It's a weird thing to have to stop yourself from asking someone to call you bitch, but that's (probably) what everyone wants to do when they speak to Aaron Paul, AKA Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad.
His "catchphrase" has followed him around everywhere. He recently admitted on The Graham Norton show that he even had a grandmother come up to him and ask him to call her bitch, because she was such a huge fan.
Another lasting legacy from the show is Aaron's relationship with Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White. On screen they've played closely bonded characters and off-screen it's very much the same, with Paul ringing into Good Morning America to ask Cranston, who was promoting his new play, if it was hard being so good-looking.
Aaron with Bryan Cranston in New York earlier this month
But we're not talking to Paul about Breaking Bad today (well, not much). We're actually speaking to him about his new film Long Way Down, in which he plays the suicidal failed musician, JJ.
Based on a Nick Hornby book, the movie follows four central characters, who all try to kill themselves on New Year's Eve, but who then make a pact not to do it. What ensues is a bittersweet look at mental health, why people decide to contemplate suicide and the bond that cements these four unlikely friends together.
Aaron with wife Lauren Parsekian
How did you feel about tackling this role, in light of it being such a sensitive subject?
When I read the script from the first page, it’s very evident it’s about suicide. But I found myself laughing and I didn’t know if I should be laughing. I love that. Even though it’s such heavy subject matter they’re bringing lightness and warmth to it and that’s very important with that sort if film, if they didn’t have that people wouldn’t have a good time watching it. And it would just be too depressing. But it’s OK to talk about it, it’s a real thing. It’s part of life. It’s a sad part of life but it’s important to talk about it. What’s so great about this movie, is that it’s going to bring people into theatres and people will enjoy their experience of it. And also you know, learn a little bit about it.
It’s quite a strange concept, that people would be enjoying suicide in the cinema?
Yeah, I know but it’s not making fun of suicide. It’s about four people at the end of their rope, who go to end their lives but they find hope.
Did you do any research into the role?
After I’d finished the script, I picked up the book. You know, Nick Hornby is such a brilliant writer, when you read his books, you feel like you already know his characters. He has that way of writing that you feel so instantly connected to these people. After reading the book, I already felt like I knew who JJ was.
Did you get to spend any time in London?
London is arguably the best city in the world. New York is amazing, don’t get me wrong, and there is history in New York, but it’s not like the history you get in London. I was there for a few months, Notting Hill was my stomping ground. I’ve been here a bunch of times but mostly I like to walk around and get a bit lost.
What about food. Did you eat anything British?
I discovered Nandos! I like the spicy sauce, not the super spicy, painful experience, but the middle one. My god, it was so good. It’s SO GOOD. I'll order half a chicken but then I started doing the chicken wraps, which are phenomenal.
Did you go out at all?
When I was in London a couple of weeks ago and I discovered The Drowned Man play (a Punchdrunk production). It’s so brilliant, they don’t do any advertising, it’s just word of mouth. My wife (director and actress Lauren Parsekian) and I saw it two nights in a row. You go to an abandonded 2000 ft square warehouse and everybody in the audience has to put on a mask. Anyone who’s not wearing a mask is a performer and you have to follow them around.
What about any Breaking Bad reunions? Do you get to stay in touch with the rest of the cast?
I talk to Bryan all the time on a weekly basis. I just saw him in New York in his play All The Way, which is brilliant. But yeah we had such an incredible experience on that show and we really did create a family and we love each other. If you want that family to survive you have to protect that family and nourish it. Right now, everyone’s all over the world, but whenever we’re in the same city, we’ll always meet up.
In Breaking Bad there are a lot of strong women? Which one is your favourite and why?
I’d say they’re all so great. But I would say Skylar. So many people despised her because she was the thorn in Walter’s side. But think about it, her husband is lying to her. It first started when her husband was lying to her about cancer, then he was cooking and selling drugs and then he’s killing people. She was just trying to keep the family together. But I do love Marie and her fascination with the colour purple.
Is there any truth to the rumours of a Jesse Pinkman spin-off?
The idea would be nice, but that will not happen.
30 years from now maybe. But I have no idea. Jesse was the role of my life. It was an incredible thing to play him. But it was also very exhausting. Hopefully in the prequel, with Better Call Saul he’ll make an appearance.
Is that a definite?
A Long Way Down is out now in UK cinemas
Words: Elinor Block