ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Steven Michael Quezada labored as an actor and comedian around Albuquerque for years before making his big break and landing the role as DEA agent Steven Gomez. Long before she became co-star Skyler White, Emmy winner Anna Gunn spent her formative years in Santa Fe and went to school at Santa Fe Prep.
And yet when New Mexicans watched “Breaking Bad” over the course of six years, they saw other familiar faces as well. Granted, not all got 15 minutes of fame. Some didn’t get 15 seconds of camera time. But they nonetheless retain indelible memories through their contributions to a series that already is being hailed as one of the best in TV history. Here are a few of their stories:
Numerous children played Holly, the infant-toddler daughter of Walter and Skyler White in the show. Elanor, the daughter of Brian and Lizzie Wenrich, however, was in most of the scenes for the epic and dark “Ozymandias” episode that aired on Sept. 15, when the impact of Walter’s behavior finally hit home in ways that never before affected the kids. The child’s plaintive cries for “Mama,” in a scene when Walter was changing her diaper after he had kidnapped her away from her mother, wasn’t acting at all. It instead was an unscripted, happy accident. Nonetheless, it got rave reviews. “Lost” creator Damon Lindelof tweeted: “Also, the single greatest piece of baby acting I have ever seen. #Holly #BabyEmmys.” Brian says that Elanor has since been diagnosed with type one diabetes. The parents will be walking in the “JDRF Walk To Cure Diabetes” on Nov. 2, which is Elanor’s second birthday.
Jeremiah Bitsui is president/CEO of Bitco Corporation, a commercial property construction company headquartered in the Journal Center.
But the entrepreneurial Bitsui, 33, also has a serious acting pedigree, dating back to when he played a Native American youth in the 1994 movie “Natural Born Killers.”
His talent and that opportunity didn’t lead to bigger ones, however. The teenage Bitsui had his troubles. He bounced between Valley, Del Norte, Cibola and Albuquerque high schools as he struggled with his unorthodox learning style and issues with authority.
Gravitating toward Los Angeles after high school, he began to audition while attending Santa Monica College, but he likens the experience to “a country song.” He wasn’t making money. His dog and grandmother died. His relationship with a girlfriend eroded, and he tried and failed to get into film school at UCLA.
So he left town for rural Arizona, where he helped his grandfather herd sheep.
Only after he had returned to Albuquerque did some of his Hollywood contacts bear fruit. He landed a role in 2005’s “Lords of Dogtown.” His role in a 2005 short “A Thousand Roads,” about a single day in the lives of four Native Americans integrated some of Bitsui’s experiences growing up, including his mother catching him with a gun when he was 17. And his acting career has been on a measured upswing since then.
“I thank God. Really, I was just back home … kind of praying for my next direction,” Bitsui says, “and then all of this started lining up.”
After reading for various “Bad” roles, Bitsui turned a one-scene role in season two into an eight-episode run as Victor, a henchman to a drug lord hiding in plain sight, Gus Fring.
Victor’s infamous demise came in the opener of Season Four. He offered to produce crystal meth in the lab run by Fring. The reward for Victor’s loyalty: Fring slit his throat with a box cutter, a bloody, grisly slaying that many bloggers call one of the more shocking deaths in recent television history.
Since then, Bitsui has shot “Red Clay,” a TV pilot about another henchman who eventually changes his life for the better. He is in “The Life,” another pilot shot in New York. And he just finished shooting on “Drunktown’s Finest,” a coming-of-age Sundance project with Robert Redford as an executive producer.
Since “Bad,” Bitsui has been recognized by international tourists in New York. He goes into audition rooms in New York and Los Angeles and finds warmth where there once was a chill.
“It’s been a great door-opener,” he says.
For starters, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of “Bad.” She appeared as an extra four times, most recently in a season five scene at the car wash. One scene was walking down the street while Walt’s car drove by. It was shot in February and was freezing cold, but because the show was “seasonless,” no jackets were allowed. “It was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been, but I survived,” she says. Holder has also worked background in “In Plain Sight,” “Longmire,” “Night Shift” and a few movies. “I don’t think of myself as an ‘actor’ … more like a ‘production assistant,'” she says.
A 1985 Ford F350
Longtime South Valley resident Dick Rogers loved his truck, white with parts he painted blue. You knew it was him driving up the street. “It was an old, ugly truck. It had a lot of character,” is how sister-in-law Michele Moore put it. But Rogers got sick and eventually couldn’t handle the stick shift. So it sat in the Rogers’ driveway before Michele’s husband Mike took it to a consignment car dealer. Imagine the Moores’ surprise, then, when watching the “To’hajiilee” episode scene on Sept. 8, when part of Jack’s white supremacist gang drove up in the truck for a climactic gun battle with Hank Schrader and Steven Gomez. “I’d know that truck anywhere,” Mike Moore said. Dick Rogers died at age 76 in 2012 – like “Bad’s” lead, Walter White, Rogers had lung cancer. “He would have loved to tell this story,” Michele said, “about how ‘them fellas who was making that show wanted that ol’ truck for them Nazis to use.’ That’s how he talked.”
Brandon and Dylan Carr
It is not unusual for identical twins to play one child’s role. Such was the case of the red-headed kid in the “Peekaboo” episode of season two. Jesse Pinkman is instructed by Walter White to get money back from a rancid, drug-abusing couple who stole their product from seller Skinny Pete. Instead, Jesse discovers a young boy alone at home. The discovery leads to a revelation of a soft-hearted side of Jesse for kids. But it also showed the soft side of Aaron Paul, who plays Jesse. “Dylan got his first splinter, and Aaron talked him through the trauma of it,” the twins’ mother, Patti Ivory, wrote. “When Brandon and Aaron filmed a scene where Aaron (Jesse) gets hit over the head, he demonstrated for Brandon that it was a prop bottle, and he comically hit himself on the head a few times and fell off the chair to prepare Brandon for the scene.” Ivory wrote that she heard some criticism for allowing her kids on the show because of its dark, adult nature. But we’ll probably see more of them. They’ve been cast in commercials, “The Lone Ranger,” and they have an agent.
Deborah A. Martinez
The KUNM public health reporter has been acting since 1992. Usually it’s one-day appearances. She appeared on the penultimate episode of “Breaking Bad” as one of two high school administrator who popped in the doorway after hearing Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte) scream at his father over the phone. During rehearsals, the Santa Fe resident sensed “this kind of sadness, this melancholy between the set and the crew. They were mourning the end of the show.” Martinez has another short appearance upcoming on the TV pilot “Killer Women.” “I would love to be a full-time actress … but I will continue to be a hard-working reporter,” she said. “I love that work too.”