Not many people involved with Breaking Bad‘s development were onboard with Aaron Paul being cast for the role of Jesse Pinkman. AMC had issues with Bryan Cranston in the role of Walter White as well, because the executives associated the actor with comedy, rather than drama. In Aaron Paul’s case, however, the studio had a different vision in mind for the young meth cook: Paul was simply too good-looking.
Aside from Walt, Jesse was the most essential character on Breaking Bad. He went from a below-average former student of Walt’s to becoming his partner in a dangerous drug operation. Jesse had his own struggles in life; he dove headfirst into a world he wasn’t prepared for, and he circled the drain on a number of occasions. Jesse’s arc was tragic and extremely emotional, since he was easily manipulated and taken advantage of by those around him.
Despite the grim situations that Jesse was tasked with, he added an ample amount of comedy to the series, especially in the early seasons. The actor chosen for the role had to be well-rounded in terms of acting ability, capable of conveying a spectrum of emotions while also being likable. When Breaking Bad was in the early stages of development, the casting team considered a number of big names in Hollywood for the role of Jesse. Although it wasn’t publicized who directly auditioned for the role, actors like Reid Scott (Veep), Colin Hanks (Fargo), and Penn Badgley (You) were initially sought after. Paul, however, instantly impressed the show’s creator Vince Gilligan — but his path to the role wasn’t so simple.
Vince Gilligan Fought To Keep Aaron Paul In The Role Of Jesse Pinkman
When Paul screen-tested for the role, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan knew they found the perfect fit for the role. Casting director Dawn Steinberg agreed with that sentiment, but Sony, the studio behind the pilot, felt otherwise. The production company worried that Paul was too clean-cut and good-looking to portray a drug user who would wind up as a meth cook. Gilligan and his team tried to change their minds, and when they wouldn’t budge, he claimed he wouldn’t do the show unless Paul played Jesse. With that, Paul began his journey in one of the most heartbreaking, yet brilliant, roles in recent memory.
Gilligan surely doesn’t regret fighting to keep Paul on the series. The actor gave it his all and was nominated for a number of high-profile awards during Breaking Bad‘s five-season run. Paul ended up winning an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series on three separate occasions for his portrayal as Jesse. The popularity surrounding the character also propelled Gilligan into developing a spinoff feature film focused on Jesse following the events of Breaking Bad. The project, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie debuted to rave reviews from critics and fans.