It’s hard to imagine Aaron Paul ever playing a character with a healthy liver. For many of us, he’ll always be Jesse Pinkman on AMC’s Breaking Bad, the high-school dropout/meth cook/addict with some unresolved daddy issues. It’s the reason he won an Emmy last month, his second, and one of many reasons why, uh, binging on Breaking Bad seasons (it’s up to the fifth and final one, in case you didn’t know) is still the best excuse for staying indoors. The latest in Paul’s ever-expanding addiction canon is the aptly titled Smashed, a hit at Sundance last January that premieres nationwide Friday, in which he plays an alcoholic husband trying to stop his alcoholic wife from quitting her boozy ways. Much like watching Breaking Bad makes you root for meth heads, Smashed almost makes drinking yourself to an early grave seem like a charming personality quirk.
I called Paul just before the release of Smashed to talk about the perils of dancing at Radiohead shows, boozing onset, his favorite YouTube drunks, and the possible violent demise of Jesse Pinkman.
Eric Spitznagel: You’re a Radiohead super-fan, right?
Aaron Paul: You have no idea, my friend. You have noooo idea.
You went to two shows in London earlier this week, and then another last night in Paris. Are you following them on tour, Grateful Dead-style?
I would love to. They’re playing Paris again tonight, and then they’re going to Amsterdam and I forget where else.
Germany, France, Belgium, Australia.
Oh, man, that’d be amazing. See the world with Radiohead. I tried to work out going to the second Paris show tonight, but it’s just impossible.
You do have a movie opening tonight.
That’s right. [Laughs] I’ve got other commitments.
You tweeted that you were banned from dancing at the London shows. How does that happen?
I have no idea! It’s ridiculous. The whole floor at the O2 Arena is standing room only, but we were up in the seating area, and it’s evidentially a rule that you can’t leave your seat. Which is fine if I’m at a Sigur Rós show or something, and I’m just laying back and being super-silent, and then freaking out when they’re done, trying not to sob.
Isn’t dancing expected at a Radiohead show?
I thought so. It wasn’t like I was going crazy or anything. I was just kinda moving around. I wasn’t even standing in front of anybody. We were in the back area. But this security guy came up to me and said, “Hey, you can’t move around like that in here.” And I was like, “What do you mean? You’re saying I can’t dance? Dancing is illegal?”
Is the O2 Arena actually the town in Footloose?
Exactly. And they were like, “Sorry, you can’t do it. You have seats. You have to sit down.” So then Pierce Brosnan kinda egged me on.
You were there with James Bond?
I was, yeah. We’re in London shooting A Long Way Down. I tweeted a photo of us together at the show.
And Pierce told you to keep dancing?
He was like [in a convincing Pierce Brosnan accent], “Come on, mate. Dance, dance! Do your thing, mate! Dance!” So I did. And in my head, I was like, I love you, Pierce Brosnan.
Did security stop you again?
They did. That was my second warning. It almost seemed like I was going to get kicked out.
This was the first show. What happened when you went back the next night?
I went with a big group. I took Toni Collette and a bunch of people from the [A Long Way Down] cast, and I warned everybody. I was like, “Just so you know, we’re not allowed to dance. But we should probably do it anyway.”
You’re an instigator.
I am. So during one song, Toni jumped up, and then I jumped up, and our entire group jumped up. There were like seven of us, and we convinced everyone around us to stand up. Because we knew they couldn’t tell everyone to sit down.
Exactly, man. We took back the power. And then we watched the entire seating area follow our lead. No joke, from our area, it just started spreading like a wave, like a virus. Everyone started standing up and dancing, moving around. It was great.
Let’s talk about your new movie Smashed. You’ve been doing a lot of press for this thing. Are you tired of the “were you drunk during the shoot” questions?
Not at all, man. Because honestly, I was a little drunk while we made it.
But the confusion is understandable. It’s the Cheech-and-Chong riddle. How can somebody be that good at playing stoned if they aren’t actually stoned?
I wonder the same thing!
You’re so convincing as a drunk that it’s hard not think, he must have imbibed a little, right?
Well, I would be lying if I didn’t admit there might be a scene in the movie where there might be alcohol in my system.
Okay, fine. There definitely may or may not have been one scene in there where I decided to take it up a notch and do a shot or two of tequila. You got to get the blood flowing somehow.
Nothing wrong with a little method acting.
But most of my drinking happened before the shoot, just as research. And I filmed myself drunk, just to see what I’m like. I watched so many funny videos of people drunk on YouTube.
Do you have a favorite?
Oh, man, there are so many. Just type in “drunk people” or “people drunk,” and you’ll find some gems. There are amazing videos on YouTube that only have like 400 views. I’m just shocked that the entire planet hasn’t seen them yet. They really are that good. I just find drunk people so funny.
They can be, but some drunks are obnoxious.
Sure, yeah. There’s the really angry drunk, who’s just annoying to be around. I prefer the drunk who falls all over the place and is being completely inappropriate. Or the super-loud, happy drunk, which is evidently what I am.
When do you go back to the States to shoot the final episodes of Breaking Bad?
I go back in December. We got eight left, and then it’s c’est la vie. That’s all she wrote.
Obviously, you can’t tell us how it ends.
I couldn’t even guess.
But if you had a choice, how should it end for Jesse Pinkman? Does he deserve to be happy and ride off into the sunset, or get riddled with bullets?
Ah, man, that’s tough. In all honesty, I would love to see him walk away from this. But I don’t know if he’s going to. I think Jesse does deserve to walk away, even though he is a murderer and a drug manufacturer and a drug user.
He’s done some bad things.
He really has. But you still root for him. He does have a good heart deep inside. He just got mixed up with the wrong crowd… I do kinda hope he gets out of this. He deserves some happiness.
Or at least a night of dancing at a Radiohead show.
He does, man, he does. Everyone deserves that.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, on Esquire.com.)