Bryan Cranston Says Charles Manson 'Was Drugged Out of His Mind' When They Crossed Paths: 'You Couldn't Take Your Eyes Off Him'

Many actors begin working in the industry at a very young age, but some don’t get their breakout role until well into adulthood. That was the case for Bryan Cranston, a.k.a. Walter White, the science-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin. He was in his 50s when AMC’s Breaking Bad stunned audiences, but he had worked as an actor since his 20s. The incredible actor had a unique childhood and a very interesting young adulthood, traveling across the country with his brother. He also happened to run into one of history’s craziest cult leaders when he was a child …

Who are Bryan Cranston’s parents?

Bryan Cranston’s childhood wasn’t very easy. His parents had a very rough divorce, and his father, Joe Cranston, actually left the family when Bryan was just 11 years old. The abrupt abandonment was incredibly hard for his mother, Peggy Sell, who turned to alcohol for comfort. She became an alcoholic and developed problems with depression, according to Route Magazine. Due to his mother’s unstable condition, Cranston and his brother had to assume a lot of responsibility at a young age.

His older brother joined an organization called the Police Explorers. He traveled a lot with the group, visiting places like Japan and Hawaii.  Cranston looked up to his brother and thought the Explorers group would be the only way he’d ever be able to travel and see the world. Cranston also joined when he was 16 years old, and discovered he was very talented at the work involved. He graduated first in his Explorers class at the LAPD Academy and went on to study Police Science in college. 

Although he did well in college, he realized that he didn’t really have a passion for police work. He came to this realization after thoroughly enjoying an acting class in his second year. His brother had the same feelings toward the police work, and the two decided to take a break and ride their motorcycles across the country. They hoped the adventure would help them decide what they wanted to do with their lives. They spent two years on the road, traveling from California to Florida, and then up the east coast and back down again.

During their trip, they worked at a variety of odd jobs, including carnivals and cafes. It was during this time that Cranston decided he wanted to pursue a career in acting. He had a steady career during the ’80s, appearing on popular shows like CHiPs and Hillstreet Blues. He became widely recognized in 2000 when he starred as the dad in the sitcom Malcolm In the Middle, and then enjoyed the role of a lifetime as Walter White in Breaking Bad.

He had a close encounter with Charles Manson

Cranston’s road trip led to many memorable encounters with interesting characters, but none of those topped one incident that happened when he was about 10 years old. He and his cousin were horseback riding at the infamous Spahn Ranch when they caught a glimpse of one of history’s most notorious cult leaders. Spahn Ranch had once been used as a set for many television shows and films, including Bonanza and The Lone Ranger.

However, by the time the late ’60s rolled around, the ranch had fallen into disrepair. The owner, George Spahn, was 81 years old and couldn’t take care of it by himself. Right around that time, a member of Charles Manson’s “family” stumbled upon the ranch. They had recently been kicked out of their home, and the ranch was the perfect place for the cult to squat unnoticed. Eventually, Manson approached Spahn and offered to work the ranch in return for room and board, and Spahn happily agreed. 

Since Manson lived on the ranch, he and his cult members were often seen on the riding trails. In an interview on the podcast (available on Apple), Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Cranston recalled the day that he saw the cult leader on the trail. When he and his cousin were getting their horses ready, a person suddenly started shouting “Charlie’s on the hill!” 

A little while later, they were on their way on the trail when a large group came riding at them. Cranston recalled that there were six to eight people in the group, with Manson in the center: 

“And we noticed right in the middle there was one guy sitting on a horse who was not holding his own reins, but the guy in front of him was holding his horse’s reins. And we saw him, this guy, short guy, black shoulder-length hair, black eyes and drugged out of his mind, undulating to the movement of his horse, going, ‘Ehhhh.’”

Two years later, Manson was arrested for the murders of Sharon Tate and six other people. Cranston and his cousin saw the news reports and instantly recognized the face from the riding trail. 

What is he working on now?

Cranston is likely getting ready for a trip to the Oscars later this month. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed that the actor is on the star-studded list of presenters for this year’s ceremony. Joining Cranston as a presenter are Halle Berry, Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford, Renee Zellweger, and many others. He’s also busy making some real estate moves, as Architectural Digest reports. He recently sold his eco-friendly beach house just two weeks after listing it. The Ventura County house sold for $5.45 million. That’s more than double what he paid for it, so he definitely knows how to strike a deal!

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