Photo: AMC

Esquire has published an oral history of the meth-fueled action drama Breaking Bad for the show’s 10th anniversary and, yes, Aaron Paul is on hand to discuss what it’s like to get called “bitch” everyday. “I have been called ‘bitch’ more than anyone on the planet,” he says, “and that is very exciting.”

But there were other revelations, too, as well as some context that might be surprising to those who came upon the show after it folded. “Breaking Bad was not a ratings hit, not a household name, not a show that earned a spot in the zeitgeist for several years,” author Emma Dibdin writes. And AMC? Well, when creator Vince Gilligan heard they wanted to meet about his pilot, he responded, “AMC? The channel where they play Short Circuit 2 ten times a day?” At that point, Mad Men had yet to air.

And while it’s fascinating to read about the show’s slow climb to popularity and just how important streaming video was to that process (“[Netflix] really saved our bacon,” says Bryan Cranston), it’s the what-ifs that truly spur the imagination.

It’s long been known that Gilligan initially wanted to kill off the character of Jesse Pinkman in the show’s first season, but didn’t due to the talent he saw in Paul. But what fewer people know is that Gilligan almost chose to kill off another major character instead.

Vince Gilligan: I was going to kill off the character of Hank at the end of that first season, having originally planned to kill Jesse and changed my tune on that pretty quickly because I realized how great Aaron Paul was. Of course, Dean Norris was just as great, but I figured I ought to sacrifice one of the main characters at the end of Season One, because that’s what the ballsy shows do! But the whole shape of the show would have been so different from what you know now, and I think it would have been a much shorter, less rich experience.

Advertisement

Credit the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike for that not happening. The show was cut short by two episodes, and Hank went on to play a pivotal role in the series’ next four seasons (only, of course, to die a much, much more dispiriting death at the hands of dirty neo-Nazis.)

Read the entire oral history over at Esquire.