What Vince Gilligan Did Before Breaking Bad

By Richard Goodwin •  Updated: 07/05/22 •  6 min read

Vince Gilligan is one of the most respected and brilliant creators working in TV today. But what did Vince Gilligan do before rising to fame with Breaking Bad? Let’s find out…


Getting a break in show business is tricky. Most aspiring writers and actors remain just that. But people do make it, although most of time it takes years – sometimes decades – to make a name for yourself in Hollywood. Vince Gilligan was no exception to this rule – the writer/director paid his dues for decades before landing his first major TV project, Breaking Bad.

Born in 1967, Vince Gilligan hails from Richmond, Virginia. His parents, a teacher and an insurance claims adjustor, were about as far removed from Hollywood as can be. Gilligan developed an interest in film at a young age after one of his mother’s friends lent him a Super 8 film camera. Gilligan then began making sci-fi films with his friends and his talents soon began to shine – he won first prize for his short film, Space Wreck, at a competition at Richmond University.

What Did Vince Gilligan Do Before Breaking Bad?

Prior to Breaking Bad, Gilligan put his vivid imagination to use as a scriptwriter. His big break came when one of his episode ideas was green-lighted for X-Files. Gilligan’s first major writing credit was for the X-Files episode Soft Light. Following the success of his first script, Gilligan went on to write an additional 29 explodes of X-Files, cementing his relationship with the show’s lead, Chris Carter.

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After the X-Files finished, Gilligan got his first chance at being a show lead. In conjunction with Carter, Gilligan put together all the elements of the first X-Files spinoff show, The Lone Gunmen. Gilligan wrote, directed, and produced The Lone Gunmen but, sadly, the show only ran for 13 episodes before it was canceled. Why was it canceled? It was to do with the 9/11 attacks. In the pilot episode, rogue US government stooges remotely hijacked a plane and crashed it into the World Trade Center.

The show came out months before the attacks, but after 9/11 it was felt that The Lone Gunman was a little too on the nose, so the show was canceled. Of course, because Gilligan sort of predicted the 9/11 attacks, a raft of conspiracy theories appeared online, suggesting both Gilligan and Carter had prior knowledge of what was about to transpire, and that The Lone Gunmen was done as a kind of warning. Like most conspiracy theories, these claims have little basis in reality, though.

During this period, 2001 to 2013, Gilligan worked on a few other shows and films, including Harsh Realm, Robbery Homicide Division, and Home Fries, starring Drew Barrymore, and Luke Wilson. He was also tasked with writing the pilot episode of Frank Spotnitz’s sci-fi show A.M.P.E.D. Gilligan also rewrote the screenplay for the Will Smith film Hancock, illustrating just how busy he was prior to pitching and landing Breaking Bad.

How Weeds Nearly Stopped Breaking Bad From Happening

The US show Weeds is kind of popular. Luckily, Vince Gilligan never watched it. If he had, Break Bad would have never happened. According to Gilligan, when he was initially pitching Breaking Bad, multiple studio execs highlighted its similarities to Weeds. Gilligan’s producers assured him the shows were different enough to co-exist, but Gilligan then went on to confirm that if he had seen Weeds, he probably wouldn’t have pursued Breaking Bad.

Thankfully, Gilligan stuck to his guns and finally got Breaking Bad commissioned by ANC. The show’s first season didn’t do too well in terms of numbers but the hype around the show quickly began to build, mostly through word of mouth on the internet. By the time Gilligan was working on season three of Breaking Bad, the show was a global, cultural phenomenon. By the end of its sixth season, reviewers were already calling Breaking Bad the greatest TV show of all time.

I feel like Walter White was in my head 24 hours a day. It was a sad thing when the show ended, it was bittersweet, but it also felt necessary for it to end when it did in terms of structure and in terms of not overstaying our welcome, but it also aided my mental health. It was kind of a good thing.

Vince Gilligan

Life After Breaking Bad…

When Gilligan concluded Breaking Bad, he developed a spin-off series based around Walter and Jesse’s lawyer, Saul Goodman. This show would go on to become Better Call Saul. And that show, now in its fifth season, is also considered by many reviewers to be one of the greatest TB shows of all time. In fact, I kind of enjoy it more than Breaking Bad, especially the last few seasons. And Gilligan has more plans to expand the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe too.

The magic of Better Call Saul is that it expands one of Breaking Bad’s best characters, Saul Goodman, so we can see how he went from being Jimmy McGill to who he eventually became in the Breaking Bad series. But because Better Call Saul is set before Breaking Bad, we get to see what ALL of the characters from Breaking Bad were up to before Jesse and Walter arrived on the scene.

Might We Get A Gus Fring Prequel?

Gilligan’s Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe has so much depth, and so many interesting characters, that the possibilities of what Gilligan could do with them are endless. Once Better Call Saul concludes, we could well have a Gus Fring prequel, or a series based on the Salamanca crime family, for instance – there are just so many potential storylines. Fittingly, Giancarlo Esposito is very keen on doing a series about the rise of his character, Gustavo Fring.

Don’t expect to see any more shows from the Breaking Bad/Better Call Universe any time soon, though. Both Gilligan and Gould, the creators of Better Call Saul, have stated that they both need a break from these characters after Better Call Saul concludes. Interestingly, though, Gilligan has admitted that there are still “stories left to tell”, so there is always hope for more shows based in and around the worlds of Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Gus Fring, and Saul Goodman.

Or, maybe Gilligan and Gould will conclude the show after Better Call Saul. I mean, that’d be the classy way to end things: leave it as it is, perfect and amazing. If they did more and more shows, there would inevitably be a dip in quality, and that, as we’ve seen with Star Wars and Marvel, would inevitably dilute the show’s overall pedigree. Me? I’d happily watch anything Gilligan and Gould do. But I’d totally understand if they never returned to the Breaking Bad universe after finishing Better Call Saul.

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Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.

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