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Aaron Paul Struggled to Land Movies After ‘Breaking Bad,’ but Netflix’s Sequel Helped Him ‘Let Go’

“You do one commercial film that’s not the success they think it’s going to be, and you’re damned," the actor behind Jesse Pinkman recently explained.

Aaron Paul in "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" Netflix

Aaron Paul in “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”

Ben Rothstein / Netflix

Sometimes an actor lands a role or project that becomes so successful that they can seemingly never do anything else. To the hordes of actors toiling in obscurity, this may sound like a good problem to have. Almost six years to the day after the last episode of “Breaking Bad” aired, and after struggling to make the transition from TV icon to movie star, Aaron Paul is starting to see it that way, too. The actor, who became synonymous with his character Jesse Pinkman in Vince Gilligan’s Emmy-winning AMC series, will return to his star-making role this fall in Netflix’s hotly-anticipated “Breaking Bad” movie, “El Camino.”

After a string of failed movie roles, Paul is looking forward to revisiting Jesse. “I was so spoiled at the height of ‘Breaking Bad,’ I was being offered everything.” Paul told Vulture during a recent interview. His first plum movie roles after “Breaking Bad,” including a lead part in the race-car drama “Need For Speed” and another in Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” flopped with critics and audiences.

“You do one commercial film that’s not the success they think it’s going to be, and you’re damned,” he added.

After a few missed opportunities, including one “monster, monster hit” that is too painful to name, Paul was ready to revisit Jesse. “There were some big thorns in my side that I had to let go,” he said. “My wife knew all of this was going on, so when I told her what Vince wanted to do, she threw her arms around me. She knew it was an opportunity for me to spread my wings again.”

While details have been kept tightly under wraps, the plot will center around Jesse in the aftermath of the “Breaking Bad” series finale. The official synopsis for “El Camino” reads: “In the wake of his dramatic escape from captivity, Jesse must come to terms with his past in order to forge some kind of future.” Jonathan Banks recently let slip that he will be making an appearance in the film as his fan favorite character Mike Ehrmantraut, opening the door for the return of Bryan Cranston’s Walter White. Walter’s appearance would undoubtedly have a tremendous emotional impact on Jesse.

“It was easy to access those emotions, man,” Paul said of returning to the character. “It was all very much still in me, and it was nice to release those feelings again. … I look at the world completely differently [since] having my daughter … I see Jesse as this damaged soul — as this guy who’s just hurting — even more now.”

Though Paul didn’t weigh in on the Netflix versus movie theater debate, he seems content with his version of stardom. “I can’t live with that pressure on me, nor will I. I’m happy.” He’ll next be seen in another small screen hit, when he joins the cast of HBO’s “Westworld” for its third season, kicking off sometime in 2020.

Netflix will release “El Camino” on its streaming platform on October 11, and will offer a special weekend-only theatrical engagement in some cities, running October 11 – 13.

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