Every Friday, Indiewire’s Springboard column profiles an up-and-comer in the indie world who made a mark that
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Many teen actors would kill for the opportunity to act opposite Emmy winner Aaron Paul. 14-year-old Houston native Josh Wiggins got to do it on his very first feature film. In Kat Candler’s “Hellion” (which opens in select theaters today and is currently available to watch on video-on-demand platforms following its stellar debut at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival), Wiggins goes head-to-head with the “Breaking Bad” star playing the rebellious son to Paul’s heavy-drinking father. It’s a performance that tears up the screen, much like Paul’s fiery turn in the show that made him a star.
The actor, who got discovered via YouTube for the role, spoke with Indiewire about his big breakthrough. Next up for Wiggins is a starring role opposite Josh Duhamel in “Lost in the Sun” and the Warner Bros. family drama “Max.”
READ MORE: Aaron Paul On ‘Diving Into’ ‘Hellion’ and Why He Wants to Resurrect Jesse Pinkman
Sundance was much bigger than I anticipated it to be. The amount of people that were there was a huge eye opener for me.
I’ve never beaten cars with baseball bats or set things on fire. But we’ve all had out struggles. I’ve had a good upbringing, my parents are very loving. A lot of people can unfortunately relate to [“Hellion”] because it was so well received.
Think back to anytime when you feel like you’re not being acknowledged. Everyone’s been, at some point in their lives, there. I just had to tap into those and realize what my character was thinking.
I had watched the pilot of “Breaking Bad” when it premiered but I was pretty young. I didn’t really understand it so I didn’t continue watching it. But when I found out [Aaron Paul] was cast, I started watching it again and fell in love with it. My parents watched it too and we kind of fell into it, like millions of other people did.
I was definitely intimated to work with Aaron. I was nervous going in. But he has a way of making you feel like you’ve been best friends for years after talking to him for five minutes. So I immediately felt comfortable with both him and Juliette Lewis. They give you tips on how to handle things. Aaron kind of became a mentor to me. He’s done a lot for me in the industry. We’ve become pretty close. He kind of trumped any nervousness that I had pretty quickly.
I guess I knew that I wanted to act even before we wrapped “Hellion.” I’ve always had a love for movies. To just jump into someone else’s shoes and output what’s not socially acceptable in regular society — I want to be able to do that in a correct environment, I guess you could say. I want to have the audience connect with my characters.
My family’s been very supportive, even before I auditioned. I was very nervous, but they pushed me. My brothers were a big part in helping with the YouTube videos. If they hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t be doing this at all. I owe this experience to my family and to my brothers.
We’d seen these people on YouTube doing little skits and it looked like fun. I started taking it more seriously and we got more sophisticated equipment. I kind of developed a love for movies because of it and it just took off. It started out innocent and we started taking it much more seriously as it went on.
My friends and my family have always told me to stay grounded. I’ve seen what happens when people start taking themselves too seriously, thinking they own the world. I’ve seen what that does. I wouldn’t dare go there. Aaron’s been a role model through this whole thing. Just kind of modelling after him… we’ll see if it even gets to that point. But if it does, I’ll be prepared.
Aaron called me about a movie that I got. It’s a studio movie so it’s a big opportunity. He’s good at keeping in touch.