Bryan Cranston and Robin Dearden: Their Hostage Love Story

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Bryan Cranston met his wife Robin Dearden when he put a gun to her head. Dearden was an actress in the helicopter drama Airwolf, playing a hostage, and Cranston was the villain of the week. Thus began their Hollywood love story.

“We met on that terrible TV show,” Cranston later said of the experience. “It changed both of our lives.”

Bryan Cranston’s Early Life

Bryan Cranston was born in Los Angeles in 1956 to Annalisa Cranston, a radio actress, and Joseph Louis Cranston, a failed actor and amateur boxer who walked out on the family when Cranston was just 11. Later in life, Cranston and his brother tracked their father down and their friendship grew throughout the rest of his old man’s life.

Cranston later said he modeled his physical performance of Walter White off his father: “Walter is always a little hunched over, never erect. The message to the audience is that the weight of the world is on this man’s shoulders.”

Naturally, Cranston entered the family business of entertainment. After college, he started working in theater and throughout the 1980s, he found a lot of bit parts on TV. One of these, on the CBS drama Airwolf, changed his life forever.

Bryan Cranston’s Family

Robin Dearden and Bryan Cranston via via Invision

Bryan Cranston married his first wife, the writer Mickey Middleton, when he was just 21 years old and they divorced five years later. Then, in 1986, he met his future wife Robin Dearden — but their introduction was no typical meet-cute.

Cranston, always the working TV actor, took any part he could get during the 1980s. One of these was on Airwolf: an action drama that focused on the crew of Airwolf, a high-tech military helicopter. In the 1986 episode “Desperate Monday,” Cranston played the villain of the week: Robert Hillis, a jilted lover who hijacks a sorority reunion cruise.

Enter the young Robin Dearden, who played one of the sorority sisters — taken hostage by Cranston’s character! “He actually had a gun to my head,” Dearden later told People. But it was the ultimate bad boy fantasy. “He’s kind of cute, he’s got a gun…” she continued, remembering the experience.

“A little danger, a little laughter!” Cranston added in the same interview.

It wasn’t all a fantasy though, at least not at first. Cranston had a girlfriend at the time and Dearden had a boyfriend… which led to some prolonged feelings. “Because she had a boyfriend and I had a girlfriend, we were able to flirt without the heavy sexual tension, but there was sexual tension, let me tell you! But not the heavy sexual tension, not the ‘faux pas’ sexual tension, but it was there,” Cranston explained.

Then Cranston and Dearden ran into each other one year later, and greeted each other with a kiss. But it was not a friendly kiss. They lingered — long. “We were both like, ‘Wait that was too long, wasn’t it?!'” Cranston recalled. And instantly, they knew.

Taylor Dearden Cranston, Bryan Cranston, and Robin Dearden via via Getty

Now, the couple is thankful for the wait. “I think it was serendipitous, because, as Robin says, if we had been unencumbered at the time and started dating, she doesn’t think that we would have stayed together,” Cranston said. Instead, they built a long, happy, and successful life together.

With Dearden by his side, Cranston would go on to become one of the most respected actors on television. After making more of a name for himself during the ’90s, with supporting film roles and a funny turn on Seinfeld, Cranston’s true breakthrough came in 2000 with Malcom in the Middle. He played father Hal for seven seasons on that show, flexing his comedic chops.

Shortly after Malcom in the Middle came to an end, Cranston found an even more iconic role: Walter White on Breaking Bad. Over the course of the series, White transforms from a mild-mannered high school teacher into the meth-making kingpin Heisenberg. And on screen, Cranston transformed too. It was hard for Malcolm in the Middle fans to believe! As White, Cranston played the ultimate anti-hero to perfection: manipulative, ruthless, and sympathetic all at once.

Dearden and Cranston’s daughter, the actress Taylor Dearden Cranston, also appeared in Breaking Bad — alongside her mother! Both Robin and Taylor feature in the season three episode “No Más.” Taylor, born in 1993, is the couple’s only child. However, in 2022, Cranston also became godfather to the son of his Breaking Bad co-star Aaron Paul.

Bryan Cranston on ‘Airwolf’

READ MORE: Bryan Cranston is Godfather to Aaron Paul’s Kid

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