News Column

Boise turns out for a homecoming of 'Breaking Bad' star Aaron Paul

September 16, 2013


Sept. 16--"Yea, b--!" shouted a scruffy bearded Aaron Paul as he grabbed a microphone and headed for the stage at the Egyptian Theatre on Sunday night. He used his character Jesse Pinkman's signature line to launch into the introduction of a live-streaming broadcast of the third-to-the-last episode of Paul's history-making television show "Breaking Bad."

The crowd of more than 700 went wild and screamed it back at him.

The Egyptian rocked with a wild energy -- another chapter in the ongoing love story between Paul and his hometown.

"The fact that I'm actually back in Boise inside this theater I've totally been in love with for years -- it's my favorite theater on the planet -- and to give back to this community is remarkable," he said.

Paul introduced his mom, Darla?Sturtevant, who works at PEAK, the radio station that ran the ticket giveaway, his wife, Lauren Parsekian, and his Centennial High School drama teacher, Nancy Link, along with a group of giddy, current Centennial students.

This wasn't just a simple ticket giveaway or promotion for a popular TV show. This was a momentary cultural flash that sent hundreds of "Breaking Bad" fans rushing over Downtown, following Paul's tweeted directions on a ticket scavenger hunt.

"Breaking Bad for GOOD" was a way for Paul to say thank you to fans who have supported him for years -- through stints as a Boise radio mascot (he dressed as a frog and toucan as a teenager for 93.1 to raise money for his move to Los Angeles), through uncredited one-line characters on a litany of TV shows, roles as crazy murderers in small films and now as a co-star of one of the most important shows developed for television in the past decade. "Breaking Bad" explores the seamy world of meth production, addiction and crime -- in a decidedly unromantic, unglamorized way.

He co-stars with three-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White, an underachieving chemistry genius who winds up teaching high school.

As the series began in 2008, White receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, then decides he can ensure his family's financial security by cooking and selling high-quality meth. He partners with Paul's Jesse Pinkman, an ex-student meth addict he hopes will show him the ropes.

Both make serious mistakes along the way and go farther down the rabbit hole into the world of organized crime than one thought imaginable. As the show prepares for its series finale, things have gotten pretty dark. (The shocker of this episode was the death of one of its most important characters.)

The Egyptian is a special place for Paul, he said, in an interview in the theater's upstairs green room.?You could hear the sounds of fans squealing from the street below.

In 1999, he was one of them, waiting outside the Egyptian to catch a glimpse of Michelle Pfeiffer at a premiere of Michael Hoffman's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." "Michael Hoffman actually gave me tickets to the after-party, although I didn't know who he was at the time," Paul remembered. "He saw me waiting, looking at all the people and seeing them celebrating film. That was so exciting seeing that in my hometown."

That memory stayed with him, and now he is building on it, taking time to walk out to the front of the theater and hand tickets to people dressed as the show's characters, hold a baby and take videos and photos of himself using fans' phones.

Holly Dawson sported a pasted-on beard and Walter-White bald cap.?She recently moved to Boise from Dallas and "finding out Aaron Paul is from here made the move all the more worthwhile,"?she said.

Earlier in the day, Lisa Vandercar's daughter Mallory caught tickets Paul threw down from a window at Hotel 43.

"He said, 'here, yo.' She lost her shoe running across the street to get them," Vandercar said. Unfortunately, Mallory had to work, so mom Lisa was the one standing in line. Earlier in the afternoon they saw Paul at the Flying M and got a picture with him. "It's just nice, nice, nice for him to give this to Boise,"?Vandercar said. "And he's always been so well-spoken about Boise." At the end of the day, Paul showed himself to be just a regular Boise guy.

After the "shocking" revelations of the episode "Ozymandias," he answered questions, and tossed copies of Entertainment Weekly with him and Cranston on the cover. Each one was autographed and filled with little drawings Paul inserted.

"I've always just looked eye to eye with my fans,"?he said. "I'm just like them, they're just like me, we're all just people living on this planet." Keeping his connection with Boise and his family is what helps keep him grounded, he says.

"Fame doesn't make people turn into bad people,"?he said. "It just really shows what that person was all along inside before that fame. It's about never forgetting where you came from -- Idaho, Idaho Statesman you guys have always been unbelievably supportive of me."

For Paul, that takes him back to his core.

"I'm an actor. I knew from a very young age that's what I wanted to do,"?he said. "I love the craft. I love acting, and transforming into characters. I'm so passionate about it.

"Part of this for me was I want to spread the message of 'support your local arts, the local theater when you can.' Without them you have no local history. It's all about keeping the history within the small towns, and within the big towns. Or it's just going to be a Starbucks on every corner."

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