Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston may have become a global star as anti-hero Walter White, but he’s managed to stay grounded amid the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
But there was a time when the LA native almost became unhinged, when an ex-girlfriend started stalking him.
“From the beginning, ‘Ava’ gave me clear signs she was not emotionally well,” he recalls in his autobiography, A Life In Parts.
She refused to accept their relationship was over, but when he secured a job on a daytime drama in New York, he thought that would be the end of it. But Ava followed him there, dodging security to lurk in the shadows on the set.
“She was standing next to the camera, staring at me, arms folded, furious. I froze, too stunned to even acknowledge her.”
She later left sinister messages on his answer machine, saying, ‘You’re dead!’, and after a few more calls, he threatened to tell her mother - to whom she was very close - and send her the answer machine tape. At this point, Ava screamed that she was coming over to get the tape.
“I could have called the cops. I should have. I really can’t explain why I didn’t. But I wish I had.”
Cranston - who became a familiar face to many in hit sitcom Malcolm In The Middle, before being propelled to far greater heights after landing the starring role in blockbuster TV series Breaking Bad in 2008 - has had years of therapy for a variety of issues, including anger.
“I’d had a marriage that didn’t work out [his first marriage to writer Mickey Middleton in his 20s was short-lived], I had anger and resentment issues which had to be tied into my childhood. I remember my dad hitting people.
“I sometimes feel like I want to hit someone. I don’t think it’s very unique. A lot of men have that kind of under-the-surface rage or aggression.”
Born in Los Angeles, the son of actors Joe Cranston and Audrey Sell, his father wanted acting success more than anything but never made it, which affected the family in many ways.
His parents split up when Cranston was 12. Joe went to live with another woman, which Audrey never really recovered from. She descended into alcoholism, was married four times, but never found true happiness.
Later on, Cranston and his two siblings, Kyle and Amy, all sought therapy, and Cranston and his second wife Robin Dearden, with whom he has a daughter, Taylor, sought marriage guidance counselling before tying the knot.
He is recognised everywhere he goes and says the success of Breaking Bad has changed him.
“I don’t know if it’s the series or the celebrity which has changed me. I guess you can become famous through other means, but it did change me and not all in good ways.
“My personality has changed. I’m more reclusive. I used to be a lot more outward, but that draws too much attention.
‘‘Because my work is so social, I seek privacy and solitude, which is one of the reasons I was interested in writing this book.
“I was able to continue to create something, but in solitude. I could be alone and still create.”
:: A Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston is published by Orion, priced £20.