The 1 Thing That Saved Jesse Pinkman From Being Killed Off in ‘Breaking Bad’

Fans of the iconic show Breaking Bad are well aware that a huge part of its success stemmed from the complex relationship between Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). On the show, White plays Pinkman’s former high school chemistry teacher. These two pair up to form an unlikely friendship (if you can call it that) and together, they create a veritable meth empire.

Spoiler alert: Walter White dies in the dramatic last scene of the series finale while Jesse Pinkman masterminds a dramatic escape from the Nazi compound where he was being held captive. But if you’d ask show creator Vince Gilligan if that was the ending he had in mind, he’d have told you not at all. It turns out Aaron Paul’s character wasn’t even supposed to live past the first season.

Aaron Paul
Aaron Paul | Tasia Wells/WireImage

Jesse Pinkman was supposed to die in the first season

Originally, Jesse Pinkman wasn’t supposed to be one of the main characters on the show — in fact, he wasn’t supposed to survive past the episode 9 of Season 1. Then fate stepped in and decided his outcome should be quite different.

Coincidentally, the Breaking Bad episode with Pinkman’s death was scheduled to be produced during a writer’s strike in Hollywood in the 2007-2008 season. So the episode with the character’s death was never written or created. And that’s a good thing, because killing off Jesse would have been a terrible mistake.

“The original plan was to kill him off, but I have to say, the writers’ strike, in a sense, didn’t save him because I knew by episode 2 — we all did, all of us, our wonderful directors and our wonderful producers — everybody knew this talent, how good you are, and a pleasure to work with,” Vince Gilligan said to Aaron Paul during a cast panel in 2011. “And it became pretty clear early on that that would be a huge, colossal mistake to kill off Jesse. But the idea was … I didn’t know how important Jesse was [going to be].”

Bryan Cranston used to prank Aaron Paul about his character’s death

Despite his kind words on the panel, show creator Vince Gilligan wasn’t above helping Bryan Cranston pull pranks on one of Breaking Bad’s most beloved actors.  

“I thought I was signing onto like a full series. And then, at least through like the next season, season and a half, anytime I picked up a script, [I thought], ’This is the time,’” Aaron Paul explained to The Hollywood Reporter.

“[Cranston] didn’t help the situation, that bastard! He would say, ‘Hey, did you read the next script?’ And I go, ‘Nah, did you get it?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh.’ And he would just give me this big hug. I’d go, ‘What?’ He’s like, ‘Hey man, it had to end sometime, but at least you go out guns blazing,’ something like that. And I go, ‘What are you talking about?’ [He says] ‘Just read it and call me, if you want to talk.’ And then he would walk off!”

But it was all in good fun, and obviously Paul had no reason to worry. “To me, that’s a victory for you to celebrate,” Vince Gilligan said. “You’re so good, you made yourself instantly indispensable.”

We can’t wait to see what’s up next for Jesse Pinkman once El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie drops on Netflix in October!