Launching its second season on January 27th, the Hulu drama is set in the world of the fictionalized religion known as Meyerism, where, after a season of coming to grips with a faith-breaking spiritual awakening, Paul's character Eddie Lane finally found the fortitude to break away from the movement, even as he had to walk away from his still zealous wife (Michelle Monaghan) and kids.
Now, Eddie's finding his way in an unpredictable landscape outside of Meyerism while still trying to stay tethered to the family he left behind. It's a scenario not unfamiliar to Paul, who reveals to Moviefone that, not only does he have real-world friends who've confided their own similar struggles to him, he also understands what it meant to leave the praised and adored phenomenon "Breaking Bad" to enter an uncertain future -- but one he now seems to have well in hand.
Moviefone: The subject matter here is so interesting and unique -- as you got into Season 2, what were the fascinating things you were learning, not just about where the show was going, but where the creative team was drawing real inspiration from?
Aaron Paul: They were pulling from a lot of different areas around this world, around these different movements, and religions, cults. What I really loved about it, obviously, I have to point out what my character's journey is going through: I just love that he is stepping foot outside of the reality he called home for so many years, so he's back to where he started.
He knows what life is like on the outside, unlike Sarah. She was born into the movement, so this is all she knows. So maybe that's why he has this sort of aha awakening moment saying, you know what, everything we're preaching is bullsh*t. It's all lies.
So we all saw his journey from Season 1, just living a life of lies. Does he open up about what he's feeling, knowing that he will lose his family? Or does he just keep everything buried and just sort of go on with those movements? I just love that he's outside of the pearly gates that he called home, and just trying to come to terms with his new reality.
What's been interesting for you in playing that crisis of faith, now that he's out? Because that's got to be both freeing and terrifying for him.
It is freeing and terrifying. I feel like the new kid in school every time I come to work. The Meyerism, Meyerists are there at work on stage. I'm so detached. It feels a little off, which is great for me as an actor. It's nice to put myself, truly, in those shoes. For me, it's been so fun just to live on the outside. Getting back to his old reality. Running into old friends, new flings. It's an interesting world.
Since viewers have gotten a chance to watch this show, have people come up to you and almost felt compelled to tell you their experiences with cults or similar sorts of organizations?
Yeah, it's actually been quite amazing and beautiful -- and heartwarming, in a way. I've had endless amounts of people, especially in Los Angeles, come up to me, because they feel so connected to my character's journey, so they feel like they want to just talk to someone about it. Maybe a stranger that they feel connected to about it.
Endless amounts of strangers opening up to me about their journeys of certain movements/cults, and just saying, "Thank you. I know what your character is going through. I stood up and said to my family that I just don't believe in what we're selling. Hear me out here. This is why I don't believe it." And they see their family members just shut down and just turn their backs. Not even slowly, just quickly just shun them.
A lot of these people come up to me, they thought, "Well, my family wouldn't turn their back on me. They love me." But no. That's so, so scary that these movements have such a tight grip on families. That's one of the reasons why I'm so proud to be a part of a show like this that's not afraid to tell this sort of story.
I'm sure, probably unintended, but there's almost now a sociopolitical allegory to it, too. You see these same kinds of estrangement over political allegiances today in our country.
It's a crazy time we're living in. We're so split. No matter what side you're on, you're pointing fingers at the other side in such a passionate way. There's no sort of talking through it. Trying to understand the other side's point of view is, obviously ... Each side wants change, but it's just an interesting time.
After your experience on "Breaking Bad," what did that do to you as far as your thoughts on the kinds of things you wanted to do next, having that on your resume, after all the accolades that the show got and the love it got from the audience? Did that affect the way you saw your career going forward?
I think, at the beginning of my career, we all aspire to do good work, good material. We want to be a part of a good story. We want to tell that story. But, at the beginning of my career, I just wanted to work in general. You just want to act, build your resume, get better jobs, build your career. But with "Breaking Bad," we were so blessed to be a part of such a special show for so many years. It really just kicked open doors for everyone involved.
So I think you just approach your career after "Breaking Bad" in a more delicate way. It's hard because you're a part of something so incredibly special, and the world knows it's special. They're going to be looking at you, OK, what's your next move? So I just wanted to be a part of interesting stories. I've always wanted to be a part of that.
So you've just got to kind of stick to your guns in that way. Stay away from any sort of cash grab you can. If you want longevity in this business, you've got to just listen to your gut. Don't spend your money. Be smart. And know, with acting, you're unemployed the moment they say cut and say, "That's a wrap." You may have some things lined up. You've just got to be smart.
It seems inevitable that you're going to get a call from Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould at some point to do something with "Better Call Saul." Are you looking forward to hearing what they come up with when they call you?
Oh, absolutely. It's a dream come true, and it hasn't even happened yet. Maybe it won't even happen, I don't know. But I'm such a big fan of that show, of course, for obvious reasons. It's just brilliant. I watch the show, and especially in this last season, seeing all of these great cameos pop up, throwbacks from the pilot, like Krazy-8, Max Arciniega, who's a dear friend of mine. I saw him show up. It's so beautiful getting a deeper look at these backstories. So yeah, of course. It'd be nice to have more layers revealed for this character that I love so deeply.
What haven't you done yet that you're really dying to do?
I look at Eleven from "Stranger Things"; Millie Bobby Brown is just so brilliant, but also another tortured character. I gravitate towards characters with conflict, characters that are going through a lot. She just does it so beautifully. Also, she has special powers. So I think that would be fun. A character with special powers. I would like to fly. Why not?
Been in to talk to Marvel yet?
Exactly! I don't know -- I love it all!
Being a person who's attracted to those kind of conflicted characters, do you have a pretty peaceful life away from work?
I do. I think that's what it is because I have a beautiful family. I'm so blessed to call Lauren my bride. I'm happily married. I don't know. I love going to work and feeling heavy emotions. Feels like I'm doing something. For me, it's just fun to portray a gamut of stories. It doesn't have to be torturous and drag through the heart. It's just more fun.
Do you have a couple projects in your back pocket that you're developing as a producer?
Not for myself -- not for myself to act; definitely for myself in general. We have some great projects in the works. Some things set up at many different places, which we're very excited about. Yeah, it's so fun. All of it's so fun. I really got a big taste of it with "BoJack [Horseman]," and now with "The Path." I get almost as much joy -- not as much, but almost as much joy -- developing and creating stories. For me, it's a little bit more fun really being inside of those stories as a character.
I know in my 20-odd years in Los Angeles, I've seen friends get sucked into, not necessarily always cults, but some bigger system that they've given themselves over to. It's been interesting, sometimes sad, sometimes "wow" to see these things happen. Have you had those experiences with friends of yours since being here?
Not so much. But I do have an experience of two buddies of mine, separate group of friends, who have been a part of a movement their entire life. Separately, they have come up to me, and this is the first time they have ever talked to me about their movement. Never opened up one time. Never mentioned it. I always knew they were within a certain movement.
They just said, "I love your journey you're going through on 'The Path.' I feel that journey." But, they tell me, they refuse to open up to their family, because they know that they will lose their family, and obviously they don't want that to happen.
So they were in Eddie's shoes in Season 1: "I'm just going to decide to just go through the day-to-day motions, fine. Wake up, go to whatever their family's a part of, and just know, deep down, I don't believe in it, but I'd rather not believe in it and still do my day-to-day reality, and still have my family." They know if they say anything, their families just would turn their backs.
So that was so interesting that my show sort of allowed that door to just open up just enough for them to feel they had the courage to just talk to me about such a heavy thing, because that's their life. They trust in me with that. I think it's a beautiful thing. Also, a little sad.