ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Five months after scoring his second Emmy for playing tortured junkie Jesse Pinkman on AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” Aaron Paul paraded around a massive soundstage at Albuquerque Studios, carrying another kind of prize on his back.
With a playful grin, the pencil-thin Paul was giving his bride-to-be, documentary filmmaker Lauren Parsekian, a piggyback ride as other members of the “Breaking Bad” cast and crew began preparing a night of shooting that would stretch past midnight. Eventually, the couple approached Bryan Cranston, who stars as Walter White, the cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned lethal criminal mastermind and Pinkman’s partner in crime.
Cranston eyed Paul’s passenger: “Well, this makes sense, Aaron,” he joked. “I’ve been carrying you for the past six years!”
The banter was illustrative of the loose camaraderie of the company, far from the distractions of Hollywood. Though there was a lot of work ahead, there were no signs of fatigue or pressure. Executive producer Michelle MacLaren, directing the episode, was in good spirits as around 50 actors and technicians moved into position.
But on this February evening, it was anything but business as usual at the home base of the show, which has grown in five seasons from a low-profile cable entry series to one of prime time’s most elite and honored dramas.
The approaching finish line gave the proceedings an extra emotional charge.
Paul and Cranston slipped into “Breaking Bad’ mode for a scene in which Pinkman and White (aka the deadly drug kingpin “Heisenberg”) are talking on the phone. Though the actors weren’t physically facing each other, the explosiveness of their conversation, flavored with words of violence and rage, exposed two characters very much on the brink.
The white-hot exchange between the mesmerizing duo is but one guarantee that the series is not going gently into the good night – welcome news for devotees who have clung to every brutal twist and turn of White’s hellbent mission to build a drug empire, no matter what the cost to friends and family.
The scenes being filmed were for the show’s final episodes, which will start running Aug. 11. As the production winds down, questions remain: How large will the final body count be? And will Walter White, who first turned to crime after his cancer diagnosis to provide money for his survivors but then betrayed his family, poisoned innocent children and wreaked havoc throughout New Mexico, be punished for his crimes? Will his cancer, in remission, return?
The ultimate outcome has made the end of “Breaking Bad” perhaps the most anticipated TV finale since the curtain dropped in 2007 on “The Sopranos.”
Cranston, who just scored another lead actor Emmy nomination, said the countdown to the final installments has been “a mixture of dread, anxiety, excitement and thrills. There’s been a lot of tears, rejoicing and lamenting. The full spectrum. The whole thing ends in a very ‘Breaking Bad’ way. I think fans will embrace it.”
Anna Gunn, who plays White’s embittered wife, Skylar, and was also nominated this year for an Emmy, said there were scenes that “were difficult and emotional.”
Sitting in a darkened room of the studio during a break, Paul seemed the most upset about the approaching end.
“My heart starts to race a little when I think about it,” he said. He decided to relive his “Breaking Bad” experience by watching all the episodes from the pilot. “It’s very hard to let go,” he said.