‘Breaking Bad’ Star Aaron Paul: In the Palm of Walter White's Hand

"Breaking Bad" season 5 premiere finds Jesse being treated like an equal partner — but is he?

(Spoiler warning: Don't read if you don't want to know, very generally, what happens on season 5 of "Breaking Bad."

Jesse Pinkman, Aaron Paul's character on "Breaking Bad," isn't a jittery, drug-addled dropout anymore.

He knows how to singlehandedly make the Southwest's best meth. He's saved drug kingpin Gus Fring and his ice-cold enforcer, Mike, from certain death. And he beat the tar out of his partner, Walter White, before teaming up with him again to kill Gus.

Also read: 'Breaking Bad' Season 5 Preview: Walter White Has 'Become Heisenberg' (Video)

He also has a few hundred thousand dollars put away. So why doesn't he quit the meth game?

"Because Walter White has Jesse in the palm of his hand," says Paul, who won a supporting actor Emmy for the role. "And Walt knows just exactly how to manipulate Jesse to do whatever he wants."

The push-pull between Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse is at the center of the show, which returns Sunday for its fifth and final season. Once Jesse was the glorified assistant. Now, Walt realizes that he couldn't have achieved his greatest victory without Jesse – even if he had to ruthlessly manipulate him into helping. We talked with Paul about Jesse's guilt complex, his need for a father figure, and saying "bitch" a lot.

TheWrap: You've said this season is "the craziest one yet." Can you pinpoint when things go crazy?
Aaron Paul:
Well, Jesse dies in the third episode… No. It's a sprint until the final eight and the final eight are going to be just a bloodbath, I'm sure.

Also read: 'Breaking Bad' Star Anna Gunn: Why People Used to Think, 'Skyler's a Bitch'

Do you know that for sure or is that just the direction things seem to be going in?
It's "Breaking Bad." I cannot imagine anything good happening. Nothing good ever happens. I have no idea what's going to happen. They keep us in the dark.

Without saying what it is, Jesse has a really good idea in the first episode. And it's almost ignored. But it's an idea that doesn't even occur to Walt even though it's in Walt's wheelhouse. What does that tell us about where Jesse is and where he's going?
I think it's a huge testament to where he is right now. Jesse is always willing to throw out ideas. But usually they didn't stick and didn't make sense. And now he throws out this idea that no one else is thinking of and it makes perfect sense. It shows that Jesse knows sometimes what he's talking about. And he's a huge player in this.

Why does Walt have so much pull over him?
Jesse has always strived for acceptance from a fatherly figure and he looks to Walt for that. And last season he looked to Mike for that. He just wants to make them proud.

That father-child bond seems sacred to him, the way he wants to protect kids.
Yeah. He does want to protect kids. He has a big heart. There's many shades to him.

You talked in a recent Nerdist Podcast interview about the number of people who come up to you and want you to call them "bitch" in character as Jesse. How often do you hear "bitch" screamed from passing cars or something?
Almost on a day-to-day basis, to be honest. I don't ever use that word in my day-to-day life. But so many people ask me to call them bitch. Or say, "Please call my wife a bitch!" It's so funny. I think this is the first and only time where a human being can call someone that and it's okay. It's fascinating to me.

Was "bitch" an ad-lib on your part, or was that the writers?
That was definitely the writers. 99.9 percent of all the "bitches" are scripted.

Do you think that's his ultimate insult?
It's not even an insult. It's just part of his dialogue : "Yeah, bitch!" … It's all about the way he says it. It can mean, "We've succeeded," or "We've accomplished something."

Jesse has really good at everything. He can make the meth himself, he saved Mike and Gus's lives last season, he kicked Walt's ass. He's really in a position of strength.
Finally. In season three he was trying to convince himself that he was the bad guy because he had all this guilt about Jane dying. At the end of season 3 he had proved that he was the bad guy because he murdered Gale, the nicest guy ever on "Breaking Bad." And then last season he was just completely lost and confused. And finally this season he's getting his footing and he's stable. He's in a strength position. But in "Breaking Bad" it keeps heading in one direction and then it veers off.

Also read: 'Breaking Bad' Star Giancarlo Esposito on the Healing Power of Gus Fring

It seems like guilt is the only thing holding him back. And if he gets past it he can out-Walter White Walter White.
Exactly. And this season Walter White's hardly even there. Heisenberg has completely taken over.

The season 5 premiere of "Breaking Bad" airs Sunday at 10/9c on AMC.