After five seasons portraying wigged-out meth dealer Jesse Pinkman on AMC’s smash series “Breaking Bad,” Aaron Paul couldn’t be blamed for pursuing significantly lighter acting roles.
Disney movie, perhaps?
Probably not gonna happen. Paul, 36, loves playing troubled individuals. The Idaho-raised actor portrays a criminal in the heist-thriller movie “Triple 9,” which opens Feb. 26 with a cast including Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet.
Paul will host a free advance screening of the movie Feb. 24 at Downtown Boise’s Egyptian Theatre, which is becoming a regular Paul party zone. He also threw a “Breaking Bad” bash there in 2014.
“A free movie for all of my fellow Idahoans is always a good thing,” Paul explains, phoning from Los Angeles. Tickets will be given away on local radio stations. Paul also plans to organize a scavenger hunt on the day of the event. “I will be placing tickets in random flower pots and different things in the Downtown area,” he says mischievously.
For Paul, visiting the Treasure Valley is like coming home. He was born in Emmett, grew up in towns ranging from Filer and Twin Falls to Boise and Meridian, and spends every summer in McCall. “I love every square inch of that beautiful state,” he says.
He’s even gotten his wife, Lauren Paul, hooked on the Gem State. “She loves it,” he says. “We’re building a cabin in McCall. We’re obsessed with Idaho. I think we spend more time in Idaho than we do L.A.”
Still, Hollywood beckons. Paul is scheduled to tape an episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” hours before he catches his flight into Boise.
Q: This is the second time you’ve taken over the Egyptian Theatre for a screening party in the last three years. Are you just going to buy the place or what?
A: (Laughter) Oh my God. What a dream that would be. Any excuse to get back to Idaho is a good one, and the Egyptian Theatre just represents old-school classic cinema to me. I’m just so excited to throw another event there.
Q: Why do an advance screening in Boise?
A: I mean, why not? It’s my stomping ground. It’s where I came from. And I love Boise. I love Idaho. And hopefully people want to come check it out.
Q: Thanks to your career, you’ve lost a bit of privacy. Is it different now when you come back to Idaho?
A: It is. But it’s great. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s fantastic. And everyone kind of welcomes me with open arms.
Q: I’ve got to bug you about a rumor: Did you buy a house in Boise last year? And if so, when’s the house-warming party?
A: Yes, my wife and I did purchase a home last year. Ever since I moved to L.A., that was really the end goal ... to always come back to my roots and have a place in Boise.
Q: I notice you’re not telling me when the party is.
A: (Laughter) No, there needs to be a house-warming party. If you want to throw it, then let’s do it.
Q: What’s your excitement level about “Triple 9,” and how is it different for you than your last couple of films?
A: “Triple 9” is just a gritty, gruesome, brutal telling of just a raw, honest human story that centers around the Russian mafia, a group of cops, a group of good cops and the streets — the gang world — in Atlanta. And it’s a film where you’re not sure who you should be rooting for, because some of the heroes in the film are the bad guys. But they have reasons that they are doing these bad things, and they absolutely humanize those reasons in this film.
I was first drawn to this project because of our brilliant director John Hillcoat. I’ve been a fan of his for many years, and he’s a very picky director. He doesn’t do a lot of movies, but you know the movies that he attaches himself to are going to be just really honest stories of very brutal circumstances.
Q: You play a criminal in “Triple 9.” This seems to be a natural type of role for you.
A: Well, some could say. I do like the more intense side of things. I don’t see myself doing a romantic comedy anytime soon.
A: No, I don’t think so. I gravitate towards stories that have a lot of conflict in characters that are dealing with some sort of internal emotional turmoil. I don’t know what that says about me, but as an actor, it’s so much fun to play. You go into work, you zip on a completely different skin than you’re used to, and you’ve just gotta mess around in make-believe for a little bit.
As a kid, I grew up — I think we all did, boys — playing cops and robbers. We just used our imagination, let it go wild. In this film, it’s just cops and robbers but on the biggest scale possible.
Q: Is there a certain type of role that you would want to play that you haven’t gotten the chance to do?
A: You never really know what those roles are going to be until the script is placed in front of you. But if I had to kind of pick something cool, I think it would be fun to play one of the villains in one of the Marvel movies. I think those characters are always the most interesting to play.
Q: You’re starring in a new Hulu series, “The Path,” that debuts March 30. What’s it about?
A: It centers around a family in the middle of a new controversial religious movement that is being investigated by the FBI. And I play another sort of guy that comes from a tortured past who is brought into the movement by his loving wife. His wife was born into the movement. They’ve raised their two kids in the movement. And in the pilot episode, my character comes back from an ayahuasca retreat with the movement.
During that retreat, my character, Eddie, has this eye-opening experience where he decides that he just does not buy into it at all anymore. He just feels like it’s all a bunch of lies. But he’s kind of backed into a corner, because even though this is really how he feels now, he cannot express his feelings to anyone, especially his family. Because in the movement, if there is any sort of doubt, that person with doubt is just thrown to the curb and left behind and everyone just turns their backs on that one person. So he’d rather live a life of lies than lose his family.
Q: “Breaking Bad” changed your life. Even with the movies you’ve done since — “Need for Speed,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” now “Triple 9” — do you still feel like Jesse Pinkman’s following you around?
A: I think it’s going to be kind of an impossible thing to shake. “Breaking Bad” has become kind of a cultural phenomenon, which is incredible. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. But yeah, I think it’s going to be following me around for the rest of my career. So it’s all about just doing roles that kind of change things up a little bit. But I feel absolutely grateful that I was a part of something so special and magical.
Q: You don’t wake up sweating from a nightmare about signing Jesse Pinkman 8x10s at some comic convention when you’re 75 years old?
A: (Laughter) No, no. I just hope to continue to work. I’m sure by the time I’m 75 years old, people will still be calling me a bitch.
If you go
What: “Triple 9” screening with Aaron Paul
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St.
Tickets: Free by listening to 103.5 Kiss FM, Wow Country 104.3 FM, Mix 106 FM, 107.9 Lite FM, 580 KIDO AM and 630 AM The Fan. Paul also plans to distribute tickets in a Boise scavenger hunt. Watch his Twitter feed for details: @aaronpaul_8.