Skip to main content

Aaron Paul on Dual, hip-hop dancing, & Jesse Pinkman’s return

Riley Stearns’ dark satire Dual brings his signature form of dry, deadpan humor to a story about a woman in the not-too-far future who’s forced to battle her own clone to the death in order to decide who lives out the rest of her life. It’s a fascinating concept brimming with potential, and Stearns takes the film to some unexpected places as the tale unfolds.

Guardians of the Galaxy franchise actress Karen Gillan plays both Sarah and her clone. She’s joined in the film’s small cast by Breaking Bad and Westworld actor Aaron Paul, who portrays Trent, the combat trainer Sarah hires to prepare her for the fight.

Digital Trends spoke to Paul about the experience of working with Stearns and his distinctive film aesthetic, the backstory he came up with for Trent, and the surprising hip-hop dance scene he shares with Gillan in the film. The Emmy-winning actor also discussed his upcoming return to the role of Jesse Pinkman, his Breaking Bad character, in the final season of the critically acclaimed prequel series Better Call Saul.

Aaron Paul stars off camera in a scene from Dual.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Digital Trends: Riley Stearns has such a unique approach to dialogue and timing and storytelling. How did you adjust to that deadpan style?

Aaron Paul: I adjusted pretty seamlessly, I think. It’s obviously very different, but I’m such a huge fan of his work, so I knew what I was stepping into. Like you said, he has such a unique voice. But that unique voice is tied in to such beautiful, unique stories. And I know him. He’s a buddy of mine who I’ve known for years. When he asked me to jump on board, it was such a no-brainer for me. So while I was preparing for the role, it just felt right, you know? I’m happy, because when I got to set, it felt like I knew what I was doing, even though it is in such a strange, different environment.

Riley has indicated that some actors have a tough time acclimating to the tone he goes for in his films, but it sounds like you didn’t have much trouble with it.

Well, it was definitely an adjustment, but I knew the world I was stepping into. Maybe it helped that I know Riley. He’s not dry by any means, but in real life, he is very matter-of-fact. A lot of the dialogue, I can see Riley saying — not necessarily in that dry format, but I can see him saying it.

We don’t learn a lot about Trent in the film. Does that make things easier or more complicated on your end when you’re figuring out how to play the character?

Oh, just wait until the sequel, my friend, you’re going to learn a lot more!

I would definitely watch a sequel all about Trent!

Right? But yeah, whenever I’m diving into a project, it always helps me to get some sort of backstory, to give more layers to the guy you see on screen. For me, [Trent] lives and breathes training. In my mind, he lives at his studio and truly believes that he was born to do this. This is his calling. He’s cheap, which is nice, and he just wants to help, you know? He’s trained people for duels in the past. Some have lost, some have won, but this is his calling.

Aaron Paul and Karen Gillan try to hip-hop dance in a scene from Dual.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The hip-hop dance scene in the film is amazing. How did that scene come together?

Yeah, that scene was hilarious. I love that [Trent] has this secret desire to learn how to hip-hop dance. It’s just such a twist. Our dance instructor would laugh at Karen and I when we were learning the moves. She had tears falling down her face, she was laughing so hard. At one point, she told me, “I’m sorry I’m laughing, because you’re really trying.” And I was like, “Oh, wow. That’s … nice. Um …” My character’s not a pro, though, even though he’s a perfectionist and wants to get it done perfectly. So I didn’t train as much as Karen did. I shot all my stuff in four days, and there would be moments on set where I would see Karen dancing with the instructor, and I would just choose not to go in there — because Trent’s not supposed to be that good. I didn’t want to know the moves that well.

And on top of that, you had to keep a straight face while dancing, which I’m sure wasn’t easy.

Oh man, that scene, and the slow-motion fight sequence, honestly, were two of the best moments I’ve had on a film set. It was just so ridiculous, so over-the-top, and so fun. I had the best time doing them.

Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul talk while seated on the floor in a scene from Dual.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Your chemistry with Karen is great. Was that easy to develop within the framework of Riley’s dry, very unemotional tone for the film?  

Well, we just had so much fun. I’m a huge fan of Karen and have been for many years, and I see why she has had such a beautiful career. The road ahead for her is a beautiful one, and I will always be in her cheering section. She’s just such a delight on-screen and off, so fun to work with. I hope I get to do it again with her in the future.

Your career has gone so many places since Breaking Bad, and now you’re returning to the Jesse Pinkman character again in the final season of Better Call Saul. Is it easy to get into that headspace again after so long?

Jesse will always be sort of a part of me. I lived and breathed every moment we saw on screen [in Breaking Bad] and then some. So I love the guy, and as soon as I think I’m done, I keep dipping back into that world. The Breaking Bad family — now the Better Call Saul family — is a beautiful family to be a part of. So yeah, when I got that phone call from Vince [Gilligan] and Peter [Gould], we got on FaceTime and I knew what it was going to be about. I knew when they wanted to get on a call with me that they had some news to share.

Riley Stearns’ Dual premieres April 15 in theaters and will be available May 20 for on-demand streaming and on the AMC+ streaming service.

Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
The best fantasy movies on Netflix right now
The cast of Warcraft.

There should be some epic quest that Netflix subscribers can go on to get fresh fantasy movies to watch. We love Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer as much as anyone else, but these movies are over 40 years old and they shouldn't be the prime options for Netflix's fantasy section. Fortunately for fantasy fans, they aren't the only new films to watch this month. Netflix has also recently added Warcraft, the 2016 adaptation of the fantasy video game World of Warcraft. It's no Lord of the Rings, but Warcraft is still enjoyable, and the special effects are very impressive.

Most of Netflix's other fantasy selections come from its lineup of original movies including Damsel and The School for Good and Evil. Unfortunately, not all of those home-grown fantasies have much appeal beyond watching them the first time. But until we can have a wider selection in this category, these are the best fantasy movies on Netflix right now.

Read more
Don’t let these 3 July 2024 hidden streaming movie gems fly under your radar
The cast of Everybody Wants Some!! smiling for the camera.

The summer movie season is thriving, thanks to a generous collection of high-profile movies that are proving, in no uncertain terms, that the film industry is alive and well. Pixar's Inside Out 2 is breaking all kinds of records, while Lee Isaac Chung's upcoming Twisters seems bound to offer the perfect blend of artistry and commercial entertainment. Finally, Deadpool & Wolverine will end the month by finally putting the "comic book movies are dead" argument to rest.

However, if you're perhaps tired of the big-budget offerings on the big screen, or maybe are just not keen on going to the movie theater that often, streaming has several options for you. Those looking for new, underappreciated films will surely appreciate these three options, which have sadly gone ignored for far too long. Whether you're looking for horror, thrillers, or comedies, these movies are for you.
Villains (2018)

Read more
5 best dramas of 2024 so far, ranked
5 best dramas of 2024 so far ranked brody bike riders

Cinema is no stranger to drama, and audiences have already seen plenty of it this year. Over the past seven months, streamers and moviegoers alike have been captivated by the many top-tier dramas delivered to their screens, making it another promising year for the world of film.

As movie fans wait in anticipation for the next round of pictures, they can now look back at the best drama films of 2024 so far.
5. Civil War (2024)

Read more