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.
The two characters have become ingrained into popular culture since the show began airing in January 2008. The series was filmed and based in Albuquerque during its entire run, eventually becoming a cultural juggernaut and spurring 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 its impact on Albuquerque.
Dozens of people gathered inside the Albuquerque Convention Center for an opportunity to witness the moment. The sculptures will remain in the center for the foreseeable future.
Cheers erupted after a few members of the casts of “Breaking Bad” and the series prequel “Better Call Saul” entered the stage.
“Are we grateful for ‘Breaking Bad’ in Albuquerque?” Mayor Tim Keller asked many screaming fans in attendance. “First and foremost, on behalf of the city of Albuquerque, I want to thank you for doing this today, and for doing all you’ve done for the city, whether it’s charity work, whether it’s just working 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” have 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,’ too,” Keller said. “Because for us, we see ourselves in so many ways, but also, literally all around our town every time we watch it. So for us, it is also like watching ourselves on the screen.”
The two series have helped spur tourism around the city, creating a new stream of revenue.
“We also want to remind folks that the film industry is huge here in New Mexico as ‘Breaking Bad’ by itself did $200 million in revenue and that does not even include ‘Better Call Saul,'” Keller said. “Every shoot, every day, 200 jobs that’s over 15 years, someone else can do the math on that and so look, we remind people that while the stories might be fictional, and still powerful, the jobs are very real, every single day.”
As Gilligan took the stage, he was met with a round of applause from the crowd.
“The thing I love most about them in hindsight was getting to work with the New Mexicans who made them and we made them right here,” Gililgan said. “I mean, literally, we have shot in this very building before, we have shot across the street in (Civic Plaza) and we have shot just past that in the old courthouse and let me tell you we had a ball doing it.”
Gilligan next thanked Sony Pictures Television for their donation.
“Thank you Jeff Frost and Jason Clodfelter, I am grateful to them and all the good folks at Sony for today,” Gilligan said.
After Gilligan, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul spoke to the crowd about what this series meant to them.
“When I auditioned for ‘Breaking Bad,’ I walked into such a warm room as it was Vince and Melissa Bernstein,” Paul said. “I actually happened to do one of Melissa’s first producing jobs back in the day and I did an episode of ‘X-Files,’ so I can already feel they were in my corner.”
For Paul, that audition changed everything.
“Before I even started reading my lines, you saved my career,” Paul said. “It was the lowest point in my entire career, I was struggling to pay my bills and I was forced to ask them if they could possibly pay my rent for three months and they did. Thank you.”
Cranston stepped to the microphone to offer 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 am really grateful that Trevor Grove is a phenomenal artist because we were praying that we wouldn’t look like Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Outside the center, a few food trucks set up shop while a line began to wrap all the way around the corner.
Fans came from all over the country to celebrate.
“I flew in from Atlanta so I could come to Albuquerque again,” Kristin Harper said. “I started (watching) with ‘Better Call Saul,’ because it was on AMC in between ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Talking Dead’ and I fell in love with it so started watching it and went back and 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 to not watch the show,” Rabadan said. “And when I did finally sit down to watch the first season I just got completely hooked and immediately followed up with ‘Better Call Saul’ all the seasons of course.”
Both Harper and Rabadan proclaimed “Felina,” the season five series finale of “Breaking Bad,” as their favorite episode.
“I loved the culmination and all the buildup, along with getting even with Jack and all those jerkheads,” Harper said. “And then I love how it ends because we all know Walt has to pass at some point, but the real hit was the song ‘Baby Blue,’ as I listen to it all the time.”