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Aaron Paul on the Finale to 'Breaking Bad's' Intense Season

by Joel Keller, posted Jun 11th 2010 1:02PM

One of the things you may not have known about Aaron Paul is that he's a spoiler-phobe.

The 'Breaking Bad' star, who plays Jesse Pinkman, the impetuous partner in meth of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), doesn't even like being spoiled when he's reading the scripts from his own show.

"When I'm reading a script, sometimes I'll hear what happens at the end of the script before I get to it," he told me earlier this week. "For example, (with) the finale, I heard about that before (I finished the script). And I was like, 'ah, no!' I wish I didn't know so it could be a shock, just like everyone else was going to be shocked."

The AMC show's super-intense third season, which concludes Sunday, June 13 at 10PM ET, has taken viewers on an incredible ride that has included high action, deep character introspection, and palpable claustrophobia. And Paul has been a large part of that, leading to speculation that he's in strong lead actor Emmy contention, despite yet another remarkable performance by Cranston, who's won the last two years in a row (UPDATE: I was just told by Aaron's reps that he submitted himself in the supporting actor category this year. My mistake).

I spoke to Paul -- who's such a big 'Lost' fan that he's watched the first five seasons twice already -- about the last week's game-changing episode, 'Half Measures,' and about tonight's finale. I also talked to him about how Jesse and Walt have switched moral roles over the last season and where he thinks the show is going. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

At the winter TCAs, (creator) Vince Gilligan called Jesse the show's moral center. It seems like we're seeing that now. It seems like Jesse's the one who's got reservations about doing things, rather than Walt.
Yeah, yeah. I agree. I mean, when Vince stated that Jesse was like the moral center of the show, it definitely got me to scratch my head myself a little bit. I'm like, really? And he had warned me before we started shooting the third season, he's like, "I just want to prepare you...towards the beginning of this next season, it's not going to be a very like heavy, heavy season for Jesse. But as the season goes on, it becomes a very big, big season for Jesse."

And then at the end, as you know, a lot of things happen. But yeah, (Jesse) thinks about his actions a little more so. But then with finding out who Combo's killers were, he's just out for vengeance. He's just ready to kind of take control and be this kind of bad person he's convinced himself he is, and take matters into his own hands.

Walt didn't give a second thought to running those guys down, though. But that wasn't the most chilling part. It was him getting out and basically shooting the one guy and then telling Jesse to run.
Yeah. You know what is so interesting? When we actually shot that scene, you know, it's Walt coming in, blasting in, running over those two guys, and then he's running up to the guy that's crawling and he picks up the gun ... And how we shot it was, he picks up the gun, and he like looks at the guy, and then he looks over at me, and like is looking around to see if anyone's around seeing what has just happened, and then he's trying to like figure out what he's gonna do. And then he just steadies his arm and then he shoots. And then he looks up and says run.

But at the end of the day, obviously, it's Vince's ship that he's running, and he kinda knows where he wants these characters to go. And obviously in Vince's head, Walt has really allowed Heisenberg to really take over. And it's amazing what they do in the editing room. Because they cut out all of that hesitation (and went) straight from his picking up the gun and shooting. And it's fascinating to watch. I cannot wait to see what happens next year. Because this show just keeps getting bigger and more dynamic, and just, much darker. It seems impossible, but it does.

Yeah, it's amazing how we can go darker from just the whole premise of a science teacher dying and making meth.
Right. Exactly. And then from the second episode, you have these characters trying to figure out what they're going to do with the dead body and the trapped guy in the basement, and then Jesse, you know, has to pour acid on this guy to dispose of him. And you find yourself laughing at the situation.

Yeah, you're getting darker from body parts falling through a tub.
(laughs) Exactly. Exactly. And you don't want that.

The show's been dead serious most of this season. Is that something that you were expecting from the show going into the third season, given what happened the second season?
I mean, honestly, I stopped guessing. Because this show, from each episode week to week, I think it's going in one direction, and then it goes completely the opposite direction. You know, going into this third season, I thought I had a grasp of who Jesse was, and I definitely believe that I did. And I also thought I knew where it was going. But then they just completely did a 180, and now Jesse is convinced that he's the bad guy and he just has so much guilt on his shoulders, and he's making an effort to try and stay clean on the sober path. And it's almost like playing another character within the character, which is, you know, so much fun.

It feels like a different character, which is amzaing, because, in the show's universe, only a few months have actually passed from when Jesse and Walt reconnected to now.
Yeah. I think it just shows that you're truly a product of your own circumstances. You're a product of your own environment. And they're really staying true and honest to that. And something very serious happened to Jesse. It was almost like a serious shock to his system, and it truly changed him. And he can't just go back to being his normal, kind of messed up self.

And even though he went back a little bit to the blue stuff, it still doesn't seem to be ruling his life anymore.
Right. Right, yeah. It doesn't have control of him. Because I've seen this drug just kind of just fully take control of people. And it's not even their fault anymore. They don't have control of the drug, the drug has control of them. And I think when we first met Jesse, or were introduced to Jesse, I thought you know, he kind of had control a little bit. I mean, he just always liked doing it, like he always had to do it. But then once his chemical romance started with Jane, that was just a very dark rabbit hole that he couldn't crawl himself out of. You know, it literally just took control of him and he needed it. He had to have it.

You said you've seen people addicted to meth, up close in some way, shape or form?

Is what Vince is portraying accurate, how it takes over people?
Absolutely. Absolutely. It's so accurate. It's like it doesn't just affect, you know, the person that's using. It really affects everyone around them. You know, family members, friends, and it's just a tragic, tragic, harmful drug.

But yeah, I've definitely had, you know, won't get too far into it, but definitely had some personal experiences where I've seen true angelic creatures being just torn apart from this nasty drug. And it's just, I mean, you literally see their soul kind of just slowly, but surely, and then very quickly be taken away from them. And it's just, they just seem vacant and empty. And all they really think about is that drug. That's all they care about. They will do anything for it. And it's horrible.

Where do you think Jesse and Walt crossed each other on the moral spectrum? Because it seemed like when Walt watched Jane die last year, and didn't do anything to intervene, I thought he had crossed over to the dark side then, but now you see him shooting people in the head without hesitating, to make sure they're dead.
Oh man. I mean, I think ... I mean, we'll go back to last season. Jesse points out numerous times throughout this season you know, he believes Walt is becoming very greedy. He's just becoming greedy for a reason. Because he doesn't have much time, and he's really doing this for his family at the beginning. And now, it's just, it's almost (like) he's addicted to this. You know, he finally feels alive.

And I think the scene in, I forget what episode, but there's a scene in the RV where Jesse finally stands up to Walt, saying "Hey listen, bottom line is, you know, we do things my way or I walk." And that's the first time he called Mr. White "Walt." He says ... what is it, what's the line? He says, "You know, you need me more than I need you, Walt." And I think that's when they came to a standstill. There's always a constant butting head, tug of war, kind of odd couple element to Mr. White's and Jesse's characters.

But I don't know. I mean, his alter ego Heisenberg, I think it's just slowly kind of taking over. And I think by the end of the series, Heisenberg will be 100% there and Walt will be gone.

So you'll see the black jacket and hat, and you won't see the science teacher there anymore.
No. No more loafers. I think things are going to get more intense.

Has Vince given you any indication of how season four is going to proceed, or are you not even to that point yet?
No, we're not even there. I just know we're kind of like swapping our schedules around a little bit. Vince wants to have more time in the writers' room. Last year, I think he was strapped for time to get these scripts finished. And I think he also wants to spend more time in New Mexico while we're shooting. So you know, he's just going to have more time with the scripts. And I don't know if this next season's going to be our last. Hopefully not. Hopefully we'll make it to five.

He's that he thinks the story is a six-season arc. He can see it lasting six seasons. Do you see that kind of story having an end point? Like the whole 'Lost' model, where they got an end date so they could write towards it.

I would love to know when this show's going to end. I think it'd be amazing if AMC and Sony got together and said, you know what? Yes. Let's strive for six seasons. And that'll help out in so many ways in the writers' room, just so they know the end point. They know what they want to get to. It's just in terms of going from point A to point B to point C that's down the road, to kind of just tell the story. But I don't know. I mean, I would love for it to go six seasons. It would be beautiful. I mean, this time I've had on this show is like nothing else. And you know, I will be very sad when it ends.

What did you know about Bryan's work before you started working with him on the show?
I mean, I really, all I knew is comedic stuff. I was a huge fan of 'Malcolm in the Middle.' That's my mom's favorite television show of all time. Now she says 'Breaking Bad,' but...

Of course she does!
She's a huge fan. (chuckles) She's a huge supporter. And you know, I knew (Bryan's) stuff from 'Seinfeld.' Not much more than that. But when I heard that he was going to be involved, I was like "Oh my God, that's so great." This is when I was testing for it. I heard that he was possibly going to do the guy. And then right before I went into test, I heard that he got the offer. Because I thought I was going to have to do a chemistry read with him, but I didn't. Then I heard he got the offer, and was just over the moon about it. I knew he could probably pull it off, obviously, that's why they gave it to him. But I mean, the day one, working with him on set, it was like wow. He's got a great grasp of who this character is, and he's pulling it off beautifully

Did it surprise you that he could handle the dramatic stuff that well?
Yeah, honestly, yeah. Because I've never seen him do any dramatic stuff. And now, I wouldn't be surprised, I mean, he could do anything now and I would not be surprised in the slightest.

Let's talk a little bit about the finale, because I don't have much more time with you. Every time there's an intense episode, like last week's, there always seems to bea chance to breathe.

Yeah, a little breather, yeah.

The finale, even though a lot happens, it feels weirdly like a breather after the previous episode.
(laughs) I think anything could feel like a breather after the previous episode. I mean, episode 12 was just so, it was just so insane.

How did you react when you saw what was going to be going on in the finale?
I mean, I was speechless, to be honest. I had no idea that's where they were going to go. And Vince kind of warned me, that you're going to be really kind of shocked at the end. I was like, OK...

Because we'll just say Jesse's in the last scene.

It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, doesn't it?
Uh yeah. Yeah. It does. And I don't think people are going to be expecting it. Or maybe some people have expected it, but I didn't necessarily expect it. When I was reading episode 12, I mean, I read it straight through. And I was hovering over Bryan throughout the day, because he's in literally every scene of that day. And I'd see him kind of flipping, you know, page by page, and then he's have to put it down and go to set. And (I'm) just hovering over him, because I wanted to be reading it with him, because I wanted to see his reaction. And you know, his jaw hit the floor.

But yeah, I mean, (episode) 13, I mean, a lot of stuff happens. But not as crazy in that sort of way as episode 12 was, but a lot of big things definitely do happen, especially at the very end.

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Aaron should be nominated. His character has really expanded--I won't get into the lead vs. supporting bitch fest, but Jesse has gotten so much deeper since Jane touched his life. Now he's struggling with the blue stuff again (control? I don't think so; how can there be?)--and after episode 13, how will the dastardly act he said he absolutely could NOT do phase him?

I recently rewatched the first 2 episodes, and noted that Jesse has been beat up, in the hospital, so close to the end, and kicked in the gut by life so many times since the beginning of the series, it's amazing he's made it this far without being a total dick. And he was being a little bitch mid-season (3). I thought he was gonna get it for sure! Walt had faith though.

Now that he sees how far Walt will go for him and how far Walt will push him, how will the dynamic of their relationship carry him before he breaks?

I think Aaron puts a lot of sensitivity into Jesse, making him way deeper than just a meth head.

Thanks Aaron. You deserve major recognition for bringing such dimension to what could've been a very shallow character, and made him a good foil for Walt. Good writing helps a TON, makes your job easier. But still, you have to put life to it.

And then there's Gustavo...

btw, the Lost comment still appears right before the interview.

June 14 2010 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony DIMeo

just because he has more screen time and the story focuses on him doesn't mean doesn't mean he's a lead character

June 12 2010 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tony DIMeo's comment

Um, well, if the plot centers around him just as much as around Walt, and his character can hold entire episodes on its shoulders and the dual dynamic is at the base of the show, yes, yes it does...

I still think he's supporting role this year, but only because of the start of the season.
In season 2, btw, he was totally a lead.
It's a two men show, baby, imo.

June 13 2010 at 1:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony DIMeo

I dont know why you think he's a lead actor he's supporting actor without a doubt and he will be nominated for best supporting actor

June 11 2010 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tony DIMeo's comment

Well, if you judge by the beggining of season 3, Pinkman is definitely a supporting role, *however*, if you look at the second half of the season he's a lead, in both on-screen time and story arc.

June 12 2010 at 6:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The AMC show's super-intense third season, which concludes Sunday, June 13 at 10PM ET

I spoke to Paul -- who's such a big 'Lost' fan that he's watched the first five seasons twice already -- about the last week's game-changing episode, 'Half Measures,' and about tonight's finale.

huh? did this get posted early or something?

June 11 2010 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to scott's comment

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