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Originally published Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 11:56 AM

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Bryan Cranston 'transformative' in surprising Broadway role

Bryan Cranston will surprise Broadway audiences when he portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson after being so closely associated with his "Breaking Bad" anti-hero, says the producer who is luring the actor to a New York stage.

AP Drama Writer

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NEW YORK —

Bryan Cranston will surprise Broadway audiences when he portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson after being so closely associated with his "Breaking Bad" anti-hero, says the producer who is luring the actor to a New York stage.

"It's truly a transformative performance, I think. I don't use that word lightly," says Jeffrey Richards, who is producing the Cranston-led "All the Way," which just concluded its run near Boston. "It's especially thrilling to see an actor embody a role the way that he does."

Cranston plays Johnson during his first year in office following the assassination of John F. Kennedy and explores both his fight for re-election and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It's by writer Robert Schenkkan, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for his epic "The Kentucky Cycle"

The new play made its debut at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and then jumped to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., which has produced a number of shows that eventually won Tony Awards, including "Once," `'The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" and "Pippin."

Richards, who has produced the current Broadway hit revival of "The Glass Menagerie" and the upcoming "The Bridges of Madison County," said Tuesday he's not ready to say when the play will open on Broadway but Cranston will definitely be front and center when it does.

"He is unassuming. He is funny. He is charming," said Richards. "He's a wonderful team player. And he's a natural on the stage," he said. "I think people are going to be hopefully as impressed as I am with the portrayal."

Cranston, who showed his comedic side in TV's "Malcolm in the Middle," is now best known as the school chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White in "Breaking Bad," who built a fortune over the bodies of his enemies.

"Some people say it's perfect casting for Lyndon Baines Johnson," said Richards with a laugh.

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