'Breaking Bad's' Aaron Paul dissects Jesse's mental state, teases Season 4

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In rewatching Season 3 of "Breaking Bad," a little quirk in the relationship between Jesse Pinkman ( Aaron Paul) and his former chemistry teacher-turned-meth-cooking partner Walter White ( Bryan Cranston) stood out to us: Despite all they've been through together, Jesse still calls Walt "Mr. White."

"I don't know if it's out of respect at all -- I don't think it is out of respect," Paul told Zap2it when we visited the set in March. "It's just what he knew [Walt] by. He was his teacher. In Jesse's head he was his annoying chemistry teacher: 'Get off my back, I don't care about this. I just want to sit here because I have to.' ... But yeah, it's pretty interesting what their relationship has blossomed into."

You can hear more of Paul's thoughts on Jesse and Walt in the video above. We also talked about a few key moments in Season 3, where Jesse begins the new season and where it might take him. Some highlights of the conversation (including a couple things that could be considered minor spoilers, so be warned):

Zap2it: Last season ended with Jesse shooting at Gale [David Costabile], although we still don't know if he actually shot him. What's his mental state after doing that?
Aaron Paul: I think it was truly a loss of innocence. All last year, Jesse was stating, or trying to convince himself, that he's the bad guy because of all the guilt over Jane's death [at the end of the second season]. He blames himself. ... It's all about self-acceptance and what he learned in rehab, trying to convince himself of that. I think the final scene of last season validated that. He can go to that place, and he is that dark and bad person. He did it out of necessity, but still.

He really was carrying a lot of guilt -- I'm thinking of that scene where Jesse's lying in his house, listening to Jane's voice mail over and over.
Yeah -- it's the last thing he had of her. That was it. When I read that, and then read that all of the sudden the voice mail cuts out ... it was devastating. This show really beats you up at times.

Season 4 starts right after the end of Season 3, correct?
It picks up right where it left off. We start off running. This season is definitely the most intense season thus far, in my opinion.

Thematically, what is the show getting into this season?
I would say the first episode really puts each character in their place: Hank [ Dean Norris] and Marie [ Betsy Brandt], where they're at; Skyler [ Anna Gunn], where she's at and how she's dealing with all this. Walt-slash-Heisenberg is [laughs] -- he's all over the place, you know? And Jesse, he's in a very dark place, even darker than last season.

Jesse's really been through a lot, but at least the scenes with his idiot friends last season let you go a little lighter.
Yeah. I love when those guys are here because usually we're just doing such goofy, stupid stuff. It's nice to break away from the balls-to-the-wall intensity. But that's also so much fun.

How does Jesse see those guys now -- does he look down on them a little bit?
I think so. Jesse is morphing into someone different. You could see that last season. When the guys start to really take the [12-step program] seriously, he's like "What are you talking about?" He pretty much wants to slap them in the face: "You're drug dealers, you work for me. Let's do this." But he's slowly separating from everybody. He's becoming kind of a lone gunman. I don't know -- this season is so intense.

We walked through the set today, and Jesse's house isn't looking so great...
No, not at all. ... The house is turning into a wreck. Jesse's life is just ...

Is he doing those kinds of things on purpose, or does he just not care?
I think it's just not caring. It's hard to talk about and not give anything away. But Jesse's messed up. He's messed up inside and out, so he's struggling to keep his bearings.

The flashback scenes in Season 3 worked really well. Are you doing more this season?
Yes. I think it's a very "Breaking Bad" thing to do, which is so great. There are multiple flashbacks.

"Breaking Bad's" season premiere is at 10 p.m. ET Sunday (July 17) on AMC.
Photo/Video credit: Zap2it