El Camino: A Breaking Bad movie writer-director Vince Gilligan admits he “just couldn’t figure out” how to incorporate Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) or the family of Walter White (Bryan Cranston): wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), son Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) and sister-in-law Marie (Betsy Brandt). The film, centered around Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) escape from New Mexico amid a statewide manhunt for his role in Walter’s meth empire, includes appearances from dead Breaking Bad characters Mike (Jonathan Banks), Jane (Krysten Ritter), Todd (Jesse Plemons) and Walt, alongside supporting roles for Ed the disappearer (Robert Forster) and Pinkman associates Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones), among others.
“Primarily, I do want to see what happened to Skyler and Walt Jr. and Marie. I just couldn’t figure out how to work them in,” Gilligan told Rolling Stone. “If they laid eyes on Jesse, they’d immediately call the cops on him. And I wouldn’t blame them. But you don’t want to see that. I couldn’t think of a reason they’d believably wind up interacting. It’s not like they’d be trying to help him out.”
Instead, there’s “shadows of other characters,” Gilligan added, pointing to the inclusion of a real-life Twisters restaurant that operated as Fring’s Pollos Hermanos restaurant in Breaking Bad.
“We have a quick time-lapse shot of the Pollos Hermanos, which is now a Twisters — it’s been rebranded, it says under new ownership on the sign. We’ve got shout-outs to things like that,” Gilligan said. “Also, I remember thinking during the plotting process, ‘It’d be cool too if we could see Giancarlo Esposito. Could we see Gus in a flashback?’ But I couldn’t figure that out either. You just go where the story takes you.”
As for Walt — whose death, depicted in the Breaking Bad series finale, is confirmed once and for all in the form of a radio bulletin in El Camino — “his story is over,” Gilligan noted. Walt appears one last time in a pivotal flashback set during the events of Season 2.
“As to Skyler and Marie and Walter Jr., I tried very hard to find ways to get them into the movie, just because I love those three actors so much,” Gilligan said. “And at a certain point, it didn’t feel like Jesse’s story. It’s Bill Faulkner thing: You have to ultimately kill your darlings.”