagonist in a way — they felt like she was in the way of him doing whatever he wanted to do, and that he should be allowed to do what he wanted to do.”
“It wasn’t a pleasant thing to go through, necessarily, but it was fascinating. It created a seismic shift and change in my life. I was really glad that I went through it and that I learned what I learned and that ultimately I realized, this is not about me.
“This is not about me, Anna Gunn, and it’s really not about Skyler. It’s about the way people are connecting to him. It’s also about the way that people still hold on to, perhaps, older ideas of what a woman or a wife should be or how she should act or how she should behave.
“In the end, change isn’t always comfortable and isn’t always pleasant, but it’s good that it was brought to people’s attention and consciousness.”
She also recalled appearing at Q&A sessions in service of the show, where she would be confronted by fans.
“Sometimes there would be one person [in the audience] who’d stand up and say something. It was fairly early on that a guy stood up and said, ‘Why is your character such a bitch? I mean, Walt is working and he’s doing this for his family.’ He was so clearly firmly with Walt, and thought Skyler was just this awful, nagging person. That was one of the first moments where it came right to me and it was shocking.”
Gunn has broached her experience in the show in the past.
In 2013, she wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times in which she described the experience of being vilified by the public ‘bewildering’.
“My character, to judge from the popularity of Web sites and pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women,” she wrote.
“As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me.
“I can’t say that I have enjoyed being the center of the storm of Skyler hate. But in the end, I’m glad that this discussion has happened, that it has taken place in public and that it has illuminated some of the dark and murky corners that we often ignore or pretend aren’t still there in our everyday lives.”