Aaron Paul Q&A: 'I Miss Jesse Pinkman Terribly'

'It's about to get really messy, is all I can say,' says the 'Breaking Bad' actor

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman on 'Breaking Bad.'
Frank Ockenfels/AMC
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman on 'Breaking Bad.'
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In anticipation of the Breaking Bad series finale on Sunday, September 29th, Rolling Stone will publish an exclusive interview with a new cast member every day, Monday through Friday. Last week, Bryan Cranston dished on Walter White's morality. Tomorrow, Giancarlo Esposito will share his memories of Gus Fring.

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In the first episode, Walt killed someone, and it's soon clear that he enjoys violence. Jesse doesn't kill anyone until later, but he seems much more wrecked by his one murder. Do you think of Jesse as being a better human being than Walt?
Oh, absolutely. I think Walt always had Heisenberg deep inside of him. It's like the expression, "Money doesn't change people, money just shows who people truly are inside." I think this has always been a part of Walt.

Jesse hung out with the wrong crowd, and he was trying to pretend that he was someone that he wasn't. That's why at the beginning – at least this is what I tell myself – he'd wear these crazy clothes – oversized pants, shirts, sweatshirts. He was kind of hiding in his own skin. And then throughout the years, he's realizing more who he truly is. His clothes started to shrink as he got his own footing. The clothes definitely started getting darker, because he was feeling in a very dark place.

Obviously Jesse is a murderer, so he's not that great of a guy. But he didn't want to be. He was kind of pushed into a corner. He pulled the trigger. Obviously that's no excuse, but I think the audience knows that's not really who he is.

It sounds like you're saying Jesse, in the beginning, was a wanksta.
[Laughs] Yeah, absolutely.

Vince [Gilligan] and I also talked about the fact that in the first season, Jesse tries to get a straight job. Was he genuinely trying to get out of the meth business?
He obviously didn't try that hard. I mean, he gave it one shot, you know? At that point, he was definitely still using, but he was saying, "I'm going to try to go straight and narrow." But it didn't take him long to get back into it. He ran into Badger in the money costume and he went, "You know what? Let's give drug dealing another try." In his head, he was giving it his all. But his all really isn't that much, at that point.

When he came out of rehab, he was desperately trying to stay sober. But you know, when you're a drug addict, it's hard. You can't just say, "All right, I'm going to go sober," and that's it. If he relapses, you can't really blame him. If he keeps trying, you can applaud that. But you can't blame him for falling off the wagon.

Can you imagine how Jesse's life would have gone if he had never bumped into Walt, post high school?
Yeah. In my head, I would like to think his life definitely would've been much better. Do I think it would've been a great life? Not necessarily.

I mean, Walt has dragged Jesse through the dirt for the past six seasons, and now Jesse's no longer going to be manipulated by Walt. He knows that he's an evil man, and he wants to stay as far away from him as possible. So who knows what's going to happen from here?

But without Walt in his life, do I think Jesse would be in a happy relationship and buying a second home? Probably not. But I'll tell you right now, without Walt, Jesse would not be a murderer. That is certain.

I imagine Jesse was probably a C student.
At best.

And what he really wanted was to find something he was good at. He never really had anything he was good at, until he started cooking meth with Mr. White.
Right. And that's why he says, "Cooking is art." He truly believes that cooking is an art form, and Jesse is good at art. And this is just one of his mediums. It sounds ridiculous, but one of his mediums is cooking crystal meth.

He obviously uses and he likes using. But now, as you know, he wants to be as far away from it as possible. It's about to get really messy, is all I can say.

Isn't Jesse's situation very similar to Walt's? Walt insists he's only making meth to feed his family, which is bullshit. And if Jesse really wanted out of the business, he could pack a bag and get on a bus out of town.
That is definitely a nice idea. But Jesse, in the beginning, has been in a constant search for some sort of guidance. He never really had a father figure. His parents gave up on him long ago. He was looking at Walt for that. At first, Jesse wanted nothing to do with him. But then at the end of the day, he did respect him as an artist.

I've been thinking about what would satisfy me in the final season. One thing is, I want Jesse to kill Todd.
[Laughs] God, I want Todd to die so bad. I'm glad you and I are on the same page. Before we shot the final eight episodes, I used to say, "I want Jesse to kill Todd, and I want Jesse to kill Walt."

But then, as we were shooting the final eight, I was like "Maybe I don't! Does Jesse want to have that on him?" I don't know.

Will you miss Jesse?
I miss him terribly, I really do. For the past six years I've been breathing through his skin. It was the roughest day of my career, my final day of shooting on Breaking Bad, knowing that I will never be able to kind of zip on that skin again. I love him, and I just want him to be OK, you know? But I don't know if he's ever going to be OK. Maybe he doesn't deserve to be OK.

Along with missing him, is there also kind of a sense of relief?
Yeah, absolutely, because Jesse has not had the easiest life. He has gone through a lot of torment, and so much sadness. And playing him, I went through that as well on a very intense level. So a big weight was lifted off my shoulders, in a way. But slowly lifted off, as the months go by. But with that said, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Have you had Jesse dreams, Breaking Bad dreams?
Yes. You know you're deep in a character when you start thinking as if you are Jesse. I start thinking about Badger and Skinny Pete and – it's hard to say without sounding completely ridiculous, but it's true. When you're mid-season, in very intense situations, it's hard not to take that home with you. Especially when you're sleeping, you can't control what you dream about. And it sneaks into the unconscious.

I've had multiple dreams about Jesse being shot up. Being killed in different circumstances. I had lots of dreams of Jesse dying or getting hit by a car. Or dreams of being on drugs, as Jesse, hanging out with Badger and Skinny Pete. It's ridiculous, but it's also super fun. [Laughs]

Do you believe in karma? Do you believe people always get what they deserve?
Always? Not necessarily. But I think it's best to be a good person. If everyone were a good person, it'd obviously be a better world.

But if everyone were a good person, there's no Breaking Bad.
[Laughs] That's true. But after Breaking Bad, then everyone can be a good person.