Anna Gunn Begins New Role in Sex With Strangers
By Stephanie Cohen, Wall Street Journal
"In the play Sex With Strangers, Gunn portrays a woman with a fear of the Internet and the anonymous vitriol it can spew. Gunn, who was the subject of anonymous Internet attacks while playing the morally ambiguous wife of TV’s most beloved meth kingpin, is very comfortable with the material —maybe too comfortable. Facebook pages, websites and message boards devoted to passionately hating Skyler White have spurred Gunn to speak out against anonymous character bashing and in defense of strong-willed women.”
There are a lot of similarities between you and this character, especially in the part of the play that deals with reactions to her work online.
Anna Gunn: Probably the most resonant line in the play to me is [when Ethan says:] ‘People will think [the book] is incredible, but not everyone.’ And she says, ‘How do I make myself hard enough to withstand all the bad but stay soft enough to still be the writer I want to be?’ I went through that certainly with Breaking Bad and the whole Skyler thing, which was a huge surprise to the writers, to Vince Gilligan, to me. It took a few years to fully understand what was really involved. Walt was the protagonist, and I was often the antagonist, because I stood in his way more than anybody else.
People were incredibly angry.
AG: It was shocking, and it was frightening, and it hurt sometimes, too, but once I got over that I really could understand some of it.
There was a lot of online sniping about weight gain and weight loss.
AG: I have two herniated disks, one in my neck and one in my lower back. I got thrown from a horse like eight years ago and fractured my sacrum. It was very painful, and they were trying to control that with cortisone. I did gain a substantial amount of weight and looked different because the cortisone just puffed me up, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was one of the toughest things I’ve had to go through as an actor. It was venomous and vitriolic and really, really tough.
There is an element of misogyny that went into all of this. But that’s a tough word to say out loud sometimes.
AG: Vince Gilligan used that word in an interview. But it wasn’t only men. There were a lot of women who had a hard time with Skyler. Some women got frustrated that she didn’t do more. They wanted her to be a little more badass in a way. But that was not her part in that story. She became rendered incapable of movement at a certain point.
The person who made the death threat against me [writing online: “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?”] was a 19-year-old female, not a man.
The police had to check it out. So they called her, and she said, ‘Oh, no, I had just watched the episode where she makes Walt take Walt, Jr.’s car back, and I was so angry at the character.’ And they said, ‘But you used her real name,’ And she said, ‘I didn’t mean anything by it.’ There was such a disconnect. A lot of women were the most aggressive and ugliest in hating her.
– Photo by Elizabeth Lippman for The Wall Street Journal
He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.
"Oh, that’s a big boy, isn’t he?"
Watch the full episode here.