The television scene

Laura Fraser loves her role on ‘Breaking Bad’

 

If she wanted to, Laura Fraser could tell you exactly how the AMC series Breaking Bad will end. But she doesn’t.

“I’m under penalty of death,” the Scottish actress jokes about the show, which begins its final season at 9 p.m. Sunday. “I tell people, ‘It’s like the Official Secrets Act. I cannot betray my country.”

Truth is, most fans of the electrifying series about two meth dealers in New Mexico — played by Emmy winners Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul — don’t really want the ending spoiled, Fraser has discovered. “People ask, but then say very quickly ‘Don’t tell me!’ ”

Fraser, 37, joined the cast last season as the brittle, nervous but highly dangerous Lydia Rodarte-Quayle of the conglomerate Madrigal Electromotive (its interests include industrial equipment, manufacturing and drug distribution). Lydia may seem borderline hysterical and out of her league in this risky business, but she isn’t afraid to order a hit on anyone who poses a threat.

“She’s such a massive contradiction, so incredibly complicated,” marvels Fraser, whose bubbly warmth is light years from Lydia’s tightly wound persona. “I see her as a sheep in armor. She’s very, very frightened. She’s had a horrible childhood, and she’s under this illusion that if she creates power and control and money and builds up walls around her and her daughter, she will be safe. But she makes reckless choices. She’s terrified making them and carrying them out. I love that she’s incredibly cheeky. Even when she’s backed into a corner, she’ll ask for something extra.”

Fraser got the role via video audition; she didn’t meet creator Vince Gilligan until filming the upcoming season, she says. She hadn’t seen the show and at first decided against watching it: “I thought it will be intimidating, I don’t want to recognize all these faces. I want to see them as new faces.”

Co-star Jonathan Banks, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy this year as laconic enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut, had other ideas.

When she confessed she hadn’t seen the earlier seasons, Banks said, “ ‘What do you mean you haven’t watched it! Watch it and come back to me!’ ” Fraser reports, laughing. “He was fed up with explaining relationships and situations to me. So I ended up binge watching it.”

Joining a cast that has solidified over four years wasn’t easy — “It’s like going to a party where everybody knows each other; you feel like the new kid at school,” Fraser says — but Banks helped her assimilate.

“I just adored working with him,” Fraser says. “He’s such a sweetheart. . . . I met him a few sentences before our first scene together in the diner. So he’s always that character to me in a small way. . . . I got over my nerves eventually, but I used them for Lydia. So in a way it was a good thing.”

Fraser has worked with other memorable stars: In 2001 she co-starred with the late Heath Ledger in the rollicking A Knight’s Tale.

“We were there for 51/2 months in Prague,” she recalls. “It was most peoples’ first time in eastern Europe. Heath had just become a star . ... He was just a sweet guy and really had a lot of innocence about him. The whole experience was one of those fantastic jobs. The sets were amazing. You’d go and watch some kind of stunt, something crazy on a horse. We were all so young, in our 20s. We thought it was always going to be like that.”

As for Lydia’s role in the upcoming season? “I feel like last season, she was thrown into these situations and made the best of them,” Fraser says carefully. “As we go into this season, she’s kind of making a choice to be where she is, more of a personal choice.”

As for what’s up next, Fraser, who lives in upstate New York with her husband and daughter, isn’t sure, although she’s enjoying a vacation in the homeland this summer.

“I’m kind of slacking in Scotland,” she admits. “I need to find a job!”

Connie Ogle

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