- Charles Baker will attend a screening of Knife Thursday at the Modern in Fort Worth. Details.
Most popular for playing Skinny Pete on Breaking Bad, Charles Baker first moved to Fort Worth to live with his mom when he was seven. Growing up, he lived in and out of the city as he visited his dad who was in military. Now, at 40, Baker calls Fort Worth home and can’t imagine living in L.A. “I feel really privileged to be working on the things I’m working on and still be living here,” he says about his decision to stay in DFW. “I think Texas can bring a lot of the acting and film industry if people just give it a chance.” In an interview, the actor talks to us about living in Fort Worth, his recurring role on Breaking Bad, and what his project Knife (directed by Fort Worth filmmaker James Johnston), which will be screened at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Thursday, Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Tell us about Knife. How did you get involved in that film?
It’s an awesome project. I guess the official way to describe it… it’s a southern Gothic tale of greed and revenge. It’s a beautifully told story about the way this guy is dealing with a particular injustice he feels has happened to him and his family. It’s a silent film and that’s what drew me to it. It’s very simple. I was actually approached on Facebook through mutual Facebook friends. James [Johnston] had started on getting this movie made and he saw my head shot on a mutual Facebook friend’s profile. He thought I had the right face for the film. He didn’t really know what my background was when he saw the picture. He asked my friend if he thought I’d be interested in doing the movie and he showed him my resume. We decided to meet and talked about the idea. We talked about the silent aspect of the film and he thought that might turn some people away from the project, but I was actually really interested in doing a movie that didn’t involve dialogue.
I had studied at the Hip Pocket Theatre under Johnny Simmons. he’s known for his mime skills. [For Knife] I was using a lot of the physical acting that I learned on stage from Johnny Simmons. It was a neat and really fun experience. James is just a visionary. As simple as it is, it came out to be a beautiful film.
Hip Pocket is right in Fort Worth, it’s over…
Yeah, I love it. It’s such a cool place.
I worked [at Hip Pocket] for six years. I met my wife there. She has a degree in theater from TCU, but she moved on to Texas Wesleyan and got a law degree. She works in Grapevine for an oil and gas company. But she does some acting on the side.
You’re involved in a Terrence Malick film. Is there anything about the project or your role you can tell us?
Not really. We all agreed not to, out of respect for the director. I can say I have a pretty big-sized role in it. And it’s one of the few times I’m not playing a criminal or a bad guy like I do in Breaking Bad [laughs]. It was a great honor to be a part of the film.
Have you started shooting that yet?
We shot that last October and November.
Are you working on any other projects?
I’m doing another short film with a local director, John Keys. He’s a horror director mostly. It’s called Botanical Graves. We start shooting that in mid-August. I’m also working on producing a project from a local writer. It’s called Morality. It’ll probably be another year before that’s totally done. We’re going to use that to showcase how Texas has some phenomenal talent both behind the camera and in front of the camera.
You bring a lot of detail and character to your role as Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad. How do you prepare for that role each season?
It’s mostly the writing that does it for me. I had my dark past when I was younger, but it wasn’t quite as dark as that. I draw a lot of my character for that show for people I know, people I see. Part of the time growing up, my mom and I went from here to New Mexico for a few years. I noticed that some people have the same dialect and speech. Not the gang speech, but kind of like the Hispanic feel. Albuquerque seems to have it’s own dialogue and dialect. As far as preparing, when I was hired, it was just the skinny stoner character. It was for one episode. I didn’t put too much thought into the character, just how the character said certain things. When I was brought back in, I had already set the tone for the character so I built on that. I used to have to go back to the first few episodes and mimic what I had been doing. It took a while before that set in. Now, I put on the hat and the clothes and Skinny Pete is there. It’s really kind of neat.
Has anything from the character carried over into your real life? Not the drug aspect, obviously, but maybe mannerisms or speech.
I actually do find myself saying “yo” a lot more now, especially when I’m kidding around with my friends and family. Other than that, no, not really. It’s kind of funny, people don’t recognize me as Skinny Pete without the hat. Even on set, people don’t see me as Skinny Pete without the hat. And when I’m back home, I’m just back to being Charlie, stay-at-home dad. Just regular normal life. My wife thinks it keeps me from being too big-headed about being Skinny Pete [laughs].
Earlier this year, you told a Fort Worth Weekly reporter that the arts community in Fort Worth is underrated. What do you think people are missing?
Well there’s a tremendous arts community here. Theater, ballet, the museums, the different kinds of theaters we have, event the local painters. Texas, to the rest of the country, has a stigma of being just a bunch of cowboys. We don’t get the credit we deserve for the arts here. I’ve met so many people from New York who come here and say, “Wow. I’m amazed by how great the arts community is here.” And I’m like, “Why? We’re a huge city. Why wouldn’t you think we have good theater here? Or, “why wouldn’t you think we have talent here?” I think we just have a reputation for being something other than artistically-minded.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Fort Worth.
I love Bass Hall. Some of the stuff that comes in through there… my wife used to work there so we’re always privy to what’s going on. We still stay in touch with what’s going on there. Fred’s Burgers, off of 7th and Currie, have the best burgers. We just can’t find burgers like that anywhere else. I love the Botanic Gardens. I have a four-year-old I love to take there when it’s not 104 degrees. Hip Pocket Theater, Jubilee Theater, all those places are our hang out spots.