Breaking Bad is so good that it almost hurts (previous interviews Betsy Brandt & Anna Gunn). One of the reasons for that is the work of Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, a small-time dealer whose intersection with Bryan Cranston (whose interview on CHUD arrives tomorrow, a really good reason why you should read us on the weekend too) fuels the show’s main plotline. Two men way out of their depth in a business made for the ruthless and remorseless. As the folks who have kept up with the show know, Jesse ended season three with a bang. Literally.
I had a chance to speak with the magnetic young actor while visiting the set. The results await!
Aaron Paul: How’s going buddy, welcome to the ABQ!
Nick Nunziata: Thanks! This is a total immersion getting to see all the sets and labs.
Aaron Paul: It’s crazy, right?
Nick Nunziata: I don’t typically get starstruck by people, but I was a bit starstruck by that lab.
Aaron Paul: When I saw the lab for the first time there was something so special about it. They built that lab in like two weeks.
Nick Nunziata: I’m not as well versed in the meth trade as I ought to be as a human but when finding out that a lab like that could exist and is based on reality. I thought that was the Disneyland of meth labs.
Aaron Paul: Totally!
Nick Nunziata: There’s so much sensitive material about this season it’s hard to really get info but it appears that Jesse has crossed a line where nothing is the same. In a show rife with big moments and intensity what does this year represent for Jesse?
Aaron Paul: Season four represents a loss of innocence for Jesse. All of last year he was stating that he was the bad guy, or at least trying to convince himself of that fact from episode one of that season. Then by the end of the show, how season three ended with Jesse pulling the trigger and solidifying that he is the bad guy. That’s not self defense, that’s full blown murder out of necessity. This season in terms of Jess, just him coming to terms with that harsh reality.
Nick Nunziata: It’s been interesting watching Walter and Jesse crisscross in some respects. Walter started so innocent and pure and Jesse was doing what he was doing and then things would switch a while and the other would take the reins of being really the “bad guy”. Last season what your character had gone through and the audience having gone through that, seeing how the season ends with Jesse and that gun in his hand is a knee-weakening moment.
Aaron Paul: Yeah.
Nick Nunziata: Last night at dinner Bryan and Giancarlo [Esposito, who plays the supremely scary Gus] were talking about scripts from this season that had them concussed with how surprised and energized they were. Did you have a few of those as well?
Aaron Paul: I’m blown away every time I read a script for this show. The writing’s just brilliant but in terms of crazy intense story definitely the first episode. It starts off… I keep telling people that this show’s so unpredictable. Me being on the show I think the show’s going in a certain direction and then it goes just the opposite so I’m just like any viewer. This season’s so much darker and so much bigger and they’re so way over their heads. Just struggling to keep afloat really. There’s a lot of big episodes this season but when I read episodes nine and ten, ten is the biggest episode we’ve ever had.
Nick Nunziata: This season’s thirteen episodes, right?
Aaron Paul: Yeah, but I mean for the whole show! They’re going much bigger with this. Vince is just a mad genius and the writing staff, I don’t know how they come up with it but this season is much bigger.
Nick Nunziata: How does he communicate to you what’s coming?
Aaron Paul: I have no idea, I really don’t. I kind of know where they’re heading. I have an idea how they kind of want to end this season but how they get there, not a clue. It’s pretty fascinating.
Nick Nunziata: I guess it adds to the immediacy we see in the finished product and the electricity so present between you guys.
Aaron Paul: Yeah.
Nick Nunziata: And you don’t do that many takes, right?
Aaron Paul: Yeah. It really depends. Our days rarely go over twelve hours which is so crazy for an hour drama. An eight day hour drama. It’s intense, especially with the stuff we’re doing out here. We rarely go over three takes but there are certain directors that will go way over three takes.
Nick Nunziata: How has yours and Bryan’s shorthand evolved over the years to where you are now?.
Aaron Paul: It’s weird with this show. We had this instant connection, all of us. Even before we shot the pilot Bryan invited all of us, me and Anna and Dean and Betsy. R.J. Mitte hadn’t been cast yet. We all went out to lunch and almost instantly started busting each other’s balls and goofing around. There was that sort of instant connection where we were all like “this is going to be so great”. Bryan and I on set and off get along so well. He’s such a mentor to me. I’ve learned a lot from him. I thought this when I first met him but realize it now, he truly is a child trapped in a man’s body. No joke.
Nick Nunziata: Which is great!
Aaron Paul: It’s great! But he’s also very brilliant and smart. It’s fascinating.
Nick Nunziata: It doesn’t seem to be a group of people and a show that suffers fools. And to be put into that show, a show which if you judge it by the pitch, has no right existing… the fact it exists blows my mind.
Aaron Paul: Same!
Nick Nunziata: But right out the gate you guys are on fire. Was that one of those kismet situations where everything clicked or was there an extensive amount of prep and buildup?
Aaron Paul: Yeah it just clicked. There’s definitely some episodes that were brilliant and intense where I wondered if it was too much for me to handle. But it all works. When I read the pilot I felt there was no way it’d get picked up. At AMC! The place that old 70′s classics. There’s no way, but it was before Mad Men aired and I didn’t know they were doing original programming. But I knew I had to go for it. I applaud AMC for having the balls to tell this story.
Nick Nunziata: How will anything else live up to this?
Aaron Paul: I’m gonna quote Dean Norris. Middle of the second season we’re having a heart to heart and he goes “God damn it you know… ten years from know I’m going to be complaining that I used to be on Breaking Bad and now I’m doing this crap!“. You know? And it true, I’ve never worked on something this special before.
Nick Nunziata: It’s such a pivotal time for TV, what with the multiplexes getting dumber and in more dimensions. TV is where people need to go for the meat. It’s TV’s time.
Aaron Paul: It really is.
Breaking Bad hits your television this Sunday. If you aren’t caught up use the CHUD Amazon link and catch the hell up. You will not regret it.