Aaron Paul says his Breaking Bad co-star Bryan Cranston once convinced him Jesse Pinkman was going to be killed off in the earliest days of the series. Cranston’s prank came after Jesse, once planned to die at the end of the first season, was spared when Paul’s performance made series creator Vince Gilligan reconsider killing off the character.
“I thought I was signing onto like a full series. And then, at least through like the next season, season and a half, anytime I picked up a script, [I thought], ’This is the time,’” Paul told THR. “[Cranston] didn’t help the situation, that bastard! He would say, ‘Hey, did you read the next script?’ And I go, ‘Nah, did you get it?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh.’ And he would just give me this big hug. I’d go, ‘What?’ He’s like, ‘Hey man, it had to end sometime, but at least you go out guns blazing,’ something like that. And I go, ‘What are you talking about?’ [He says] ‘Just read it and call me, if you want to talk.’ And then he would walk off!”
Paul was so worried he marched into the production office and commanded, “‘Give me that damn script!’”
“They’re like, ‘It’s not ready.’ [I say], ‘Bryan already read it, I have to read it,’” Paul continued. “And then I thought, they’re holding it because they know this is where I die.”
Cranston is “easily the most professional-slash-immature person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” added Paul. “So unbelievably talented, but also so immature in the best way. Just constantly making jokes in the most inappropriate places [laughs], but it’s the best.”
Paul also said he was “sad” when he first learned of Pinkman’s planned demise. “Honestly, I was really devastated,” he said.
“To me, that’s a victory for you to celebrate,” added Gilligan. “You’re so good, you made yourself instantly indispensable.”
Cranston’s meth-making Walter White was ultimately joined by Paul’s former small-time drug dealer Jesse for all five seasons of Breaking Bad. Jesse was one of a handful of main characters to survive the entire series and next returns in El Camino, a sequel movie following his escape from a Nazi compound in the Breaking Bad finale.
Gilligan once said keeping to the original plan and killing off Jesse in episode 9 of Season 1 — an episode never produced, the result of the 2007-2008 writers’ strike leading to just a seven-episode first season — would have been a “huge, colossal mistake.”
“The original plan was to kill him off, but I have to say, the writers’ strike, in a sense, didn’t save him because I knew by episode 2 — we all did, all of us, our wonderful directors and our wonderful producers — everybody knew this talent, how good you are, and a pleasure to work with,” Gilligan told Paul during a Breaking Bad cast panel hosted at the Paley Center for Media in 2011. “And it became pretty clear early on that that would be a huge, colossal mistake to kill off Jesse. But the idea was ... I didn’t know how important Jesse was [going to be].”
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie releases on Netflix October 11.