Aaron Paul, best known for his iconic role as kind-hearted meth dealer Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad, was recently in town touring for his new project Need For Speed. I was lucky enough to sit with him—along with another actor from the film, Ramon Rodriguez—for a roundtable interview where myself and a handful of other interviewers were each given one question to fire off at the young icon.
Q: What was your favorite car that you drove?
AP: I just love the Gran Torino. And I love the mustang too, but my favorite was the ‘68 [Gran Torino]. I have a fondness for the old, classic muscle cars.
Q: How fast did it go?
AP: To be honest, I never really looked down. I never really paid attention to the speed but the fastest I got in the Mustang and the Koenigsegg was about 125-130.
Q: Because you played such an intense character in Jesse Pinkman, how did you disengage to be able to play other roles?
AP: Jesse was very intense. It’s all about whatever is on the page. Everything’s kind of different for me and I always just try and do different roles. As an actor you just wanna try and mix it up. So many people are like ‘Oh, I’m not gonna be able to watch this movie and not see Aaron other than Jesse Pinkman’ and I hope that wasn’t the case for you guys.
Q: You’re a fan of video games, right?
AP: Yeah, yeah.
Q: Do you have a favorite?
AP: Need for Speed, I mean come on. [EVERYONE LAUGHS] No honestly, I haven’t played games in a very long time. Matter of fact, James Bond GoldenEye. I love that game. Um, I love Bubble Bobble! God, it’s so good you play with a little tiny dinosaur shooting bubbles, catching things, popping the bubbles. Bubble Bobble would have to be at the top, yeah. Should I say something cooler than that?
Q: I guess when I saw the film first thing I thought was the line of great and classic films that had either a major chase scene or car-related high adrenaline and I thought it was powerful, I went back to Bullitt. Did that influence you in any way?
AP: Our director is a second generation stuntman. He grew up on movie sets. He grew up watching his father and his best friends do stunts for real and you know, movies like Bullitt, Vanishing Point, Smokey and the Bandit, all those movies they did those stunts for real and so with this film we had zero CGI and zero green screen. You know when you’re being lied to and it’s fine. You know that’s just part of cinema now and it’s a lot of fun to watch those sorts of movies but you also know when things are real and things are happening and captured in camera and that’s what they did here.
Q: Was there ever a point where you were like “holy crap this is really scary?”
AP: Not really. There was never a point that I thought it was getting too much for me. There was so much precaution. It wasn’t just like “hey get in that car, here’s the keys, good luck. I hope I see you afterwards” [LAUGHS] Safety was the major concern every single day but yeah there was definitely many times where I’m like “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m doing this”
Q: When you were filming the crash scene, was there ever a point where the reality of the death of Paul Walker entered your minds?
AP: We had already finished the film long before that tragic thing happened with Paul. So, no.
Q: You were talking about doing your own driving and stunts but what kind of training did you learn to be able to do that?
AP: For me, the first few days was just kind of learning how to get out of problematic situations. If the car starts to slide in one direction and you don’t want it to go that way, like how to correct it. And then just learning how to drift around corners, drift in between certain cars, so that’s like you going into an alleyway or in between certain cones. So fun. Driving as fast as possible backwards and doing a 180. It is ridiculous.
Q: With Breaking Bad being the supreme example of how dark cinema and television has been over the years, what do you think is the fascination recently with these movies that present hope as an unattainable goal? Do you think the dark turn in cinema and television is kind of a retaliation against us having so many happy films lately?
AP: I think films are just an escape from reality for everyone. I tend to gravitate toward the darker side of things. I don’t know why, but I just like playing characters that have been affected by life. It makes me personally feel different kinds of emotions and so I think thats what people like about those sort of films because it allows them to just really feel such intense emotions.
Because I mean, let’s be honest, life is not all rainbows and butterflies.
Q: Can you tell me more about your wife’s charity and are there any charitable endeavors that you are into?
AP: My wife started a non-profit called Kind Campaign, it all stemmed from a documentary she did called Finding Kind which she traveled the country and talked to young girls and tried to figure out why, from a very young age, girls just tend to treat each other so badly. She wanted to figure out why and also wanted to just bring kindness back into the school hallways and just talk to young girls about the effects of bullying. She travels the country, does assemblies for girls, sometimes its co-ed but its best if it’s just females because females tend to be more open when there aren’t boys around, especially in middle school. Her documentary plays in schools everyday throughout the country, Canada, and now spread over to Ireland and yeah, she’s just spreading kindness. Spreading the love.
Questions from all attending journalists. Transcribed by Crystal Esparza.