Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad: The TV Squad Interview
by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 19th 2009 11:01AM
On July 16th when the Primetime Emmy nominations are announced, one name that is likely to appear in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series is Aaron Paul. As Jesse Pinkman on AMC's Breaking Bad, Aaron has done amazing work, revealing a character as fascinating as he is flawed.
His performance this past season on Breaking Bad has generated lots of talk about an Emmy nomination, but not to be overlooked is the fact that Paul is also doing great work on HBO's Big Love. On that drama, his character, Scott, is the antithesis of Jesse. It's a testament to Aaron's skill as an actor that I didn't recognize him at first from Big Love when I watched Breaking Bad. A search of his IMDB listing was one of those 'ah-ha' moments. Recently, I had to chance to speak with Aaron, and we started with the jaw-dropping season finale of Breaking Bad.
What did you think of Breaking Bad's finale?
I was absolutely shocked. I had no idea how the pink teddy bear tied in, but I knew before Jane was introduced that something was going to happen. We were going to have this relationship and Jesse falls head over heels in love with her and then she would be taken away from him. But that ending was crazy.
And yet in a way, it was all cause and effect. Walt made this happen ...
At the end of the day, it was Walt's fault.
How were you chosen for Breaking Bad and Big Love?
With Big Love, I had just gotten off a plane and I drove straight to Valencia and had a meeting with the creators and then they wanted me to stick around so I could read with Amanda Seyfried. So we did a chemistry reading, then she read with five or six other guys. I was driving back; I got the call that I had gotten the role. I had never worked for HBO at the time and I had never worked for any of those people involved with Big Love.
What about Breaking Bad?
I had worked with Vince Gilligan on The X-Files many years ago, but I don't think that was why I was brought in. Vince remembered that I had done X-Files, but he didn't remember which episode. When I refreshed his memory, he was like 'Oh my God, you played the role of Sky Commander Winky. That was my nickname in college.' That broke the ice between Vince and I.
When I interviewed Bryan Cranston, he told me that Vince was considering killing off the Jesse character at the end of the first season ...
I know. I'm so glad they didn't because I have so much passion for this project and I've done so many pilots that just don't get picked up and the first one that does, they just end up killing off my character after one season would just have been devastating.
It looked like Big Love was going to write you off, but now Scott is marrying Sarah ...
Yes, I'm so happy that we've been able to work it out because it can be stressful from the producing standpoint. Both teams have been really adamant about helping me out, so it's great to be able to do both shows.
On Breaking Bad, it seems like Jesse has become more humane as the show goes on while Walt has become crueler. Do you see it that way?
Yes, definitely. In the second season, I think there's been a lot more character development. With Jesse, they've been showing the softer side, which I think is so refreshing from an actor's point of view.
What do you think about possibly getting an Emmy nomination for Breaking Bad?
That's all just crazy talk. That would be unbelievable. I can't believe people are saying my name in that conversation.
Well, you are fifty percent of the show and since Bryan Cranston won last year, how could they not notice what you're doing opposite him?
Well, thank you so much. I don't know what to say. I'm such a huge fan of Bryan's. This show is so dark, but it's so humorous at the same time. It would be great to be nominated.
As an actor, how did you approach the scene when Jesse tries heroin for the first time?
When I read that, I was like, 'Oh my God,' because it's such a long, downward spiral and I have never been around that sort of drug nor have I ever used it, but I am obsessed with the show Intervention. For that particular story, to prepare for that scene, I used YouTube and found real people shooting up heroin.
It was so innovative how they shot that scene, with Jesse floating up to the ceiling and the song "Enchantment" playing on the soundtrack ...
It was scripted that way. I think it said 'our poor, young Jesse starts floating up to the ceiling.' It's incredible that we have that kind of detail in the writing.
The scene in the crack house really showed that despite everything, there's an emotional connection between Jesse and Walt ...
Absolutely, in the crack house, he was like a child with Walt. But by the time Jesse got to rehab, he was so broken down that he felt like he deserved whatever he got. He was very mute, and he didn't have any more tears.
Perhaps the signature moment of the season was when Jesse landed on top of the Port-a-Potty and fell into the blue stuff ...
Oh yeah. It was originally scripted for the junkyard dog to come after Jesse. The only reason we didn't use the dog was because it was going to be too expensive. But then they ended up saying that the dog thing was overused and they tried to think of something more creative. When I read the Port-A-Potty scene, I thought it was genius.
Jesse really was beaten down in that whole episode ...
Right, first his family kicked him out of the house, and everyone keeps saying no to him, and then after hanging up the pay phone at this random gas station, he notices that his bike with all of his belongings on it was stolen. The only place left for him to go is the Winnebago. Then he jumps onto the Port-A-Potty and falls into all the stinky, blue liquid and he's devastated. It's the worst day imaginable. He crawls into the Winnebago and can't even stand his own smell. He gags and starts sobbing. That was the first time you see Jesse in an emotional state like that.
How devastating was it for Jesse to lose Jane?
That was the first time that I believe Jesse ever really had that sort of love in his life. When he met Jane, she was sober and she was on the road to recovery. She was a good influence on Jesse, but once she started using again, she was the worst thing that he could be around. He started using and in the end, she was taken away from him.
What was like working with John De Lancie?
I love John De Lancie so much. I'm a huge fan of his and I'm pretty sure he's going to be given a great role in the coming season. There's so much guilt there. Jesse, obviously, is going to need to find a new place to stay because Don's not going to allow him to stay there. There's got to be so much guilt on Don's shoulders, and he's going to want to blame somebody. I think that person will be Jesse.
The other new character in the show is Saul. What's it like working with Bob Odenkirk?
Wow, he's so brilliant. You know, Jesse was happy leading his little life, selling dime bags here and there, but once Mr. White came into the picture, there's all this drama. And yes, Saul is just what they need in their business.
Big Love is coming off an incredible season, as well ...
It was amazing because you got to see all these really dark secrets revealed. When I got the opportunity to be on the show, I jumped at it, but I thought the role would be maybe three or four episodes at the most, but the role just kept growing. In the third season, they just went above and beyond anything they had done before. Big Love is such a beautiful story, but it also has so much drama involved. Everybody is sneaking around and it's just incredible.
Now that Bill is starting his own religion, and Scott is engaged to Sarah, you're definitely going to be part of all that, right?
I am in the fourth season, but I have no idea where they're going with these characters. I got a call from one of the producers and we're going to get together and talk about the storyline for Scott and Sarah. Sarah has wanted to get away from the whole polygamy lifestyle. She doesn't like it or agree with it, and I think Scott, ever since the beginning, has been helping her to separate from that. Now that he truly loves her, he wants to be her savior and maybe take her away from the family.
Scott and Jesse are such different characters. Scott is very cerebral while Jesse is all emotion. He only gets in trouble when he tries to use his brain ...
I know; that's so true. Scott is a straight-edged, college-educated guy, and Jesse is all about the triple extra-large everything. The difference between them is hilarious.
What kind of stuff do you watch on TV?
Ever since TiVo came along, I only watch the stuff I record. But I do have my favorite shows. I love Lost. It's my favorite show on television. I love Californication, Dexter, The Tudors, and I'm trying to get into True Blood. Oh, and Mad Men, of course.