The Breaking Bad character Todd Alquist looks radically different in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie — but Todd wasn’t recast. El Camino takes place immediately after Breaking Bad, but was filmed almost six years after the show. Many returning characters appear very different, but one whose appearance changed most noticeably was Jesse’s captor, Breaking Bad‘s Todd Alquist, played by Jesse Plemons. Todd and his white supremacist Uncle Jack played a critical role in Breaking Bad‘s final season as a marker of how far Walt and Jesse had fallen. When Jesse Plemons filmed Breaking Bad‘s final episode, “Felina,” he was 24, but he was 30 by the time he filmed El Camino — and was clearly older and more heavy set than he was in Breaking Bad.
Of course, the real explanation for Breaking Bad‘s Todd looking different in El Camino is not only the long wait between the filming of “Felina” and the epilogue movie, but also the fact that El Camino was filmed in secret over just 50 days, so there wasn’t a great deal of time for Plemons to undergo any kind of radical weight loss in an effort to look like his 24-year-old self again. However, for those who need an in-universe explanation, there’s actually a theory that explains not only why Todd looks older in El Camino‘s flashbacks, but also why Jesse Pinkman doesn’t look like he’s in his 20s anymore (Aaron Paul was 39 at the time of filming). Unlike Breaking Bad, El Camino is told almost entirely from Jesse’s perspective, which could distort how characters like Todd Alquist are portrayed.
Why Todd Looks So Different In El Camino
Of all the villains from Breaking Bad Todd was the cruelest — especially from Jesse’s perspective. Although Todd was only in his early 20s in Breaking Bad, he committed some horrendous acts: murdering a little boy who accidentally witnessed the train heist; working with his Uncle Jack to keep Jesse locked up and enslaved; and strangling his housekeeper to death because she came across his money stash. El Camino‘s depiction of an older and heavier Todd Alquist may be a reflection of how Jesse perceives him.
This interpretation is supported by the way in which the creepy Todd Alquist is introduced in El Camino. In the first flashback scene that features Todd, the audience sees him from Jesse’s perspective: first as a shadow over the tarpaulin that covers the cage, then through the bars of the cage, so that his face is partially obscured. The film firmly establishes that audiences are seeing Jesse Plemons’ Todd through Jesse’s eyes, rather than being shown an objective view. After all, this is Jesse’s memory, and memory can be subjective.
How A Breaking Bad Theory Explains Todd Change
The theory for why Breaking Bad‘s Todd looks so different in El Camino also explains why Jesse himself looks older as well, despite the movie taking place right after the Breaking Bad series finale. A scene early on in El Camino shows Jesse examining himself in the mirror after taking a shower, during which he has a traumatic flashback to being hosed down during his captivity. If El Camino is being told from Jesse’s perspective, then in addition to the physical trauma of being held prisoner taking a toll on his body, we are likely also seeing Jesse as he feels rather than as he is. After all the psychological damage that’s been inflicted upon him, it’s doubtful that Jesse still feels like a man in his 20s — and his outward appearance reflects that.
The appearance of the actors in El Camino was one of the movie’s biggest obstacles. Another obvious example of this is the younger Walter White in the movie’s flashback at the diner, where it’s rather evident that Walt’s bald head had to be created through makeup because Bryan Cranston’s own hair had already grown. Although it could be argued that the slightly different physical appearance of Todd Alquist in El Camino distracts from the story, it requires no more suspension of disbelief than when a character is completely recast for a sequel. Moreover, his flashbacks do add some interesting details that flesh out Todd Alquist’s Breaking Bad arc — for example, the fact that he kept the spider belonging to the little boy he shot as some kind of souvenir. And, of course, the manner in which Todd killed his housekeeper makes Todd Alquist’s own death that little bit more poetic.
Jesse Plemons Has Evolved Since His Breakout As Breaking Bad’s Todd
Jesse Plemons’ Breaking Bad role as the disturbed Todd Alquist placed the actor perfectly as an unusual, captivating, and quietly menacing onscreen presence, and his performance led to roles in movies and series like I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Black Mirror, and The Power of the Dog, for which Plemons’ supporting role earned him an Oscar nomination. The difference between Jesse Plemons’ Breaking Bad appearance and that in El Camino reflects Plemons’ shift from playing teenage characters to being an acclaimed adult character actor. Indeed, despite looking noticeably heavier in his reprised role as the soft-spoken murderer, Jesse Plemons’ El Camino look takes nothing away from — and arguably enhanced — his stellar performance.
The same can be said of Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul. Although Paul’s noticeably older look doesn’t fully line up with Jesse Pinkman’s age in El Camino, the actor’s real years and extended onscreen experience did well to reflect the stress that the character has been going through. While the actors of El Camino, including Jesse Plemons as Todd Alquist, don’t look exactly how they did in Breaking Bad, this factor never really got in the way of how El Camino continues the groundbreaking crime series’ legacy.
Jesse Plemons Provided Insight Into Todd’s El Camino Changes
It’s not only Todd’s appearance that changed in El Camino. The new perspective offered by the Breaking Bad sequel movie added fresh perspective on Alquist, and deepened the significance of his impact on Jesse Pinkman’s life. As the man behind Todd, Jesse Plemons has a unique insight into Todd’s character and how it grew thanks to El Camino despite Todd’s death in Breaking Bad. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Jesse Plemons gave his views on some of the changes to Todd in El Camino, stating “I didn’t really think I had too many more questions about Todd that needed answers, but, then, in reading the script, my mind just started racing all over again. I feel like there were pieces of Todd that I hadn’t really thought about.”
When it comes to the specifics of why Todd’s character, as well as appearance, are so different in El Camino, Plemons’ rationale is that the movie showed a better side to Todd, one Breaking Bad audiences possibly never thought existed. “The relationship with Jesse was one where there were a lot of great scenes from the show, but it was a different side of Todd,” Plemons explained, “and I think it was one of his happier days, just getting to spend the day with his good pal Jesse — never mind the unfortunate task they had to do.”
Plemons was also fully aware of how much his appearance had changed since filming Breaking Bad. He acknowledges this in the interview, and was remarkably candid about the fact his aging made certain elements of playing Todd in El Camino challenging: “You can say it: I look different. [Laughs] There’s obviously an innocence with Todd, but once I spent some time with the script and watched some of those scenes from the last few seasons to just remember who Todd was and talked to Vince, I was surprised at how easy it was to slip back into.”
Clearly for Jesse Plemons, the time since playing Todd in Breaking Bad was far less of an obstacle when making El Camino than he predicted even with his changed appearance thanks to the significance of the role. “It was a long time ago, but it was a very big part of my life.” Plemons explained, “The scripts were so well-written and so vivid and in a lot of ways it felt like we picked up right where we left off. But I was fairly nervous that first day, just to see if I could do it again. It took a few takes, but fortunately — or unfortunately — Todd was still lurking in there somewhere.”
Source: Entertainment Weekly