Tony and Emmy winner Bryan Cranston visited The Late Show With Stephen Colbert December 10 to talk about his return to Broadway in the stage adaptation of Network. Cranston, who won a Tony for his Broadway debut as President Lyndon Baines Johnson in All The Way, plays Howard Beale, the network news anchor who—after being fired for low ratings—threatens to kill himself on the air, which leads to a massive ratings boost and the reclamation of his job and his television platform.
“This man walks the line between: is he going crazy or did he actually have an epiphany?” Cranston explained.
And Cranston enjoys how much he gets to examine the current climate through the adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 film. “It's something that brings you back to the mid-1970s and shoots you back into 2018 quickly. A lot of things that we discuss in the show—about being addicted to whatever the modern technology is at the time, in this case he talks about the ‘tube’ [or] television. We are just looking at television now in the palms of our hand. Or how about fake news? That's an element we deal with and the manipulation of audiences by having a new outlet having an agenda of what they want their audience to listen to. It really is very prescient.”
The play, like the movie, includes the infamous “Mad As Hell” speech, but Cranston revealed how the speech was originally written. “Paddy wrote ‘I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.’ But Peter Finch went through one-and-a-half takes of that scene and then he collapsed, he couldn't do anymore. And he told the director, Sidney Lumet, I'm done. He actually inadvertently dropped that one as and Paddy Chayefsky was not happy about that.”
Now Cranston puts his own stamp on the role that won him an Olivier in London. “There's a lot of discoveries an actor makes when developing a character,” he said. “One of the things I didn't quite pick up on in London but I'm really keying in now is the social non-acceptance of the emotion of anger. To be mad.”
Watch the second part of his interview with host Stephen Colbert below. Plus, hear from Cranston just moments after his opening night bow here.