A chat with Aaron Paul, Aaron Paul interview, Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman, Big Love
Aaron Paul

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When last we spoke with Aaron Paul, Season 2 of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” was just getting ready to kick off, which meant that all the actor was willing to do was tease about what we could expect to see in the upcoming episodes. Here we are a year later, and the scenario is suspiciously similar: Season 3 of the series kicks off on March 21st, and once again we find Mr. Paul keeping mostly mum. Still, in the midst of reflecting on the development of Jesse Pinkman during the course of the series’ second season, he did manage to give up a few tidbits here and there. Note: this interview took place immediately after the show’s panel at the Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour, prior to Bullz-Eye’s visit to the set of “Breaking Bad.”

Bullz-Eye: The last time I talked to you, you said, “At the end of season two, no one is going to see it coming. It’s beautiful.” Well played, sir. Well played, indeed.

Aaron Paul: (Laughs) Thank you. And it’s true, right?

BE: Totally. What was the most surprising revelation for the season for you?

AP: This season?

BE: Of season two.

AP: Oh, of season two. Wow…

BE: I realize there were a lot of them.

"I think you’re going to see such a change in everybody in this season. The stakes are much higher. Jesse goes through a huge change throughout season three. He kind of accepts who he is and maybe he accepts he’s not really that good of a person. It’s very sad. This season is really intense. It’s much darker, if that’s possible."

AP: There’s so many, but I think…oh, wow. In terms with Jesse and Walt, at the end of episode 12, right before the finale, when Walt comes to Jesse’s place after talking to Jane’s father in the bar and Jane starts choking, you saw Walt almost lean in to help her but then decides not to. And that just speaks volumes on where his character is going, because he allows her to die. Technically, he kills her, really. He just decides not to help her. And so I think that was just so shocking, just unbelievably shocking. And that just shows the audience really, truly where his character is going and where the show is initially going.

BE: The character of Jane certainly influenced Jesse over the course of the season.

AP: Absolutely.

BE: She upped your drug use, to say the least.

AP: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s so sad. I mean, you see why Jane was clean: because she had a severe, horrible drug problem. Jesse definitely has his faults and he has his problems with drug use, but he kind of has control of the drug. The drug doesn’t necessarily have control of him quite yet. But you then see that the drug definitely had control of Jane. She went through the proper steps to get clean. At the beginning, Jane was such a great influence on Jesse because she was clean and on the straight and narrow path. It kind of freaked Jesse out a little bit to be seeing someone clean and sober and against the drug use. But then it just did a complete 180. She ended up being the worst influence for him possible, and they decided to do that dance together. They went down that dark rabbit hole, and it eventually took her. It’s tragic.

BE: Speaking of tragic, you’ve got that one line that really cuts to the quick: “I killed her.”

AP: Yeah.

BE: Is Jesse going to find out this season that he didn’t have nearly as much responsibility in killing her as Walt ultimately did?

AP: (Smiles mischievously) Oh, I can’t really say.

BE: (Laughs) I’m sure that you can’t.

AP: I can’t really say, but this season you definitely do see the guilt on Jesse’s shoulders. That is certain.

BE: Do we see the guilt on Walt?

AP: Absolutely.

BE: Fair enough. Bryan has said of Walt, “It’s never been done before to introduce a character with one set of circumstances, get to know him, and then change him totally and completely by the end of the series.”

AP: Right.

BE: Do you think we’re going to see more or less the same thing with Jesse by the end of the series?

Aaron PaulAP: Absolutely. I mean, I think you’re going to see such a change in everybody. And in this season, you know, the stakes are much higher. You know, Walt and Jesse are kind of really gently walking on egg shells, struggling to keep their head above water. But, yeah, there is definitely going to be a change in all of these characters, and Jesse goes through a huge change throughout season three from season one and season two. In Season two, you really saw…like Vince was saying (during the panel), Jesse is kind of at the heart of the show and, y’know, some people say he is the bad kid, but he’s doing what he knows and he feels that he’s good at it. And he feels maybe he’s not really hurting anybody. But you see he does have an inner soul and heart to him, like when he’s dealing with the young boy in the peek-a-boo episode. He has a lot of care. But season three, after losing his…well, really, his first glimmer of true hope, and then his girlfriend meets her demise…? You know, he has nothing else. And so in season three, he kind of accepts who he is and maybe he accepts he’s not really that good of a person. It’s very sad. This season is really intense. It’s much darker, if that’s possible.

BE: I don’t believe it. (Laughs) Well, clearly, we see him going into rehab, since Walt picked up the tab for rehab at the end of season two.

AP: Right.

BE: Prior to reading any of the scripts from season three and knowing Jesse as you do, did you have any reason to believe that his rehab was going to take?

AP: I knew that Jesse was going to be in rehab at the start of season three, but I didn’t know how serious he was going to take it, but he takes it very seriously. You know, he knows that drugs are the reason why Jane is gone and he’s feeling very guilty about that. So he’s going to try and take a stand, like, you know, “I can do this; I can stay clean.” We’ll see how long that lasts, but it’s an interesting story.

BE: Also when we talked last time, I made a comment about how I loved the fact that the writers knew that a little Badger went a long way, and you were, like, “Oh, he’s going to play a major part in season two, just wait.” Yeah, he did. It was a nice subplot that I wouldn’t have expected, but – even better – it also introduced Saul Goodman. What were your thoughts on Bob Odenkirk stepping on to the show?

"I’d actually done a film on heroin use years ago called “Wasted,” a true story that took place in Plano, Texas, so I got to talk to a lot of recovering addicts and a lot of users that were still, you know, using on a weekly basis. Almost a daily basis, sadly. So I knew a lot about that world. But I definitely did some more research. It’s scary the things you can find on YouTube."

AP: Man, I am such a huge fan of him. I mean, he’s brilliant. And he’s a brilliant writer. Did you know he wrote the “I live in a van down by the river” sketch for ‘Saturday Night Live”? He’s just so brilliant, and his role this season has just escalated, you know. It just gets bigger and better, if that’s possible. But he’s brilliant. I love it. He is a huge part of our whole business, and he definitely plays a huge role. He takes himself very seriously, Saul Goodman does, but he’s funny.

BE: The term villain is highly relative, especially on a show like “Breaking Bad,” but using the traditional definition, should we expect to see anyone on the level of Tuco in Season Three?

AP: Absolutely. I mean, there’s a lot of new characters in this coming season, and they’re very, very, very dangerous. So, yeah, you will definitely be meeting some more “villains,” per se. They are great. It’s great. It’s all great. But…

BE: …that’s all I can say.

AP: (Laughs and shrugs) That’s all I can say!

BE: Jumping back to talking about Krysten Ritter for a second, what was it like working with her?

AP: Yes.

BE: What was it like working with her? Because you guys had a solid chemistry from the word “go.”

AP: Oh, she’s wonderful. She’s so great…and, you know, she’d never really done a dramatic piece before. She’s really just known for her comedy. She’s hilarious. I mean, on screen and off screen, she’s just a very funny person. But she just bit into this role and I thought that she played it flawlessly. She was a delight, and I’m very sad that she’s gone. But you know, she’s got another show going and….oh, yeah, she’s here today! Did you talk to her?

Aaron Paul

BE: Just briefly. But I interviewed her a few months ago. And when I did, I’d asked her about “Breaking Bad,” and I asked her how she went about playing a heroin addict. Did you have any way that you researched how to play it?

AP: Absolutely. I’d actually done a film on heroin use years ago called “Wasted,” a true story that took place in Plano, Texas, so I got to talk to a lot of recovering addicts and a lot of users that were still, you know, using on a weekly basis. Almost a daily basis, sadly. So I knew a lot about that world. But I definitely did some more research. It’s scary the things you can find on YouTube.

BE: (Laughs) That’s exactly what she said.

AP: Really?

BE: Yeah, that she found a lot of stuff on YouTube.

AP: Seriously, there is a lot of stuff on YouTube. You can literally type in “guy using heroin for first time,” and there you go. And a lot of these videos will be shown of just someone shooting up, and it’s amazing how their whole speech pattern kind of slows down, and they kind of go through these…nods, they call it. They just kind of trail off. It’s very interesting.

BE: She also mentioned there was a guy on set named Tomas who had been a former heroin addict.

Aaron PaulAP: Yes. He’s wonderful. And he’s been clean for…14 years, I think, or something like that. And he was using for, like, 12 years. I mean, it was very, very, very serious. But he was showing us how to cook it, you know, under the spoon and how to prepare it for the needle. And as he was describing it, his hands started shaking, because this was the first time he had done that, and it just felt so real. He was, like, “Wow.” And I’m, like, “Do you need to take a second?” And he’s, like, “No, this just really reminds me of how happy I am that I am clean, because this is terrifying right now.”

BE: Oh, I’ve got to sneak in a “Big Love” question right now, since Scott came back this season. Were you thrilled to be able to get back on there?

AP: Absolutely. Everyone there is so great. I really just work with…well, this season, I got to work a lot more with the entire family, which is nice, but I mainly work with Amanda, who is just so unbelievably talented and beautiful. And Paxton, who is just…incredible. And hilarious. And just so nice, you know? He kind of reminds me of Bryan. Bryan is just so genuine and hilarious and brilliant.

BE: And I know we’re up against the wall, but I wanted to close with one more callback to our last interview. We talked about how you had played Sky Commander Winky on the “X-Files” episode you did for Vince back in the day.

AP: Yes.

BE: But you’ve got another great character name on your resume, so I just wanted to ask: what do you remember about playing Wasted Guy in “Van Wilder”?

AP: Wasted Guy! (Laughs) Wasted Guy is actually an homage to…my first film ever was “Whatever It Takes,” and I was hired as Wasted Guy. But then there was a guy cast in another role that they decided to replace, so they had me audition for it and I got, like, the bigger part, whatever. And so then the same casting director called me up years later, we were friends, said, “Hey, I’m doing this movie ‘Van Wilder,’ and there’s a bunch of small little parts in it, so I was just curious if you would be interested in playing one of these roles or if you had any friends that would be interested in playing any of these roles.” And there were, like, five different roles, so I decided, “Yeah, I’ll be Wasted Guy. Why not? It’ll be fun.” And then I called up a bunch of my friends, and I got, like, three of my buddies to play the other smaller roles. That was fun. That movie was very interesting. Very, very interesting. (Laughs) But I had a blast.

BE: And yet they have never asked you to reprise your role for any of the sequels.

AP: I know, sadly. There’s no justice in Hollywood. It’s horrible.

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