Popular culture

‘Breaking’ the Mold – Albuquerque Journal

Actors Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul view statues of their characters during the “Breaking Bad” statue unveiling Friday at the Albuquerque Convention Center downtown. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

America’s favorite drug dealers have returned to their old stomping grounds.

On Friday, the city of Albuquerque teamed up with Sony Pictures Television and the cast and crew of “Breaking Bad” to unveil bronze statues of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.

Both characters have become entrenched in popular culture since the show began airing in January 2008. The series was filmed and based in Albuquerque for its entire run, eventually becoming a cultural juggernaut and sparking more interest in Albuquerque.

The statues were designed by Trevor Grove and were donated by Sony Pictures Television and series creator Vince Gilligan to celebrate his impact on Albuquerque.

Dozens of people gathered inside the Albuquerque Convention Center for the opportunity to witness this moment. The sculptures will remain at the center for the foreseeable future.

Actor Bryan Cranston, left, takes a photo with fan Jackson Day, dressed as Heisenberg, at the unveiling of the “Breaking Bad” statue at the Albuquerque Convention Center in downtown Albuquerque on Friday. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Cheers erupted after a few cast members from “Breaking Bad” and the series prequel “Better Call Saul” entered the scene.

“Are we grateful for ‘Breaking Bad’ in Albuquerque?” Mayor Tim Keller asked many screaming fans in attendance. “First of all, on behalf of the city of Albuquerque, I want to thank you for doing this today and for doing all that you have done for the city, be it charity work, whether it’s fair to work here for 15 years or 20 years, so thank you on behalf of Albuquerque for being such amazing parts of our community.

After thanking the cast, Keller detailed the impact “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” had on the community.

“The city is also a character, and that’s, I think, what makes ‘Breaking Bad’ so special, and of course ‘Better Call Saul’ as well,” Keller said. “Because for us, we see ourselves in so many ways, but also, literally all around our city every time we look at it. So for us, it’s also like watching ourselves on the screen.

Both series have helped boost tourism in the city, creating a new source of income.

“We also want to remind people that the movie industry is huge here in New Mexico because ‘Breaking Bad’ alone generated $200 million in revenue and that’s not even including ‘Better Call Saul'”, Keller said. “Every shoot, every day, 200 jobs over 15 years, someone else can do the math on that and so look, we remind people that while stories may be fictional and still powerful, jobs are very real, every day.”

As Gilligan took the stage, he was greeted with a round of applause from the crowd.

“What I love most about them looking back is working with the New Mexicans who made them and we made them here,” Gililgan said. “I mean, literally, we turned in this same building before, we turned across the street at (Civic Plaza) and we turned right past that into the old courthouse and let me tell you we had a blast doing it.”

Gilligan then thanked Sony Pictures Television for their donation.

“Thank you Jeff Frost and Jason Clodfelter, I’m grateful to them and all the good folks at Sony for today,” said Gilligan.

After Gilligan, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul spoke to the crowd about what this series meant to them.

Actor Aaron Paul waves to fans at the unveiling of the “Breaking Bad” statue at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Friday. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

“When I auditioned for ‘Breaking Bad,’ I walked into a room as warm as Vince and Melissa Bernstein,” Paul said. “I actually did one of Melissa’s first production jobs back then and did an episode of ‘X-Files,’ so I can already feel they were in my corner.”

For Paul, this audition changed everything.

“Before I even started reading my lines, you guys saved my career,” Paul said. “It was the lowest point of my whole career, I was struggling to pay my bills and I had to ask them if they could possibly pay my rent for three months and they did. Thanks.”

Cranston stepped up to the microphone to share his thoughts.

“When they first came to me and said, ‘We want to make two statues of you.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, fantastic: Heisenberg and Walter White,'” Cranston said. “But Jesse was important too, and I’m really grateful that Trevor Grove is a phenomenal artist because we were praying that we didn’t look like Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Outside the center, a few food trucks set up shop as a line began to wrap around the corner.

Fans came from all over the country to celebrate.

“I flew from Atlanta so I could fly back to Albuquerque,” Kristin Harper said. “I started (watching) with ‘Better Call Saul’, because it was on AMC between ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Talking Dead’ and I fell in love with it so I started watching it and I watched ‘Breaking Bad’.'”

Dianna Rabadan, whom she met that day, had also come from out of town.

“I think I was the only one in the world who didn’t watch the show,” Rabadan said. “And when I finally sat down to watch the first season, I was completely hooked and immediately followed with ‘Better Call Saul’ all seasons of course.”

Both Harper and Rabadan proclaimed “Felina,” the season five finale of “Breaking Bad,” as their favorite episode.

“I loved the climax and the whole buildup, plus getting my revenge on Jack and all those jerks,” Harper said. “And then I love the way it ends because we all know Walt has to come through at some point, but the real hit was the song ‘Baby Blue,’ because I listen to it all the time.”