Interview

Jeremiah Bitsui on Breaking Bad and His New Film Drunktown's Finest

James Canellos ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Jeremiah Bitsui. Photo Credit: Blackbox Studios.
Jeremiah Bitsui. Photo Credit: Blackbox Studios.

Jeremiah Bitsui is all about change.

The actor who’s known best to audiences as Victor, the quiet employee of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), recaps his experiences on Breaking Bad, his new film Drunktown’s Finest and his goal to humanize the characters who are often stereotyped in the industry.

Despite playing the often frightening meth babysitter to Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Bitsui has an extremely calm and talkative demeanor about himself as he talks about his involvement in the show. Saying that his career really took off in Albuquerque, New Mexico and he kept getting work there after living in Los Angeles. He worked on the short film A Thousand Roads, which gave him the chance to work with director Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) and Academy Award winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi). From there his success continued in New Mexico, when he got an audition for the show.

“One day I got called in for the part of ‘non-discrete customer’ which later ended up being Victor.”

He’s not shy at addressing why he thinks his character was killed off so randomly on the show, either.

“There was nothing else motivating Jesse and Walt at that time. I think it was kind of the last straw to get them moving, but the critical part was my character wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing, just not following orders.”

This sense of understanding what Gus was trying to convey on that fatal episode of Breaking Bad is what attracted Bitsui to his latest role in Drunktown’s Finest. He plays Luther SickBoy Maryboy, the troubled soon to be father enlisting in the military as he interacts with other Native Americans trying to escape from their reservation.

The film got additional funding through Kickstarter and is getting booked in international locations. Bitsui initially took the redemptive approach when tackling the character of SickBoy. He understands the struggle of having friends who were addicted to drugs and has witnessed them through their highs and lows. He doesn’t want to just play a troubled character; he wants it to feel more personal to the audience.

“[He’s] looking for a redeeming quality,” describes Bitsui. “I think the redeeming quality in SickBoy is that he actually has a sincere want to provide for his family, but he’s still conflicted by his past and many of his coping mechanisms.”

Universal characters that have an inner conflict is what Bitsui has been aiming for in most recent works, to play characters that as he says “are at a cross point in their life.”

In fact, a few years ago Bitsui overheard a conversation about a man who had a lot of gang members in his neighborhood. The man’s solution to the gang problem was, as Bitsui says, “get all the young guys who think they’re so tough, all these guys who aren’t worth a damn and take them out to the desert and burn them or blow them all up.”

Giancarlo Esposito and Jeremiah Bitsui in the Breaking Bad episode "Box Cutter." Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC.
Giancarlo Esposito and Jeremiah Bitsui in the Breaking Bad episode “Box Cutter.” Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC.

The man’s words really annoyed Bitsui. This random moment is what helped inspire the character of SickBoy.

“That kind of motivated me,” said Bitsui. “I want to one day play a character that was a bad character, ‘bad’ from the exterior but had all these internal conflicts that you could relate to. That was the opportunity with SickBoy.”

Drunktown’s Finest went through a long journey financially before it was made this past summer. The amount of dedication the cast and crew had for the film is an example of the whole field of acting for a living. Bitsui wants young actors out there to really ask themselves “Why do you want to act? Out of all things.”, “How long do you want to do this?” and “What do you want out of this?”

He hopes that all young actors understand that the business is not “glamorized, it’s 99% work and 1% glamor. You have to love the work first and then realize what your purpose is after that, and what your expectations are.”

Bitsui has worked with legendary directors Oliver Stone, Vince Gilligan, Clint Eastwood throughout his career. Stone has been described as one of his favorites, “kind of like your first romance so to be speak”. His experience on Stone’s film Natural Born Killers was one of the most exciting points in his career. Bitsui was honored to get casted in the film Brothers and the chance to work with Jim Sheridan. Clint Eastwood intimidated him to the point where he couldn’t get his lines together because he wanted to do so well for the legendary director.

Bitsui recently wrapped a new TV show called The Night Shift, where he plays an army ranger. Bitsui’s said he is also open to the idea of working on Vince Gilligan’s spinoff of Breaking Bad titled Better Call Saul.

Whatever Bitsui decides to do next, he seems especially keen to playing characters who you’re not supposed to look up to. But, he doesn’t want you to do that, he wants you to understand them and hopefully find a certain level of respect.

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