Bryan Cranston realized his 'white blindness' in the wake of racial justice movement

For Bryan Cranston, living through the pandemic and the calls for racial justice in the last couple of years has been more than eye-opening; It's been life-changing.

The former Breaking Bad star was so affected that he ditched his plan to direct a Los Angeles production of the award-winning play The Foreigner, a comedy about a man who prevents the Ku Klux Klan from taking over a fishing lodge. Suddenly, the subject just wasn't funny to him anymore.

"It is a privileged viewpoint to be able to look at the Ku Klux Klan and laugh at them and belittle them for their broken and hateful ideology," Cranston told the L.A. Times in an interview published Wednesday. "But the Ku Klux Klan and Charlottesville and white supremacists — that's still happening and it's not funny. It’s not funny to any group that is marginalized by these groups' hatred, and it really taught me something."

Bryan Cranston stars in the play
Bryan Cranston stars in the play Power of Sail. (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)

Cranston wondered how he had missed something that had always been there.

"And I realized, 'Oh my God, if there's one, there's two, and if there's two, there are 20 blind spots that I have … what else am I blind to?'" he said. "If we're taking up space with a very palatable play from the 1980s where rich old white people can laugh at white supremacists and say, 'Shame on you,' and have a good night in the theater, things need to change, I need to change."

So, instead of the other project, Cranston opted to appear onstage in Power of Sail, which begins production this month is L.A. It's about a Harvard University professor who invites a white nationalist to speak at his symposium, prompting questions about free speech and backlash. One of his colleagues explains his belief that if the intolerant are allowed to express their hateful views, those people will take over.

"There need to be barriers, there need to be guard rails," Cranston said. "If someone wants to say the Holocaust was a hoax, which is against history… to give a person space to amplify that speech is not tolerance. It's abusive."

At the same time, he believes people should be allowed to apologize after they make a mistake.

"Somewhere in this more hardened world — this less civil world that we find ourselves in — someplace, somewhere, lives forgiveness," he said.