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Aaron Paul walked into the Tribeca Grand Hotel in Manhattan Tuesday night a conquering hero. He was coming off the hugely popular last season of “Breaking Bad,” where he played Jesse Pinkman, Walter White’s partner in crime. The nation breathed an audible sigh of relief when Jesse, bless his heart, drove away from the finale’s bloodbath and for the first time in five seasons seemed like he might finally have a shot at a normal life.

The actor is now seeking to enter a new career phase as a leading man, and he was at the hotel for the premiere of his first effort, a car movie titled “Need for Speed” where he plays a street racer with a past. Anyone who’s seen “The Fast and the Furious” series or “Drive” will be familiar with the basic outlines of its plot: sports cars, babes, violence. Wash, rinse, repeat. The film is inspired by a video game series of the same name.

This story first appeared in the March 14, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Paul did much of the driving in the film himself. His interest in cars dates back to his childhood. “My uncle Gary had a ’67 Mustang that I thought was so cool,” he said. “I thought he was so cool, just the fact that he had that car. I’d say, ‘Can I go play in your car?’ I wasn’t driving, just hopping around the seat playing.”

For all the momentum behind him, Paul seems to be taking it all in stride. He stayed casual in a leather jacket (and with the movie’s theme) for his victory strut down the red carpet.

“I tend to just wear a uniform: same jeans, switch up the underwear, mix it up, same jacket. I think I’ve probably worn this [jacket] on every red carpet I’ve been on in the past month,” he said.

Costar Ramon Rodriguez as well as Alysia Reiner, Emmy Rossum, Analeigh Tipton and David Ajala came out to the screening hosted by The Cinema Society and Bushmills. A characteristically boastful A$AP Rocky was also making the rounds.

“Of course, I loved it,” he said of “Breaking Bad.” “I wish I could have premiered or starred in the show before they ended it.” Unlike his actor peer, the rapper is more at home name-dropping designer labels. “Raf Simons, Raf Simons, Acne, it’s pretty simple today,” he said of his outfit, listing off items with a drink in one hand and a handbag, popcorn and various candy options in the other.

After the screening, Paul, Rodriguez, Reiner, Rossum, and Ajala migrated over to Jimmy at The James hotel where they were joined by Ben McKenzie, Rachel Roy and Morgan O’Connor. An hour into the after party, Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston, appeared on the roof deck to pose for pictures with Paul. And just like that, cameras flashing, Jesse and Walter were back together in the spotlight, this time under happier circumstances.

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