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Actor Bryan Cranston reveals his strategy for choosing winning roles

Josh Ascher, CNBC producer
Bryan Cranston: Choosing the next Walter White

A few years removed from his starring role as Walter White on "Breaking Bad," actor Bryan Cranston can afford to be picky. But the four-time Emmy winner isn't taking any chances when it comes to choosing his next project.

Cranston, who stars in the new film "The Infiltrator," told CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla that he has his own system for choosing each part — something he calls CAPS, or "Cranston assessment of projects system."

"I had to really clear my head and go 'Wait, let me individually rate the value of the story and the quality of the script. Did the script support the story completely or were you kind of disappointed?'" Cranston said, adding that his scale ranges from 1 to 20 and he considers factors like the director, other actors and how little time he may spend with his family.

Bryan Cranston
Anthony Behar | Bravo | Getty Images

Whether it's cable, network or film, Cranston's biggest concern is that it's well written. "That is the one thing that I know, unequivocally, that is the place to go. It's never failed me," Cranston said.

"It's all about how well written is this text that supports this great story. And without those two things first in place, the character doesn't mean much," he said.

For Cranston his new film, "The Infiltrator," passes the test. He plays Bob Mazur, an undercover DEA agent trying to infiltrate Pablo Escobar's drug cartel. But unlike Walter White, he's not exactly breaking bad. But did his most famous role help with this character?

"No, because he was operating on a different set of circumstances," Cranston said, referring to the fact that Walter White already knew his fate. "He only had two years to live. He was a dead man walking, so it changes the equation when you know the end game is already set. Your risk-taking ability grows."

One of the things that attracted Cranston to the role of Bob Mazur was his ability to identify with the DEA agent's human side. Driving his point home, Cranston revealed this telling story:

"I was talking to his daughter, and she said there was a code when they were driving around in the family car. Bob was always scanning, looking in the rearview mirror ... looking to see if he knew anybody," Cranston said. "So they would have a code word. If Bob said this code word, the kids would just fall to the floorboards and not move or say a word. And I thought, Oh, my God. What that must have been like."

Devour the full season of "Binge" with Carl Quintanilla here.