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Aaron Paul Talks 'Triple 9'

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Aaron Paul in Triple 9. Photo credit: Bob Mahoney. Distributor: Open Road Films.

Three-time Emmy Award winner Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Need for Speed) stars alongside Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus and Woody Harrelson in director John Hillcoat’s gritty new crime thriller, Triple 9. Paul channels a certain familiarity into his role as the troubled Gabe Welch, an ex-cop entrenched in a crew of bank robbers with ties to the Russian Mob. Tasked with an impossible heist, the idea of manufacturing a triple 9, police code for “officer down,” as a way to distract the Atlanta police force is floated by his cohorts who see no problem in taking out a cop to accomplish the job at hand. Dealing with the group’s decision, Gabe finds himself at the one line he’s not as willing as the others to cross.

During a recent interview with multiple press outlets, Paul spoke about the research he did in preparing for Triple 9, what the tone was like on set and shared some advice for up-and-coming actors.

It was seeing Hillcoat’s name on the script for Triple 9 that initially caught Paul’s attention. As a fan of the director’s work, he was eager to work with him and found himself enamored with the story written by Matt Cook. “God, I love this script. And I knew with John holding the reins, it was just going to be just a such a brutal telling of this story, but in a very grounded way,” he said. “John doesn’t do that many films … but the stories tend to be very intense. I love those types of stories...stories with conflict, characters with conflict.”

While doing research for the film, Hillcoat plied Paul and the rest of the high-powered cast with a Dropbox folder that he continuously filled up with information and images that the actor described as “impossible to erase from your mind.”

“He wanted us to draw kind of from our own, not experiences, but from our own knowledge,” Paul said. “[The folder contained] just a bunch of articles, things that the Russian Mafia’s done, articles on corrupt cops, he had me go on some ride alongs with the LAPD, saw some pretty crazy stuff. It’s like the wild, wild, west.”

During filming, it was a much different story. “It was nothing but laughs on set,” Paul said. “Robbing the bank, for example, it was just cops and robbers on the biggest level possible. And it was hilarious, you know, putting on these masks, running into a bank with big, giant rubber guns. Boys will be boys, I guess. It was a lot of fun.”

The film also marked the first time that Paul shared the screen with longtime friend and fellow actor Norman Reedus. Playing brothers in the film, the actors share a pivotal scene together in the film. “It’s great that we’re playing brothers, so we already have that bond, that love, there,” said Paul.

Being that there are some similarities between his character Gabe in Triple 9 and his character Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad, Paul shared that he doesn’t feel constrained by his Emmy-winning role. “I definitely don’t see Jesse Pinkman leaving me anytime soon. For the rest of my life, I’m going to be called ‘bitch.’ You know, I’ve got to take it with stride,” he said. “I feel very blessed to be able to have played such—it feels strange to say it—an iconic character. Breaking Bad became a part of television history, a huge part of pop culture. It’s all about trying to do something different than that guy. This is really the first role since that show [where] my character is picking up a pipe. I get offered drug addict roles all the time, on a weekly basis. I just try to stay away from that, but this script was impossible to ignore. … But when he picked up the pipe, it was like, ‘Ah...does he have to do that?’ But I figure, why not?”

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Courtesy of Open Road Films.

When asked about what advice he’d give to up-and-coming actors, Paul joked, “Don’t do it. I repeat, don’t do it,” before recounting some words of wisdom he received from an older gentlemen that he recognized from a commercial when he first moved to L.A. at 17 years old.

“He’s like, ‘Just remember the strong survive, and if you want it for the right reasons, it will happen. You’ve just got to keep fighting for it. Don’t give up,’ Paul shared before imparting his own advice.

“Just keep working at it, that’s all I can say. I learned from trial and error. I never went to an acting class. I would mess up on an audition, I would apologize to the casting directors and I would try and do a better job the next time around. Just fight for it.”

Triple 9 is now playing in theaters.