Bryan Cranston was left to live on his grandparents' farm after his father left the family

By Stephanie Petit
Updated October 09, 2016 03:24 PM
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Credit: George Pimentel/WireImage

Bryan Cranston followed in his father’s footsteps to become an actor, but his parents were not always there for the Breaking Bad star.

In a lengthy feature in the U.K.’s Sunday Times, the 60-year-old actor opens up about his parents, who were no longer fit to care for him and his two siblings when he was just a pre-teen.

When Cranston was just 11, his father, Joe, left home after being unable to jump start his acting career. His mother, Peggy, took to drinking to cope, eventually leading to Cranston being sent to live on his grandparents’ farm.

“He chose not to be with us or see us or be a father,” he said of his father’s abandonment. “My mother chose to become an alcoholic and drown her sorrows and sadness and resentment. She was like a ghost of herself. And no one ever explained why he left.”

The broken family left him with a lot of anger and resentment issues.

“There’s still a lot of pain I’m dealing with,” he says. “It’s worse than if they died in a car crash, because they were still there physically, somewhere. My mom and dad up through 10 years old were really wonderful, that’s what was so awful about it. My mother was engaging and my dad was my coach; we did things together and he brought home a donkey for us to play with. Then it all disappeared.”

Although it was difficult, Cranston was able to reconnect with both of his parents.

His mother suffered from Alzheimer’s in her final years, but the disease made her forget about her husband’s abandonment and enjoy life again. She even had a tryst with actor Albert Paulsen, who was also suffering from Alzheimer’s, while in her nursing home.

“I feel far more sorry for those people who had really good relationships with a parent and then, all of a sudden, in a matter of a few months, that person slips away,” says Cranston. “That’s cruelty. With me, it was more fortunate that the disconnect happened when I was 13 years old.”

His father saw Cranston become a successful actor before he passed away in 2014, but his greatest memory was when his kids were able to accept him back in their lives. A note from just three days before he died found in his home read, “The highlight of my life was when my children forgave me.”