All abuzz about Jonathan Banks

For a guy who’s built a career in film and on TV for playing sinister types and villains, including Mike Ehrmantraut on the award-winning TV drama “Breaking Bad,” Jonathan Banks seemed to have no trouble embracing the part of happy homecomer during a whirlwind visit to IU Bloomington last week.

Breaking Bad actor Jonathan Banks mugs in front of a video camera follwing the ceremony to formally dedicate IU's new Media School.

Actor Jonathan Banks mugs in front of a video camera following the ceremony to formally dedicate IU’s new Media School.

Best known for his memorable roles in “Breaking Bad,” “Community” and “Wiseguy,” Banks got his start in acting while a student in Btown in the 1960s. At the time, he appeared in a production of “Threepenny Opera” with fellow IU alumnus Kevin Kline, who was here just a few weeks ago.

If it seemed like Banks was everywhere during his return trip home, which happened to coincide with IU’s 2014 Homecoming celebration, that’s because he was. Speaking at the inauguration of the new Media School and dedication of a new sculpture of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle. Meeting with IU President Michael A. McRobbie. Conducting a master class with IU theater students. Riding with his daughter in the annual homecoming parade. Cheering on the Hoosier football squad. Delivering an inspiring talk at IU Cinema. Recording a new public service announcement. Posing for pictures with IU students thrilled to be in the presence of such an accomplished actor, who was anything but the bad guy he frequently plays on screen.

Everywhere he went he was warm and gracious, but not unwilling to spread a little tough love here and there, like when he implored students to watch out for the dangers of alcohol and talked passionately and forcefully about the need to care for and respect one another.

“Jonathan’s main motivation to return this week is to connect with theater students, both at the graduate and undergraduate level,” Jon Vickers, director of the IU Cinema, said prior to Banks’ visit. “He has told me several times how important his time here at IU was to him. He feels that he may be able to offer the students some wisdom collected from his 40-plus years in the business.”

Banks didn’t disappoint. And his message, delivered in his unmistakable, serious, deep-throated voice, couldn’t have been lost on anyone: “Be kind, don’t lie.”

Here’s hoping Banks will be true to his own word and bring more of his own kindness back to Btown very soon.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of various tweets chronicling Banks’ memorable and inspiring homecoming.

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