Jonathan Banks – how he looked before Breaking Bad might surprise you

With a career spanning over five decades, the brilliant Jonathan Banks has consistently delivered stellar performances on the screen.

With his seemingly cold, dull eyes, he has the most natural bored-to-death look I’ve ever seen. Somehow it just works.

The 77-year-old actor is, of course, best known for his portrayal of Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad, and its spin-off Better Call Saul – but there is much more about this seasoned actor that not everyone may be aware of…

Gruff. Intense. Versatile.

From wise guys to cartel enforcers, Jonathan Banks is a maestro at orchestrating unforgettable performances. The clearest example of this is Banks’ brilliant portrayal of the hitman and fixer ”Mike Ehrmantraut” – undoubtedly one of my favorite characters in Breaking Bad.

Hailing from Chillum Heights, Maryland, the actor garnered six Emmy nominations for bringing life to supporting characters across three TV shows: WiseguyBreaking Bad, and Better Call Saul. According to himself, he began dreaming of becoming an actor at the age of 5.

Wikipedia Commons / Gage Skidmore

Jonathan Banks young

During the mid-1960s, Banks dropped out of Indiana University after his girlfriend became pregnant, initiating his journey into the world of acting.

Banks has been a fixture in Tinseltown since the early 1970s.

However, it took some time before the mainstream audience truly took notice of his talents. His rise to stardom started in the late 1980s, when Banks portrayed FBI Special Agent Frank McPike in Wiseguy, a CBS crime drama.

Posted by Glenn Burnett on Thursday, October 6, 2022

”It spoke to the darkness in all of us,” he once commented on his breakthrough role.

Following Wiseguy, he played bad guys in well-received series like TJ Hooker and Simon & Simon. He also acted in one episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and in Little House on the Prairie.

Then, in 2009, he landed the role that would come to define his entire acting career. When Banks’ got the chance to play Mike Ehrmantraut, a former Philadelphia cop turned enforcer for the Albuquerque cartel in AMC’s Breaking Bad, his whole life changed.

”The hardman with a heart” made an everlasting impression on the series, and the actor infused many of his real-life experiences into the character.

”Well, I love that character. That broken, broken character,” Banks told Washington Post in 2022.

Breaking Bad is still considered one of best TV shows ever made and with Mike’s badass attitude and heartfelt devotion to his granddaughter, he quickly became a fan favorite. The actor also has his own explanation for why his portrayal of the cantankerous former cop resonated with viewers.

Flickr / Bill Gracey

”I’m not very pretty, so I can’t play the leading man. So I’m either going to be the bad guy or the cop. And that’s – you know what? It’s a smart aleck answer, but it’s also there’s some truth in that. In the world of Hollywood and television, if you’re not beautiful, you better be able to act a little bit, anyway,” he told NPR.

Considering that Banks grew up with a mother who worked for CIA, it might not be that surprising that he often starred as a police officer or a bad guy. On the personal front, however, things have been significantly calmer.

Wikipedia Commons

Jonathan Banks wife

The veteran actor is a father of four and has been married twice – nothing dramatic compared to the usual Hollywood narrative. Banks tied the knot with his first wife, Marnie Fausch, at the age of 21. Even though their marriage lasted no more than two years, the couple welcomed a daughter during that time.

After that split, Banks enjoyed bachelor status for two decades – until he finally met ”the one”.

In 1988, Banks crossed paths with his second wife, Gennera Gonzalez Cebian, while in Spain. The couple exchanged vows in1990, and their union was later blessed with the arrival of fraternal twins. Additionally, Banks has a stepdaughter from this marriage.

Jonathan Banks (R) and wife Gennera Banks attend AMC Networks’ 68th Primetime Emmy Awards after-party celebration at BOA Steakhouse on September 18, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/FilmMagic)

Following in her father’s footsteps, his daughter Rebecca Elena Banks has pursued a similar path in the film and TV industry. She currently works as a film director and writer.

As he turns 77, Banks finds profound joy and fulfillment in life, and in interviews he describes himself as ”wildly lucky.”

”I’m stupid in love with my wife and always have been,” he told The Guardian.

Gennera has undeniably made a significant and positive addition to Banks’ life.

”My wife is from Spain, so when she first came here 30 years ago she had no idea what Thanksgiving was, but now she makes the best turkey stuffing. Then on Christmas Eve we have a Spanish Christmas and the table groans. It’s just magnificent. All the kids come home, boyfriends, husbands, whatever. They all come home and there are a lot of people in my house over Christmas, it’s great,” he recalled in a interview with Dad.info.com.

Jonathan Banks (R) and his wife, Gennera Banks, attend the Critics’ Choice Television Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on June 10, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/WireImage)

From his early days in the industry to his iconic roles in Breaking Bad and beyond, Banks has carved a legacy of versatility and depth.

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