Emmy winner Anna Gunn talks Skyler White criticism, "Breaking Bad" finale

Anna Gunn
Anna Gunn, as seen in a recent interview with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King (not pictured).

(CBS News) For the past five years, audiences have been riveted by the trials and tribulations of Walter White on the AMC drama "Breaking Bad." But a lot of attention, both good and bad, is directed at his wife, Skyler.

With the series now just two episodes away from its conclusion, "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King sat down with Anna Gunn, the Emmy-nominated actress and mother of two who plays Skyler, as she gets ready for Sunday's big awards show.

For the past six seasons, "Breaking Bad" has told the story of a bland, unassuming, high-school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In order to support his family, Walter White decides to start cooking crystal meth.

Along the way, he transforms into one of New Mexico's biggest, baddest drug lords, leaving in his wake a high body count and a family in turmoil.

Gunn plays White's wife Skyler, who starts the series oblivious to his extracurricular activities. By the end, she's complicit in her husband's crimes.

Asked what she thought of the character when she first read the scripts, Gunn said, "She and Walt, I think, are very similar people in the pilot. They're people whose dreams were both deferred, they're disappointed, they're kind of downtrodden and Walt deals with it by essentially he's kind of put his head down and almost given up. And Skyler deals with it by trying to take charge and control things and manage things and figure things out."

King remarked, "Yeah, she's very in control and acts like everything is fine?"

Gunn replied, "Right, that's her way of dealing, and that's not necessarily a person that will make people feel warm and fuzzy, but it's a person that is understandable. I understood that kind of person."

Then, turning to the controversy surrounding Gunn's character, King said, "Well, listen, let's talk about warm and fuzzy 'cause, Anna, people don't like you! They don't like your character. I mean, you've been described as 'shrew,' 'harpy,' 'annoying, bitch wife.' 'I've never hated a TV show character as much as I hate her.' These are all things that people have written about you. And at some point it got so vicious that it even turned to you personally, where someone said, 'Tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her.' Did it scare you?"

Gunn said, "It didn't scare me at first, it started to scare me a little bit more down the line. I wondered how people could perceive a character who was trying to keep her kids safe, who had been trapped by this man in this situation, lied to, manipulated - why people would become that angry about that particular, about a fictional character, that it would come to the point where personal threats and attacks were being made? And it was disturbing to me."

And as Skyler took a turn on the show and show her own flaws, Gunn said the character was judged even more harshly by critics. She said, "And to me, that's when I started to look at the issue and think, wait a minute, what's going on here? Why are people judging this woman by these standards, but they're judging the man who's doing these things by these standards? What is that saying?"

Gunn isn't the only actress dealing with criticism like this. Edie Falco caught flack from fans when she played Carmela in "The Sopranos." And so did January Jones for her portrayal of Betty Draper in "Mad Men." Gunn addressed the issue in an op-ed for The New York Times.

Gunn said, "I think that it just brings up the question, which is why I wrote the op-ed piece, about that there is still a double standard, that there is still a way that we see men and women differently. I never would have written an op-ed piece for The New York Times before this. I never would have done that. ... I think it just, it pointed up to me that this is still alive, that we don't necessarily talk about it as much as perhaps we should, and because I was at the center of the firestorm essentially I thought that it was time for me to say something about it."

Asked if she always knew acting was something she wanted to do, Gunn said she's always loved storytelling. "It was a big thing in my family, and I suddenly realized that that was the part of storytelling that I wanted to go into. I loved it so much that it never occurred to me to do anything else. It was something that really did burn inside me from the beginning."

And does she think she's good at it?

Gunn said, "I do, I do - I do."

King said, "I like that you own that, I like that you do."

Gunn said, "Thank you, thank you. I think it's important. I mean, it took me a while to get there because you're- sometimes we're taught that we shouldn't own it. But I feel like I dedicated myself to study, and and I kept going at my craft. I always feel like there's room for improvement, but I feel like I'm good at what I do, and, more importantly, I love it."

So is she ready to let the character of Skyler White go?

Gunn said she is, and added, "I think there were times that I myself wanted Skyler to do more or to do different, to do things differently, but I understood her, I really did."

Two episodes away from the finale with the series taking a decidedly dark turn, King joked about the ending, "Will there be a musical number?"

Gunn replied, "Since it's you, Gayle, here's the thing, you'll never expect it. There's a huge musical number. We all go dancing off down the street."