Not counting last Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, the last time we saw Aaron Paul he drove off into who knows where as Jesse Pinkman on the last episode of "Breaking Bad." Now, for Paul, comes the difficult part: still embracing the character that made him famous, but moving on as an actor to something different.
"Hellion" -- which premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday afternoon -- is certainly different for those who know Paul best as Pinkman. Paul plays Hollis, a widower alcoholic who loves his two young sons, but doesn't have the wherewithal or time to monitor their every move. That leads his oldest son, Jacob (Josh Wiggins), into many run-ins with the law -- which threatens to tear what's left of this family apart.
When you meet Aaron Paul in person, he's pretty much exactly what you'd hope him to be: very enthusiastic and very blunt, but still in a charming, boyish way. We met off Park City's Main Street to discuss life after Jesse Pinkman -- Paul has a plethora of upcoming projects -- and his now-famous appearance on "The Price is Right."
I was just looking at your IMDb page and realized you were on both "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Melrose Place," and you played different characters.
Yeah, you know, that was when my career, I thought, was taking off. And then I didn't work for like six months. But, yeah, the original "90210."
It's a classic.
It is a classic. Luke Perry directed my episode!
I didn't realize that.
"Hellion" is not false advertising. Jacob is a hellion.
Yes! He is absolutely a hellion. Quite the opposite as just a day-to-day person -- Josh is incredible.
Hollis has had a tough time. It probably doesn't help that he wears that Astros hat and that's such a sad team to root for right now.
I know ...
It just adds to his woes.
[Laughs] But, you know, he's a diehard fan. He believes in them.
You don't jump off the bandwagon.
You've got to believe in your team, man! Through the highs and lows!
It was nice watching you play someone who is so different than Jesse Pinkman. Was that important to you?
Absolutely. For me, it's always about doing something that I've never done before. And that's just exciting to me. You know, mix it up. I've always considered myself a character actor.
Yeah, I think so. I would hope so.
You just played one of the most popular characters in television history.
But that was a character, though!
So you could say that about any actor.
Right. Absolutely. But there are actors who play the same role in every single thing. Do you know what I mean?
Okay, I see what you're saying.
They play the same tone in everything. I don't talk like Jesse Pinkman.
You tweet like him.
During the show, yeah. I absolutely embodied Jesse Pinkman. You know, I'm just giving what the fans want, man! But yeah, they like it. They love it whenever I say "bitch."
You said it during a Golden Globes speech.
Did you know that was coming?
Vince Gilligan said, "Listen, I really don't see this happening, but, if it does end up going our way, I'll say something and I'll just send it to you and have you just end it." So, I had a feeling -- I knew what he was asking me to do.
It seemed like a crowd-pleaser.
"Yeah, bitch!" So, yeah, that's that.
Hollis seems like an older guy that we're used to seeing you play. Was that intentional?
He's just lived a different life. And Jesse definitely went through his struggles, but Hollis is going through his own set of struggles ... he's different. He's not Jesse Pinkman.
Post-"Breaking Bad," are you happy with the roles you're being offered? A nice swath of different things?
Yeah, it's great.
But with a character as popular as Jesse, there's always a danger people would want you to keep doing that.
That's why I just say no -- and I do things like "Hellion."
Have you gotten offers that are too similar?
Yeah. A lot of people want me to play -- I mean, great scripts! -- but people that are dealing with drug problems or that sort of thing. It's just kind of like the obvious choice. But, I'm just, for right now -- I'm not saying I'm never going to go down that path 10, 15, 30 years from now -- but I'm saying right now, for me, it would just be idiotic for me to jump onto another Jesse Pinkman-esque type role. And so that's why I try and do something different like "Hellion" or like "Exodus"...
Directed by Ridley Scott...
Ridley Scott, yeah. And it's biblical, so that's a little different than Jesse as well.
I assume "Need For Speed" is not biblical.
"Need For Speed" is not biblical, no. But "Need for Speed" is not Jesse Pinkman, either.
What should we expect from that character?
Well, Tobey Marshall is a guy who runs an auto body shop. He is obsessed with racing -- he lives and breaths it. It's in his blood. His father started this auto body shop -- and his father dies and now he's left with trying to keep his business afloat. He's got his shit together -- not a drug addict. He doesn't do meth; he doesn't kill people. Different.
When you were on "The Price is Right," did you have any idea you were going to be called down to contestants' row?
So it's a complete surprise?
Yeah, yeah. But it's not like they're pulling a name out of a hat at random.
They want someone who is going to be excited.
Yeah, they bring in 10 people at a time and you kind of do an interview process. And that's that. They want people that are excited. And I went there -- you saw -- in a crazy outfit...
We've all seen now.
I was wearing a crazy outfit and I drank a bunch of Red Bull. I had the most energy of any human being! And they called my name and I think the combination of them calling my name and the combination of the six cans of Red Bull -- I was just teetering on the line of having a heart attack. But, yeah, it was great.
Were you surprised when that video became an Internet sensation?
No, I was not surprised it became an Internet sensation. That video is crazy. I was surprised that it took that long to surface. Jay Leno -- [sarcastically] bless him -- he's the one that made that happen. When I was a guest on his show, he brought up that video.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.