After six seasons of playing the meth-dealing White in Breaking Bad, the Emmy winner changed gears to take on the role of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Broadway play All the Way. Cranston won a Tony for his performance, and is now shooting the HBO adaptation of the play, with the first image of him in character in this week's PEOPLE.
"Physically and emotionally Bryan completely channels LBJ," says director Jay Roach. "We just filmed him and Lady Bird in the Oval Office, after JFK's assassination. LBJ has arrived as the 'accidental President.' He's almost overwhelmed. In spiritual support, Lady Bird touches his cheek. We melted, like we went back in time and witnessed a private, heart-wrenching moment between these two great people."
Universal History Archive / Getty
The biopic begins right after John F. Kennedy's assassination, says Roach. "It covers the amazing 11-month journey from when LBJ takes office after JFK's assassination, through LBJ's fight to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and his own presidential campaign, culminating on the night LBJ is actually elected to the office – no longer the 'accidental President.' "
All the Way airs in 2016 on HBO.
For more on Bryan Cranston's transformation, pick up the new issue of People, on newsstands Friday.