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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie released on Netflix over the weekend, and in some ways, it was as if the six years since Breaking Bad's finale hadn't passed at all. The TV movie, written and helmed by show creator Vince Gilligan, did an arguably masterful job laying out the immediate aftermath of Jesse Pinkman's escape from his neo-Nazi prison. To accomplish such a feat, Gilligan did exactly what fans were hoping he would by delivering a variety of highly welcomed cameos, including one from Walter "Heisenberg" White himself, Bryan Cranston.
Let's go over Aaron Paul's reaction to both of those cameos below.
Bryan Cranston as Walter White
Lots of moments during El Camino's production threw Aaron Paul for a loop, putting him back into the mindset he stayed in during Breaking Bad's five-season run. To say the least, the secrecy concerns were a major piece of the puzzle, with Bryan Cranston's appearance being the most complicated. Here's what Paul had to say:
I have such funny videos of Brian and I walking in our sort of Star Wars cloaks, walking from our trailer to the SUV that takes us to set. It was pretty great. I also thought that maybe those clothes drew a lot more attention to us? [Laughs.] But I don’t know. Obviously, it worked. I know they flew in Bryan on a private jet so he wouldn’t have to deal with the public at the airport. Obviously, we were never seen out in public together. I couldn’t go and hang out with Matt or Charles. I could only see them on set. But for me that was the easiest part to keep it a secret. I mean, I love throwing surprises. I love surprising my wife. I love lying to people in an innocent way. And this was just that on a big scale.
Understandably, Aaron Paul agreed when asked by EW if the project felt like an undercover mission at that point. The few times that Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston were in the same area of the country together, fans went wild with El Camino speculation, even though their team-up was only to launch a brand of Mezcal, and had nothing to do with Breaking Bad. Plus, the movie had apparently already filmed by the time those videos came out.
Not only was it a big ordeal to get Bryan Cranston to and from the set of El Camino, but it was also a pretty big undertaking to film the actual scene itself. After all, even a single random passerby would potentially have the power to completely ruin the secretly crafted return of Walter White.
How did they make it happen? Well for one, none of the extras in Walt and Jesse's diner scene were randomly cast. Here's how Aaron Paul explained it:
One hundred percent of those people were crew members or family of crew members. We needed that diner to be filled with people who we could trust to not leak this information. And also just to be a part of it, you know? We wanted to be surrounded by loved ones, to be a part of this really cool day. The day Bryan came on set with that bald cap and those loafers and that classic Mr. White outfit. I mean, the faces that showed up, the people who flew in just to see this moment, they thought, 'Well, look, if I’m going to visit one time, it’s gotta be during this time.' It was pretty cool to be a part of that.
I can't imagine how amazing that must have been, both for longtime crew members and for those just entering this universe with El Camino. Even though Cranston was playing the more physically diminished version of Walt from Season 2's timeline, the character is still an intimidating force to be reckoned with.
Plus, that sounds like the smartest way to handle a scene in the most spoiler-free way possible. Assuming, of course, that everyone involved would be trusted with such highly explosive information. That's definitely not always a given in Hollywood these days.
Krysten Ritter as Jane Margolis
Coming as late as it did in El Camino, Bryan Cranston's appearance as Walter White initially appeared to be the final big payoff for Breaking Bad fans; an emotional climax beyond the narrative's climax. But Vince Gilligan had another whopper packed in, with Krysten Ritter returning to the franchise for the first time since Season 3's "Abiquiu."
As one might have imagined, Aaron Paul was very much behind the idea of Krysten Ritter's Jane appearing as a source of mental comfort for Jesse. In his words:
I thought it was such a beautiful way to end this film. He looks at the seat next to him and it’s empty, and then out of nowhere Jane appears, and they’re just in love, and they’re in a much less complicated time in their lives.
Jane's thoughts about doing things for oneself, as opposed to waiting for the universe to sort things out, had already been put into motion by Jesse when he killed Neil for that $1,800 (and change). But that didn't make her words any less important or necessary for him to recall in those moments as he set out on his own in Alaska.
As it turns out, El Camino viewers only got to see an abbreviated version of the scene that Vince Gilligan shot with Aaron Paul and Krysten Ritter. When asked what he remembered about shooting the longer bit, here's what the actor said:
It’s so funny. On the day, Vince realized — he’s setting up a shot, he’s like, 'There are so many damn shots of you in a car! We gotta get you out of your car.' So it starts with us driving and then the car breaks down and then it cuts to me on the phone with AAA, trying to pretend like he knows why the car broke down to have a chance at maybe slightly impressing Jane. And then it cuts to him just walking over and sitting down next to Jane, and he’s telling her what he feels about her, and they had this back-and-forth. And then it cuts into what was left [in the film].
While it might have been great to spend a lot more time with Jane and Jesse during their road trip, it ultimately wouldn't have added anything further to the end of El Camino. Her death was so important to Jesse and his crumbling relationship with Walt that using her for a longer scene might have felt too maudlin and melancholy. Instead, though, the short burst of Jane is refreshing and doesn't wear out its heartfelt welcome.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is currently available to stream on Netflix, with a debut coming to AMC at some point down the line. Let us know what you guys thought about these cameos, and the rest, in the comments below!