Aaron Paul Breaking Bad

Posted on 08. Sep, 2009 by in Fashion, Film/TV

words by Brent Simon
photos by Robert Todd Williamson
styled by Penny Lovell
groomed by Kim Verbeck

A20166web Aaron Paul Breaking Bad

Aaron Paul in corduroy suit by Band of Outsiders

Aaron Paul has a declaration that will perhaps unnerve his agent. “I am absolutely not the leading man-type guy, I’m just not,” says the 29-year-old actor. “I like to play off-the-wall characters.”
For Paul, acting is more of a glorious, cathartic extension of adolescent curiosity, and there’s no buzzkill quite like the rigid confines of square-jawed, conventional heroism. “I think I came to realize that through my work,” he says. “The more [experience] I got, the more I loved playing completely different characters. We’ve all seen those actors who play the exact same role, who are just saying words with a [slightly] different story. But it’s not as satisfying to me if it’s something I’ve done already.”
With breakout success, though, comes the increased danger of typecasting, and Paul has made an impression recently in a pair of fringe-dwelling roles. On AMC’s Emmy-winning, darkly humorous Breaking Bad, he plays a drug peddler who cooks meth with his terminally ill, former high school teacher (Bryan Cranston). And in the recent remake of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, Paul’s bad guy gets dispatched in memorably nasty fashion, coming out on the losing end of a battle with a hammer and a garbage disposal.
A native of Idaho and the son of a Baptist minister, Paul graduated high school a year early and moved to Los Angeles a dozen years ago. Steady television work followed, but Breaking Bad came about prior to the success of AMC’s Mad Men, so Paul was understandably confused by the show’s long-term prospects for survival, especially considering its bleak subject matter. A pre-show “drug school” with DEA agents provided invaluable research, but Paul had other sources upon which to draw. “I’ve had close friends who were literally drug-free and tried [meth] and said, ‘This is not for me,’ and never did it again. But I don’t know whether it’s the addictive personality or what — some people can’t handle the comedown,” says Paul. “So I’ve watched it eat the souls of people close to me. It’s incredible how a beautiful creature can be eaten alive by this drug; it’s sad. But I applaud AMC for having the balls to tell a story like this, because everyone else was afraid to, and it’s a story that’s not so outside the realm of reality — while we were shooting the first season, a principal got arrested for selling crystal meth to his students.”
The big curveball in Paul’s emerging profile is on HBO’s Big Love, as a recurring character who became engaged to Amanda Seyfriend’s character on the recent season finale. “I think of myself as a great person, and that I have good morals,” says Paul, “but I never get to play an almost straight-laced kid like that, with all the buttoned-up shirts and glasses. So it’s nice, and fun.”
And controversial, of course; Paul says he’s gotten some flack about the polygamy drama when he travels home to Idaho. “The majority of my high school class, like 70 percent, were all LDS,” he says. “And especially toward the end of this season, the show dives into parts of the LDS church that have been secret for so long, and the Latter Day Saints are so upset by it. But they’re just being true to the story.”

Aaron Paul in corduroy suit and rubber loafers by Band of Outsiders; hooded shirt by Alternative Apparel; t-shirt by H&M

A self-confessed “concert junkie” (he counts Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and Muse among his favorites), Paul is also at least one degree closer to rock song canonization than most of the rest of us — he’s good friends with the girlfriend of Kings of Leon singer Caleb Followill, currently immortalized in the radio smash “Sex on Fire”. When he’s not on set, snowboarding and painting help consume the rest of Paul’s sparse spare time. He came to the former hobby skeptically; he’d grown up skiing, and didn’t immediately spark to a snowboard, a gift from his parents early in his teenage years. After a day on his rear end, though, a friend convinced Paul to give it three more days, and the only time he’s since returned to skis instead of a snowboard was when he swapped out with another pal who wanted to give the latter a try. Painting, meanwhile, is a more intensely personal extension of the same creative impulse that attracts him to acting. “Any sort of art is a cheap version of therapy, a nice release,” he says.
Paul also jokes about having to learn to read scripts with a keener eye for prosthetic details, after suffering an extreme allergic reaction to the silicon and glue used for a broken nose he had to sport for most of The Last House on the Left. (Acting: come for the glamor, stay for the free allergen test!)
And as for the scripts that have already started to come in with roles as nasty ne’er-do-wells and messed-up druggies? “I thank them for the opportunities, but have to say no,” says Paul with a laugh — an easygoing laugh that would sound good on screen. A laugh that, if Paul sticks to his word, he’ll perhaps get to showcase more, as he adds some lighthearted flavor to his colorful, off-the-wall filmography.

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