Aaron Paul’s Emmy-winning performance as Jesse Pinkman on the landmark AMC series Breaking Bad drew rave reviews from critics, and the show’s producers decided not to kill off Jesse at the end of the first season after seeing what Paul was capable of. When Breaking Bad finished in September 2013, many wondered how he would follow up this auspicious start to his career.
Though Paul starred in a few small movies like Smashed during the run of Breaking Bad, he got his first chance at a starring role in the 2014 video game adaptation Need for Speed. Despite decent overseas box office numbers, critics and American audiences deemed that film a failure. Paul’s tough luck continued with Ridley Scott’s swords-and-sandals epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, which was more notable for alleged whitewashing than for its actual quality or box-office success. But in the last few days, two pieces of casting news suggested a turnaround might be in the works.
Yesterday, Hulu announced that Paul will play the male lead in its upcoming drama The Way from Friday Night Lights and Parenthood creator Jason Katims, and today Deadline reports that Paul will star in a new film called Come and Find Me from director Zack Whedon (brother of Joss and Jed). The film will start shooting next month in Vancouver, with Paul playing a man named David who chases after his missing ex-girlfriend upon discovering she wasn’t who he thought she was.
Whedon will make his feature directing debut after working as a writer and producer on shows like Halt and Catch Fire, Fringe and his brother Joss’ fan favorite Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. But the real draw in this news is the script. Whedon’s screenplay Come and Find Me made the 2012 Black List, an annual compendium of unproduced screenplays that has catapulted unknown screenwriters like Diablo Cody, J.C. Chandor and Rian Johnson to stardom in Hollywood. Among the screenplays on the same list as Come and Find Me: The Fault in Our Stars, Whiplash, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Draft Day, all of which arrived in theaters to varying degrees of success within the past year and a half. That Paul has been tapped to play the lead in a script with that seal of approval bodes well for the film’s success.
It remains to be seen whether these upcoming projects will be enough to make Paul a star who’s defined by more than his role as the beleaguered meth dealer in one of the all-time great TV dramas. Right now, Paul seems to be stuck with the same stigma that initially plagued Daniel Radcliffe after the Harry Potter series ended - it’s still too difficult to separate the actor from the role. Nonetheless, the fact that Paul has been cast in two interesting new projects within the space of a day suggests that many in Hollywood see a promising future for him. And Come and Find Me, with its thriller plot and emotional undertones, sounds like a match for Paul’s strengths as an actor.
There’s still a possibility that Paul will forever be defined by Jesse Pinkman, and that the Breaking Bad creative team will be the only one capable of drawing legendary work out of him. After all, Radcliffe still hasn’t entirely broken out of the Potter reputation four years after the last film. Nonetheless, this week’s news suggests a step in the right direction.
We'll keep you updated on Come and Find Me as development continues.