Dome’s very black-and-white world is something “we battle constantly on set,” says Norris. “When we were developing Big Jim, I tried to bring more to him. I really don’t want him to be a mustache-twirling bad guy.” But he knows the show will never be Breaking Bad. “It’s absolutely clear to me that the success of that show is due to AMC allowing one person—an obsessive person—to control it.” Case in point: Though Gilligan wasn’t often on set, he approved or vetoed every script or set change. “You may have noticed that Vince loves color,” says Norris. “Before every episode we’d have all these damn wardrobe fittings, which annoyed the shit out of me, so Vince could see photos of all the different color variations on me—you know, five different shades of crimson, five different shades of gray. The first time I went to his house, I went into his guest bathroom, which was all orange. I’m thinking, Son of a bitch, he’s sitting on the crapper and thinking, ‘I’m going to make Hank wear orange.’ ”
Norris went to Harvard, which tends to surprise people; nearly three decades of steady work playing mostly cops and booya military types will do that. He doesn’t mind the typecasting; he’s a workaholic. I don’t suppose that has anything to do with having five freaking children, I say. Norris laughs. “Yeah, the nightmare scenario for me is my wife, Bridget, saying, ‘Let’s go to Hawaii for two weeks.’ I would fucking kill myself if I had to sit on a beach for two weeks. I love my job—it’s fun.”
I ask Norris if he was a brainiac in high school. He answers almost sheepishly: “Yeah, straight A’s. I was valedictorian of my class.” He grew up in South Bend, Indiana; his father was a part-time singer and furniture salesman. “He was an amazing guy. He had a really bad childhood. He and his sister would sing on the streets of Chicago so they could eat. My favorite thing he’d say is, ‘I’m not a singer, I’m an entertainer.’ For me, it’s the same with actors. It’s something you study; it’s a learned craft, not some special mojo or magic dust or staring at some piece of shit for an hour to get in the mood. I think Bryan Cranston is an entertainer. It’s weird because Cranston reminds me of my dad—they have the same build.”
Cranston directed “Blood Money,” which, after a flash-forward, picks up where the 2012 finale left off—Hank emerging from the Whites’ master bathroom, having just taken the most illuminating shit in TV history—and ends with the long-awaited Hank-Walt confrontation. Aside from a convincing right hook to Walt’s jaw (“That was a lot of fun,” says Norris), it’s a remarkably quiet scene; Norris, who has only a few lines, brings new meaning to if looks could kill. “The key for me was that it wasn’t just rage,” he says. “It’s the betrayal by someone Hank’s known for twenty years—a family member, which is even worse. Vince asked me last night about grabbing the back of Walt’s head when I say, ‘All along it was you.’ I realized that it was from The Godfather: Part II, when Michael says, ‘I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.’ ”
As we finish up the game (“Sorry I kicked your ass,” Norris says unconvincingly), I tell him my wish for Hank is that he’ll be the hero, the last man standing. “You can still be the hero and not standing,” he points out with a parting cackle. True. And, to paraphrase Michael Corleone: If anything in this show is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that anyone can be killed.