The last time we spoke to Jesse Plemons about Breaking Bad, his character, Todd, had just shot and killed a child with zero remorse. Todd seems equally indifferent about torturing his former colleague Jesse and chaining him to the meth lab in order to force him to cook. Is Todd secretly a robot? Just a psychopath? Plemons says maybe so, but maintains that his character feels real feelings! Vulture caught up with the actor for a brief chat about all of Todd’s strange quirks and why he’s not rooting for anyone.
What did you make of Walt’s phone call to Skyler in the last episode? Was it redeeming?
They’re obviously several layers to that conversation, but I thought it was interesting to see him try to clear Skyler, while at the same time sending this Heisenberg message to the cops.
I ask because in a recent interview, you said you’re still rooting for Walt.
No. I don’t know. It’s confusing. I don’t know that there’s anyone who deserves to live.
You mean everyone needs to go down?
I mean, everyone left has done some terrible things. It’s hard to pick someone who’s morally just.
What do you remember about filming the shoot-out?
Man, it was intense and just unbelievable to be there for Hank’s last moments. It was quite a trip. At the end, there was a round of applause and I think Dean said something in classic Dean Norris style and then made his exit.
What is classic Dean Norris style?
You could say it was short and sweet. It was fitting. Getting to play with all those guns wasn’t bad either. I didn’t realize how much fun that could be. They took us to the range a couple of days before to practice. We used blanks, but it feels like the real deal so there’s not much acting required.
Have you seen the “pew pew” GIFs of you shooting?
[Laughs] I haven’t.
When Walt collapses after Hank’s been killed, Todd looks … not exactly sad but maybe a little bummed?
In Todd’s little heart, I think he was sad to see a guy whom he respected so much reduced to a puddle of tears. It was the lowest point he’s ever seen Walt.
His “Sorry for your loss” was hilariously inadequate. He’s like a robot.
But he’s trying! I think he’s trying.
How did he get to be so polite and well-mannered growing up around Uncle Jack and his gang?
That was something Michael Bowen [who plays Jack] and I discussed quite a bit, and we answered a lot of those questions in preparation. I think Uncle Jack was always Todd’s protector. As horrible as he is, even when he was younger, he probably gave Todd a respite from a home environment that wasn’t too great. It’s also kind of how Todd was written. When I auditioned, I had no idea about the acts Todd would commit, so it was pretty easy to like the guy in the beginning because he was so polite. When he killed Drew Sharp, it was utter shock.
Did Vince Gilligan or any of the writers talk to you about that turning point for Todd?
Oh, yeah, Vince and I talked. Once I read that script, it made so much sense how all the writers had been dealing with me with trepidation, because they knew what was coming and I didn’t [laughs]. Vince was there for the train heist and he told me a great story that gave me a place to build off of. He said, “You know when you’re driving and a raccoon wanders out into the street? If you swerve to avoid it, you’ll go off the road, so you just hit it.” I was like, “Okay, that makes total sense.” Am I gonna go down, or is the raccoon going down? That raccoon had to go down.
And then he kept the raccoon’s spider. Creepy!
That tiny moment provided a lot of information for me, for sure. In the next episode, you’ll see even more of that side of Todd.
What do you make of Todd’s attraction to Lydia?
Again, he might have some mom issues. It makes sense. She needs him and he’s misinterpreting that a little bit. And, you know, she’s an attractive lady. It’s not totally off-base that Todd would be interested after being around Nazis all day.
Todd hasn’t been in the meth business long, but he’s obsessed with getting it right.
He’s got big shoes to fill. Even though he’s unpredictable, he still wants to do a good job. That was one of the other directions they had for me in the early scripts. They said there was something militant about him. He needs to finish the mission.
No matter what the cost to Jesse.
I feel like he cares about Jesse!
Jesse’s face looks like hamburger meat.
Todd doesn’t care in the way most people care. You’ll see in the next episode.
Did he put that photo of Andrea and Brock up to motivate Jesse?
I would assume that was probably a conversation he and his uncle had. I would imagine that he did, yes.
Then I’m still really worried for Jesse.
Well, you probably should be. It’s pretty dire.