Did You Know Jonathan Banks is From DC?
By Gretchen Kast
This is a new series called “Did You Know They Were From DC?”, in which I profile people whom you may be surprised to learn have a connection to the District.
That’s right. Mike the Cleaner was born in Washington, D.C.
The deep, gravelly voice, the dead-eyed stare, the shining bald head, Jonathan Banks is undoubtedly terrifying.
While arguably one of the most cold-blooded characters of Breaking Bad, there is an undeniable appeal to Banks’ Mike Ehrmentraut, something that makes you want to root for him. Perhaps it’s his unwavering devotion to his granddaughter Kaylie or his fatherly affection towards Jesse. With each bullet shot, he seems to sigh, shake his head, and move forward. He’s hardworking and unflinching, unquestionably loyal. He does what needs to be done.
Banks has a history of playing intimidating characters.In the 80’s crime show Wiseguy, Banks played Frank McPike, a superior officer in a fictional branch of the FBI, a role that, like his stint as Ehrmentraut, garnered him an Emmy nomination. On the big screen, he’s often the villian (as he was in Beverly Hills Cop). And, more recently, he was seen on network TV as Ben Wyatt’s stern father on Parks and Recreation.
Typecast he may be, but he plays the role well, perhaps because it’s one that hits close to home. In interviews, Banks has implied that he had some real-life inspiration for these gruff characters growing up here in D.C. “I grew up in Washington, D.C. Suffice to say, it was not a garden spot.” Instead, he grew up on a “really blue-collar block” in North East with his single-mother, who worked as an officer manager for the CIA. “They would security check her,” he revealed. “Every couple of years, agents would go to the neighbors and talk to them. Her secretaries were using typewriters and had to burn their carbons everyday.”
Banks doesn’t often talk at length about his time in DC, explaining that “there’s nothing more boring than seeing a guy in an interview talking about, “Yeah, the neighborhood, how tough it was, it was this, it was this.” You wanna go, “Shut your mouth. Just shut up. Do you know how lucky you are to be out of it, if indeed everything you’re saying is true?”
He’s coy when asked if he can relate specifically to his Breaking Bad character, saying, “Maybe I do. I know a lot of people. At this age you’ve collected a lot of acquaintances, and a few friendships.”
Banks left DC to attend Indiana University Bloomington, before dropping out to work as a stage manager. He eventually moved to L.A. in the 1970’s to pursue acting. Today, Banks cites himself as “one of the luckiest people in the world.”