Photo: Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)

Vince Gilligan, the man best known for playing the cowboy host of a vintage VHS game on an episode of Community, took part in an onstage panel discussion last night, and during the conversation, he made it clear the world feels different than it was a decade ago—and that maybe we need some better people to watch as a result.

Deadline reports that during a PaleyLive talk to promote the upcoming CNN documentary series The 2000s: A Look Back at the Dawn of TV’s New Golden Age—and presumably present it with a special award for succinctness in titling—Gilligan weighed in when former HBO president Carolyn Strauss discussed how the current political climate is creating a different consciousness, not just in the minds of viewers, but both those creating shows and buying them. “We need a laugh,” he said, perhaps thinking of the other job he’s most known for, i.e. a guest appearance as the voice of Axalon on the animated series Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero. He continued:

I can tell you just from the way Walter White came about. I watch a lot of TV. I love TV. I still do. Growing up I watched a lot of ’50s, ’60s TV, and back then the order of the day [was] you had the folks wearing the white hats and the folks wearing the black hats. You had good guys and bad guys.

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Gilligan noted that Tony Soprano, Walter White, and The Shield’s Vic Mackey all demonstrated the pivot to more complex characters and the ascendence of the anti-hero during prestige television of the 2000s. But he stressed that in our current era of rancor, violence, and division, “It’s time for heroes again.”

I don’t know that we can ever go back to the characters that are all good or all bad, but maybe around the corner are more characters who are flawed, who work very hard to do the right thing and who want to be good, even when they’re not. Even when they try and they fail. They have feet of clay but still do their best to self-sacrifice.

The actor also received a moment of acknowledgement onstage for his lesser-known creative work, specifically his use of some brief moments of free time in between his indelible small-screen performances to create and serve as showrunner for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. No word on whether he will take more time off from his captivating, Oscar-worthy thespian skills to create some of these new fictional heroes, but we’ll keep you updated as the actor plots his next move.

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