Jesse Plemons, who certainly knows how to find his way into good screen projects, talks about his dramatic new role on "Breaking Bad," compares it with "Friday Night Lights" and offers a few words on upcoming feature film "The Master" in the interview below...
Jesse Plemons’ reaction upon realizing that he would be killing away a child at the climax of his second episode of “Breaking Bad” was about the same as yours.
“It was like, ‘Oh my gosh’ – just kind of jaw-dropping,” said Plemons, the former “Friday Night Lights” regular who practically overnight has become a “Breaking Bad” key presence. “My mind just kind of went racing after that, because you don’t really know anything about the character at that point.”
Plemons had only been told generally that something big would happen in Sunday’s episode, “Dead Freight.” Then he read the script “and kind of freaked out.”
Plemons’ character, Todd, was established two episodes earlier as someone looking to prove himself, giving a bit of useful information to lead “Breaking Bad” stalwarts Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). But that didn’t take away any of the shock from Todd’s shoot-first, don’t-wait-for-orders approach upon spotting an innocent young witness to their robbery of a train carrying methylamine.
“The adrenaline is just running,” Plemons said. “I just think Todd is really pragmatic and just thought that something that had to be done. I don’t think he’s a guy who just goes around shooting people. In that particular case, it was just something in his mind that absolutely had to be done to be certain — the stakes were too high.”
Even with credits that also include “Battleship” and upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson Oscar contender “The Master,” Plemons had a conventional audition for the “Breaking Bad” part approximately three months ago.
“I just went in and auditioned like everyone else, and put it on tape,” he said. “It was a scene that was just written for the audition, and I went in and read it a couple of times. … The next day, I was on a plane heading to Albuquerque at 7 in the morning – not much time to wrap your head around it, which was good.
“The scene that they wrote for the audition was just awesome. It was a throwaway scene — I didn’t know that at the time because I had to sign a waiver anyways. (In the script), I was looking for the character I read in the audition, and that was nowhere to be found."
Plemons then read through the script, found the character closest to his own description, and said, “Oh, I guess I’m playing Todd.”
Plemons said that he hasn’t been given much backstory about Todd and is making some decisions for himself, though he adds that showrunner Vince Gilligan “at least pointed me in the right direction.”
“It’s a character that I’m really, really excited to learn more about,” Plemons added.
Comparisons between Sunday's shooting and the famous (or infamous) season-two “FNL” moment in which Landry kills a man who was raping Tyra were inevitable, so much so that it came up during the "Breaking Bad" filming. Plemons seemed slightly amused, slightly fatigued by the connection.
“Just a funny coincidence, I guess,” Plemons said. “But it’s definitely two completely different circumstances and two different motivations involved, it goes without saying.”
More relevantly, Plemons found similarities in the atmosphere on the “FNL” and “Breaking Bad” sets.
“It’s definitely a friendly vibe, and the crew is really awesome,” he said. “It’s just a set that everyone wakes up and is really excited to go to work. The crew is just as big a fan as everyone else — you can really tell when everyone is really into what they’re trying to do. … There’s obviously differences on every set, but the overall vibe is very comfortable.”
There are even mentoring father figures in both, with Walter White as “the twisted Eric Taylor,” Plemons said with a laugh.
Plemons offered just a few hints about “The Master,” which will come to theaters in September and present Plemons as the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s lead character, a founder of a post-WWII religious organization that has drawn comparisons to Scientology. Plemons himself is seeing the finished project for the first time this weekend.
“There’s a lot of tension between my character and the rest of the family, but it’s never really discussed why or what happened,” Plemons said. “and I’m just kind of … following him around wherever his work takes him. But I really don’t know how much I can talk about that, other than the whole experience was pretty surreal. That’s like the ultimate, doing a movie like that. It’s above and beyond any of my expectations.”