Penn Badgley Was Almost Cast as Jesse Pinkman in ‘Breaking Bad’: Role Is the ‘One That Got Away’

"That was the best television script I'd read, at that point," the "You" star said.
Penn Badgley was almost cast as Jesse Pinkman in "Breaking Bad" before the role went to Aaron Paul
Penn Badgley, Aaron Paul in "Breaking Bad"

Penn Badgley almost broke bad.

The “You” star admitted that the role of Jesse Pinkman on “Breaking Bad” is the ultimate “one that got away” in terms of roles.

“One I got so close on was ‘Breaking Bad.’ It was between me and Aaron Paul,” Badgley told Buzzfeed. “We tested. And actually that was the best television script I’d read, at that point. That was the one that got away.”

AMC drama “Breaking Bad” premiered in 2008, just a few months after Badgley’s breakout turn in “Gossip Girl” debuted in 2007. Badgley’s “Gossip Girl” co-star Chace Crawford revealed in 2019 that Badgley was up for both parts of Jesse Pinkman and Dan Humphrey simultaneously.

“If you want an interesting story, Penn screen-tested for Jesse. He didn’t even test for ‘Gossip Girl’; they offered it to him — but I remember him telling me he screen-tested for Jesse,” Crawford told The Independent. “He would have been kind of a different choice, but right around the time ‘Gossip Girl’ was getting cast, he screen-tested but Aaron Paul got it instead.”

Even “Breaking Bad” actor Paul said that Badgley looked the part immediately in the audition.

“Right when he walked in, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that guy looks like a meth addict,'” Paul recalled to Entertainment Weekly. “In a good way! He was just in the role. I was like, ‘This guy is going to steal it from me.'”

Now, Badgley compares the arc of prodigy writer Dan Humphrey to his iconic turn of Joe Goldberg in Netflix’s “You,” proving that Badgley did ultimately break bad in a different way.

“It’s the same role. But now he has blood dripping down his face,” Badgley previously told The New Yorker. “To me, Joe is privilege embodied. He’s the blindness that privilege entails. This is the whole ­strangeness of the show. In some ways, it’s this bizarre kind of fantastical, bingeable thing, like ‘Gossip Girl.’ At the same time it’s, like, Ugh! It’s horrifying!”

Badgley revealed to IndieWire that he is looking to write and direct a feature film next, having optioned the rights to David Sedaris’ short story “Jamboree.” The “Easy A” alum makes his directorial debut with Episode 9 of “You” Season 4, debuting March 9.

“Because of the role and I’ve been doing it for a while, I am very rooted in it. I really enjoyed it,” Badgley said of direcitng. “I loved stepping behind the camera. But I think it’s maybe being a bit much, being Joe and directing. I had no time at all. I had no time for life for about four weeks.”

He added, “I don’t know if I can direct more of this show because I’m not able to watch enough, just from a purely practical standpoint. There’s not enough time for me to watch every take, so therefore I’m kind of directing with my eyes closed a little bit.”

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