Widely regarded as one of the greatest television series ever made, Breaking Bad aired on the AMC network for five seasons from January 20th, 2008 to September 29th, 2013. It tells the story of Walter White, a struggling high school chemistry teacher who turns to a life of crime after receiving a diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer. According to creator Vince Gilligan, his goal with Walter White was to turn him from “Mr. Chips into Scarface”. The show has received so many awards, including multiple Emmys and Golden Globes, that in 2013, Breaking Bad set a Guinness World Record as most critically acclaimed show of all time.
Here are some facts you might not know about your favorite show about a chemistry teacher turned kingpin.
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35. Art Imitates Life
Although Breaking Bad is really more of a cautionary tale, it wasn’t enough to dissuade several teachers who were hard-up for cash. William Duncan, Iriny Kristy, Marc Hodges, and Stephen Doran are all teachers who ended up either producing and/or selling crystal meth (“crystal”). The most similar case came in 2008, when an Alabama man earned a spot on his state’s Most Wanted list for building a thriving drug empire. Although he was neither a teacher nor had cancer, he was named Walter White.
34. The Kings of Comedy
Breaking Bad featured a lot of comedians because Vince Gilligan was of the firm belief that “If you can do comedy, you can do drama”. Amongst its cast were Bob Oedenkirk, Bill Burr, and Lavell Crawford.
Early on in his career, Bryan Cranston also spent a few months as an unremarkable comedian.
33. But Could He Pull Off the Hat?
Walter White first came up with the street name “Heisenberg” in his Season 1 meeting with Tuco. The real Heisenberg was one of the most important physicists of the 20th century, winning a Nobel Prize for developing a theory of quantum mechanics.
Heisenberg first from left and other science dudes
32. Zombie Makeup
The makeup depicting Gus Fring’s grisly death was done by the prosthetics team behind AMC’s other hugely successful series, The Walking Dead. Does this mean there’s a chance that Gus could return… as a zombie?
31. The White House
The White family home is an actual home in New Mexico.
A woman named Fran has lived there since 1973, and she doesn’t mind the hundreds of cars that slow down in front of her house every month to take pictures. She does, however, take issue with the full pizzas thrown onto her roof because, seriously, what an unoriginal waste of pizza!
Walter White’s house
30. It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
Charles Baker, who played Skinny Pete, practiced piano three hours a day for a month so he could pull off a virtuoso performance of Bach’s Solfeggietto in the music shop at the beginning of season five. Unfortunately, only the intro made the cut.
29. Still Not Healthy
Julia Minesci, the actress who very convincingly played Wendy, the addicted hooker, has actually run the Hawaii Ironman six times, the Germany Ironman once, and countless marathons.
28. Four out of Five Dentists Agree
One of Gilligan’s big regrets is that Aaron Paul’s teeth were way too perfect for them to be in Jesse Pinkman’s mouth. This is a character who took tons of beatings as well as smoked crystal, both of which are dental no-nos.
However, nothing was done about it because, according to Gilligan, “removing real teeth from actors is a real non-starter”.
27. Despite His Nice Teeth
Jesse Pinkman was originally supposed to be gone by the ninth episode, but Aaron Paul’s portrayal was so impressive that Vince Gilligan spent the hiatus caused by the writer’s strike retooling the show to keep the character on.
26. Bait and Switch
The GPS coordinates that Walt hid in plain sight on a Lotto ticket don’t actually point towards $80M in cash. In reality, they point to Q Studios in Albuquerque, where Breaking Bad is shot, which is probably less of a legal issue than sending fans into the middle of the New Mexico desert to die.
25. Not As Prestigious as the Rhodes
An Albuquerque addiction clinic leveraged the popularity of the show to help get New Mexicans off of drugs. They even offer patients the chance to win a “Breaking Addiction” scholarship that entitles them to 12 weeks of free rehab worth thousands of dollars.
24. You Got the Wong Guys
Bryan Cranston and his brother once worked at a Florida restaurant run by a tyrannical chef named Peter Wong.
When the chef was found murdered, the police visited the restaurant looking for suspects with motive, only to get the reply that, “Everybody talked about killing Peter Wong. That’s all we talked about”. Unfortunately, it just so happened that Cranston and his brother had recently quit and set off across America on their motorcycles, which looked rather suspicious.
So for a brief moment in time, Bryan Cranston was wanted for murder.
23. Bad Hombres
Daniel and Luis Moncado, the brothers who play the mute assassin cousins, have both been in gangs and served prison time. Luis actually has the letters “F” and “U” tattooed on his eyelids. He described the horrifying process of acquiring these tats.
“Your eyelid is so thin the needle will go through and puncture your eye. You gotta put a spoon”. Yes. A friggin’ spoon. UNDER THE EYELID. Fork me.
Vince Gilligan got his start as a writer and producer on the sci-fi series, The X-Files.
A huge fan of the series, he sent a script to Fox, which became the season 2 episode, “Soft Light”. He went on to write 29 more episodes and produce 44 others.
21. The Need for Speed
Gilligan and Bryan Cranston crossed paths for the first time while Gilligan was still with The X-Files.
Cranston played a racist roofer who had to drive due west at breakneck speed to prevent his head from exploding. Gilligan said he needed someone who could play “a guy who could be scary and kind of loathsome but at the same time had a deep, resounding humanity”. Now who does that sound like?
20. In the End We Go Back to the Beginning
The last scene to be filmed in Breaking Bad was Walt and Jesse’s cooking flashback in the episode Ozymandias.
19. Clear Improvement
Because of the popularity of Breaking Bad, crystal producers in the US started putting blue food dye into their product and charging higher prices, telling their customers that the blue stuff is stronger.
However, the discerning addict would know that pure stuff is colorless.
18. Form after Function
Heisenberg’s signature hat became a part of Cranston’s costume primarily to keep his shaved head from burning.
17. Don’t Stop Belizing
When Saul suggested that Walt send Hank “on a trip to Belize,” it was an obvious euphemism that had nothing to do with Belize. However, the Belize Tourism Board extended an open invitation to the cast and crew to take an all-expenses-paid trip to see that a trip to Belize was, in fact, not as ominous as Saul made it sound.
Tuco, one of Walt and Jesse’s first enemies, was supposed to be a thorn in the duo’s side all the way through season two. Unfortunately, Raymond Cruz, the actor who played Tuco, became a regular on “The Closer” and could no longer appear on Breaking Bad.
Gilligan got the idea to use mercury fulminate from “Mister Roberts,” the Henry Fonda movie in which Jack Lemmon’s character was “always blowing up nothings on this old navy ship with mercury fulminate”. When Gilligan found out that mercury fulminate looked a bit like crystal, one of the more iconic Heisenberg moments was born.
14. Walter White is No Martha Stewart
Methylamine, the chemical that spurred Walt and his gang to rob a train, is actually not that difficult to make. Some chemists have suggested that, with the right ingredients, it could be synthesized in a kitchen sink.
Of course, an episode featuring Walt standing in his kitchen for a few hours wouldn’t have nearly the same suspense.
13. What’s the Deal with All this blue stuff?
Many of Breaking Bad’s cast members also showed up on Seinfeld (the 90s sitcom, not the man himself). Bryan Cranston played Tom Whatley, a stingy dentist who helped push the term “regifting” into the popular lexicon. Anna Gunn played Jerry’s supposedly unfaithful girlfriend. And Bob Odenkirk had a role as Elaine’s sexually-frustrated boyfriend.
12. Midlife madness.
Walter White was originally written to be a man in his 40s, but AMC felt that 40 was too early for a midlife crisis and suggested they change the age to 50.
In actuality, the average life expectancy of a man in America is 76.4 years so the correct age for a midlife crisis is 38.2.
11. It’s Morphin’ Time
Bryan Cranston won three consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Dramatic series for his role in Breaking Bad but fans of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers might remember him as the voice of Twin Man, a singular monster made of reflective mirrors. It makes perfect sense that, after this, Cranston turned to a life of drugs.
10. Will the Real Blue Ranger Please Stand Up
Incidentally, the real name of the Blue Power Ranger is Billy Cranston. No relation.
9. Educational Television
When Walt used live electrical wires to burn through plastic restraints that had kept him attached to a radiator, he didn’t realize that he was also teaching Australian convicts an alternative methodology for lighting cigarettes. This resulted in the breakage of 425 television sets across a number of Queensland prisons.
8. Two Ships in the Night
Throughout the entire series, Jesse and Walt Jr. are the only two regular characters who never meet each other.
7. It’s Not His Fault
Due to his slight resemblance to Matt Damon, Jesse Plemons (who played Todd Alquist) was referred to by the nickname “Meth Damon”.
6. Pick Your Poison
Laura Fraser, who played the squeamish drug-runner Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, also played Jessica Brody, wife of suspected terrorist Nicholas Brody, in the original pilot for Homeland.
When she was replaced by Morena Baccarin, she moved on to Breaking Bad.
5. Bad Investment
Billionaire investor and self-confessed Breaking Bad fan Warren Buffet said that Walter was a “good businessman” and went on to say that the kingpin “would be my guy if I ever have to go toe-to-toe with anyone”. Of course, one assumes that an actual “good businessman” wouldn’t have to murder two dozen men, poison a small child, or get shot.
4. It’s Elementary
The series ran for 62 episodes.
Samarium is the 62nd element on the period table. An isotope of samarium can be to treat various forms of cancer. Including lung cancer. Coincidence? Probably.
3. Cashing In
Originally set to shoot in California, Breaking Bad moved to New Mexico much to the delight of local businesses which have taken advantage of the show’s popularity with such products as locally brewed Heisenberg “dark” beer and Heisenberg Pez dispensers.
Because the DEA didn’t want Breaking Bad to become a step-by-step guide to cooking drugs, they advised Gilligan and his team of writers on what science to include and what to leave out. “If you simply followed the one synthesis as it’s presented,” says science advisor Donna Nelson, “you wouldn’t come out with methamphetamine”. Aspiring cooks who followed the recipe have reported that following the recipe simply doesn’t work.
1. Tiny Tat
When filming of Breaking Bad ended, Cranston got drunk with the crew and, much to the disgust of his wife, wound up with a tattoo of the show’s logo on his finger. At least it wasn’t on his lower back.