Sunday Spotlight: Bryan Cranston as LBJ

Robert Schenkkan on his play "All the Way," starring "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston.
3:00 | 09/15/13

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Transcript for Sunday Spotlight: Bryan Cranston as LBJ
Time now for our "sunday spotlight" shining this week on lyndon johnson. In a new play about one of the country's most tortured presidents, "breaking bad's" bryan cranston stars as lbj. Portraying the moments in 1964 when a president anointed by tragedy achieved the goals of a lifetime. Linsey davis takes us behind the scenes. Reporter: As recorded by history -- the greatest leader of our time. Has been struck -- struck down by the foulest deed of our time. Reporter: And now reenacted on stage. Lyndon johnson was a man who suddenly found himself front and center during a turning point for the country. I'm an accidental president, dick. Reporter: In "all the way." The highly anticipated new drama opening this week, the self-described accidental president is played by bryan cranston. So let me clue you in. I'm not in danger, skylar. I am the danger. Reporter: He's won three emmys for his role as walter white in the critically acclaimed amc hit, "breaking bad," as a chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer who turns to a life of crime to ensure his family's financial future before he dies. Where, where did he keep it? Reporter: And now, another intense role. Our cameras were there as he reversed for his latest turn as the country's 36th president. Why did you choose bryan cranston for lbj? He's funny, entertaining, endearing, and then terrifying. That's what lbj was. He was all those things. Reporter: The play takes us through a period of 12 months, beginning with lbj's swearing in as president in november of 1963 through the passage of the civil rights act. Its purpose is not to divide but to end divisions. Reporter: He's responsible for landmark legislation. Was he a masterful politician? Oh, without question. He loved the deal-making. The muscling. He was ferocious about it. On the qt, you understand? Reporter: One major thing is the morality of power and the lengths lbj was willing to go to to get congress to act. We take pleasure in how he bullies and manipulates and lies in order to achieve passage of the 1964 civil rights bill. And then, we watch him use the same tool kit to ensure his re-election. And to take us into vietnam. And we stop cheering. That's what the play is about. It's a bloody, messy business. Reporter: A business that's only gotten worse? At least before it was productive. Now it's bloody and messy and we're not doing anything. In 1964, there was no shame in crossing the aisle and making a deal. Reporter: In the end, it's a story about a president. An accidental president who very purposefully managed to shift the politics of the day. What he did in terms of civil rights in this country was extraordinary. The civil rights act broke the back of jim crow. And changed this country forever. To me, that's heroic. Reporter: For "this week." Linsey davis in cambridge, massachusetts. Cannot wait to see that performance. A remarkable resemblance. Now we honor our fellow americans who served and sacrifice. The this week, the pentagon released the name of one soldier killed in afghanistan. That's it for this sunday. Thanks for sharing part of your sunday with us. Check out "world news" with david muir tonight. I'll see you tomorrow on "gma." older,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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