17 Breaking Bad Facts You Haven't Heard About Walter White
Behind the scenes facts about Vince Gilligan's unmissable series Breaking Bad including the name Aaron Paul's character Jesse Pinkman was originally called, which actor has a Breaking Bad themed tattoo and what the props team used to portray Walter White's Methamphetamine on the set of Breaking Bad.
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Breaking Bad is the show audiences haven't stopped talking about in the US and throughout the world since it first aired in January 2008 and beyond its gripping finale in September 2013.
Created by Vince Gilligan from The X-Files writer's room, Breaking Bad follows the rise and fall of unassuming chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and the great lengths he goes to provide for his family. In Season One, White is diagnosed with terminal Lung Cancer which gets progressively worse as Breaking Bad develops. After a ride-along with his Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), White becomes curious in the world of Methamphetamine production and money laundering considering it as a viable way to pay for his growing medical bills.
White begins 'cooking' the purest meth seen in Albuquerque with his Chemistry expertise and help from ex-student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and discovers that providing for his family after he is gone isn't his only ambition. White later adopts the pseudonym Heisenberg and begins building his criminal empire.
With only 62 episodes, Breaking Bad is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time.
1. Jesse Pinkman Was Only Meant To Appear In 9 Episodes
The US cable channel AMC ordered 9 episodes to be written for the entire first season but the Writer’s Guild of America Strike limited the production to just 7 episodes. In the original 9 episodes in Season 1 of Breaking Bad, the show’s creator Vince Gilligan planned to kill either the character Jesse or Hank as a bold, shocking ending however it was canned due to the seven episode limit. Jesse Pinkman’s planned death was written as an accident during a drug deal gone wrong and would have been used as a device to plague Walter White with guilt.
Gilligan subsequently realised the acting strength both Aaron Paul (Jesse) and Dean Norris (Hank) brought to their respective roles so decided to keep them in the storyline. Hank became a pivotal character in Breaking Bad as White's unlikely antithesis. His realisation that his brother-in-law was in fact the criminal mastermind the DEA have been searching for is one of the best moments in the show. Equally Aaron Paul's character Jesse who looks up to White as a Father Figure was written into his own spin off film documenting his story directly after the Breaking Bad finale. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was released on Netflix in October 2019, six years after the original series ended.
2. Breaking Bad Was Predominantly Shot On 35mm Film
The style of Breaking Bad is often widely discussed by fans and academics alike. It's genre-blurring neo-Western crime thriller feel was predominantly achieved by Vince Gilligan's choice to shoot Breaking Bad mostly on 35mm film. The crew only used digital cameras when needed for secondary angles, POV shots and the signature time-lapses.
Gilligan and Breaking Bad’s Cinematographer Michael Slovis originally wanted to shoot in CinemaScope, an anamorphic lens used in the 1950s which would have helped create their desired Western look with wide landscapes however AMC declined.
Each episode of Breaking Bad had a budget of $3 Million to shoot by the end of Season 5 which is much higher than the average cost of producing a cable television show in the United States.
Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn on the set of Breaking Bad.
3. Breaking Bad Was Originally Meant To Be Set In California
In the initial draft versions of the script, Breaking Bad was meant to be set in Riverside California however Sony Pictures Television suggested Albuquerque, New Mexico due to the attractive financial benefits and tax rebate offered by the state. The story itself changed location too due to Gilligan’s fears that the production crew would be fixated with avoiding the Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque in every shot.
It is said that each location shoot added $1 Million to the local economy in Albuquerque.
4. Walter White Goes From Protagonist To Antagonist
Vince Gilligan’s whole motivation for writing Breaking Bad was to create a show full of change, one that sees the main protagonist slowly drift into the role of an antagonist. When creating the character Walter White, Vince Gilligan wanted to succeed in the seemingly impossible task of taking “a nerdy Mr. Chips type character and transform him into Scarface.” By Season 4 Bryan Cranston who played Walter White, describes his character being, “Well on his way to badass!”
During the fifth and final season, Vince Gilligan found it harder and harder to write for Walter White’s dark persona saying, “it’ll be a relief not to have Walt in my head anymore!”
5. Bryan Cranston Was Hired Because Of The X-Files
Before creating Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan worked as a writer on The X-Files. He immediately cast Bryan Cranston in the role of Walter White based on his previous work in an Season 6 episode of The X-Files 'Drive' where he played a prejudiced, terminally ill character who held Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) hostage. Gilligan said he handled the mix of 'sympathetic and loathsome' well so figured he was up to the difficult task of portraying Walt.
Initially the channel officials at AMC were skeptical of the casting choice due to recognising Cranston from his role in Malcolm In The Middle, a comedy series in which he played the larger and life character Hal. They approached actors Matthew Broderick (yes, Ferris Bueller?!) and John Cusack for the role of Walter White instead but they both declined. Casting moves pretty fast… if you don’t stop to look around for a while, it turns out you could miss probably the highest paying acting role of your career.
Dean Norris who plays DEA Agent and Walt’s brother-in-law Hank also starred in The X-Files in the twenty-second episode of the second season, ‘F. Emasculata’. Aaron Paul was also a former The X-Files guest star in episode ‘Lord Of The Flies’.
Before creating Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan worked as a writer on The X-Files.
6. Bryan Cranston Wrote Walter White’s Back Story
Intrigued by the character, Bryan Cranston wanted to fill in the blanks left by Vince Gilligan’s script and create the character’s back story so he could truly get into the role and mindset of Walter White.
His preparation to play the Breaking Bad lead was both mental and physical, gaining 10lb of weight for the first season to again lose it throughout the show to add to Walter’s decline in health from Cancer.
Cranston dyed his hair a darker brown and worked with Breaking Bad make up artist Frieda Valenzuela to create an 'impotent' moustache whilst similarly working with the costume designers to keep Walt’s wardrobe as unremarkable as possible; Walt tends to wear dark greens, khaki and brown.
7. Breaking Bad Characters Use Colour As A Symbol
Colour is used throughout the film and television industry in varying degrees to reflect a character’s mood, situation and circumstances. Colour acts as a psychological cue for audiences to learn even more about the character being portrayed. In Breaking Bad, the use of colour in costume is quite striking and Vince Gilligan has spoken in detail about his use of Colour Theory in the show. Obviously, Walter and Skyler’s surname is White. Skyler (Anna Gunn) is seen throughout Breaking Bad wearing monochrome beige outfits, and sometimes blue. Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt) is always wearing purple; Hank, orange.
We've already described how Walter White's earth-toned wardrobe of greens and brown was used to make him blend into the background but Gilligan shared in an interview with GQ magazine that he would intentionally start Walter off in one colour at the beginning of a series and then take him into a darker version of it by the end, for example red to black.
For the final eight episodes of Season 5 of Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) wears exactly the same costume and only alters its appearance by taking off layers or adding them.
8. Bryan Cranston Has A Breaking Bad Tattoo
On the last day of filming, Bryan Cranston was having drinks in the bar with the Breaking Bad cast and crew when they bought in a tattoo artist. He subsequently has a Breaking Bad theme tattoo on the side of his middle finger on his right hand. This small yet permanent memento from the show depicts the BR (Bromine) and BA (Barium) chemical elements from the periodic table used as the Breaking Bad logo.
Throughout the five seasons of Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman says "bitch" a total of 54 times.
9. The Meth Used On Breaking Bad Is Really Candy
The 99.1% chemically pure Blue Sky Meth created by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad was portrayed on screen by the props department as Candy-Floss flavoured rock, a cotton-candy flavoured rock candy in the USA. According to Bryan Cranston in an interview with presenter's Kyle and Jackie O on Australia’s KIIS 106.5, it tastes like, "vile pieces’ of sugar.’"
10. Breaking Bad's Bogdan Is The Real Chemistry Genius
Marius Stan who plays Breaking Bad car wash owner Bogdan Wolynetz is also a real scientist with a PhD in Chemistry from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Romanian Academy. After his part in Breaking Bad, Stan moved to work at the Applied Materials Division at the Argonne National Laboratory, operated by the University of Chicago, in a role using Artificial Intelligence to design better materials.
11. Aaron Paul Says, 'Bitch' 54 Times In Breaking Bad
Jesse Pinkman played by actor Aaron Paul is well known for his catchphrase ‘Bitch!’ in Breaking Bad. Throughout the five seasons Pinkman says it a total of 54 times, first as his voicemail message in Season 1 Episode 2 which we hear when Skyler White calls back an unknown number ringing her home. Then lastly when Jesse holds onto the bars over the underground room that he is being held captive in during episode thirteen of season five.
When filming the Netflix film and Breaking Bad prequel, El Camino in 2019, Paul realised there wasn’t a bitch line in the script so slipped it in during an improvised take and the Producers rightly kept it in!
12. Walter White’s House In Breaking Bad Is Real
The house used as Walter and Skyler White's home in Breaking Bad is located on
3828 Piermont Drive in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has been privately owned for 41 years. The family who live there have had to put up with many visits from Breaking Bad fans looking for photo opportunities and some have even gone as far as copying the memorable pizza on the roof scene from 'Caballo sin Nombre' Season 3, Episode 2.
According to the site Roadtrippers, in 2015 the local Albuquerque Police Service patrolled the house 24/7 due to potential anti-social behaviour.
13. Gus Fring Was Only Meant To Be In 3 Episodes Of Breaking Bad
Actor Giancarlo Esposito who plays Gus Fring the owner of the successful Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant and associate of the Cartel was originally only a guest character starring in 3-4 episodes. However he was asked to return for seven episodes in the third season. Esposito originally refused to rejoin the cast unless he could star in further episodes so Gilligan included him in a total of 26! Esposito ended up replacing Hector Salamanca as the main antagonist in Season Three.
14. Jesse Plemons Was Given The Nickname Meth Damon
In Season 5 of Breaking Bad, actor Jesse Plemons joined the cast as the ruthless white supremacis Todd Alquist. Due to his striking resemblance to fellow actor Matt Damon, Jesse earned the nickname Meth Damon.
He later starred in the Netflix prequel to Breaking Bad, El Camino as one of the main characters keeping Jesse Pinkman captive. You may also recognise Plemons from Fargo where he played character Ed Blumquist and Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror where he played Star Trek themed Captain, Robert Daly.
15. Breaking Bad's Jesse Was Originally Called Dupree
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan had initially named the character of Jesse Pinkman, Marion Alan Dupree who would always be known as his surname Dupree.
16. Aaron Paul Was Knocked Unconscious On Set
When shooting the fight scene in Season One of Breaking Bad between Tuco Salamanca and Jesse Pinkman, actor Raymond Cruz (Tuco) accidentally knocked Aaron Paul unconscious. This lead to Paul seeking medical attention for a concussion.
17. Breaking Bad's Titles Include The Formula For Methamphetamine
Each episode of Breaking Bad begins with the iconic black and green smoke titles and the show’s logo, the BR and BA elements on the periodic table (Bromine and Barium) however if you look closer you can see the formula C10H15N which is actually the chemical formula for Methamphetamine. You will also be able to see 149.24 which is the molecular weight of Meth.