Breaking Bad is undeniably one of the greatest TV shows ever made. It features some of the most inventive writing, shooting and acting ever seen on television. Over the course of its 5 seasons the show won; 16 Emmy Awards, 6 Critic’s Choice Awards, and 2 Golden Globes. But not everything went smoothly while the show was being made. The show was shot largely on location, in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico, at a cost of over $3 million per episode. It was a trying project for many members of the cast and crew, and, according to show creator Vince Gilligan, the show almost didn’t happen.
Even after the show had run for multiple years and received near-universal acclaim, the production team continued to run into problems. The show nearly had to switch to a new network for its 5th and final season.
The show’s ambition and production struggles create the perfect recipe for a wealth of stories about its creation. The on-screen product looks polished and smooth, but, from actor injuries to actual meth cooking, the show maintained something of a darker side, on and off screen.
Here are the 16 Dark Secrets About the Making of Breaking Bad.
16. Bryan Cranston Was Once Wanted For Murder
Through the series Walter White kills 201 people, either directly or indirectly. Years before the show, Bryan Cranston was involved in a an actual murder case.
When Cranston was in his early 20s he went on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his brother. At one particularly long pitstop, the two worked as waiters in a Florida restaurant, where the head chef was a man named Peter Wong.
According to Cranston, Wong was a tyrant who was hated by much of the staff. As a result of this, they would occasionally joke about killing him. The jokes turned serious when Peter Wong turned up dead.
By this time Cranston and his brother had continued on their trip up the east coast, which police interpreted as possibly fleeing the state. The brothers did get arrested, but were released soon after.
15. Some Desert Scenes Were Shot in Freezing Cold Temperatures
The episode “Confessions” in season five required a desert meeting scene. When the show-runners decided to change the scene to take place at night, they had to shoot in freezing cold temperatures.
The scene took about six hours and was very difficult for the cast, crew, and arachnids alike. A tarantula used in the scene’s opening shot had trouble adjusting to the cold. Prior to the shot, the spider was kept in a heated box, but when it was released it was only able to sluggishly crawl into the shot before freezing up. The shot had to be repeated multiple times before the spider was finally able to stay warm long enough to complete the shot.
14. Walter White is A Real Person
After the premiere of Breaking Bad, there were a number of prominent cases that involved desperate teachers cooking meth. For example, a chemistry teacher from Texas was arrested for selling meth on school grounds.
There was also a 74-year-old math professor who was arrested in 2011 and a Massachusetts teacher with cancer in 2015, who were both arrested for selling meth.
Prior to the release of the show, there was a real Walter White. This Walter White was not a chemist nor did he have cancer, but in 2008 he was put on Alabama’s most wanted list. He was arrested and in 2013 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for distributing 32 and a half pounds of methamphetamine.
13. Gus’s Death Was Inspired By A Real Event
Gustavo “Gus” Fring’s death in the season 4 finale was shocking and unexpected. Show-runners enlisted help from fellow AMC show The Walking Dead, to help create a half-destroyed recreation of actor Giancarlo Esposito’s face.
This gruesome death, while horrifying, was actually based on something that happened in real life. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has previously said that he got the idea from the death of Jack Parsons in 1952.
Parsons was a rocket scientist who was killed while working on a rush order of explosives for a movie set. When an explosion destroyed his home laboratory, he sustained major injuries. Parsons’s right forearm was amputated, both his legs and his left arm were broken, and a hole was blown through the right side of his face.
12. The DEA Taught Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul How to Cook Meth
Walter White was a natural meth cook. Bryan Cranston, however, needed a crash course. In an interview with Howard Stern in 2012, Bryan Cranston said DEA chemists showed Cranston and co-star Aaron Paul how the drug was actually made.
“We didn’t cook it, but we were told exactly the process at that high level,” Cranston told Stern. Despite being questioned, Cranston continued to deny that he ever actually cooked meth.
As depicted on the show, cooking meth is an incredibly volatile process. It requires a great knowledge of chemistry, since a slight variation on the recipe could result in catastrophic results. Obviously, no real meth was ever cooked on set, but the actors are theoretically capable of producing a high quality product.
11. HBO Passed On The Show
HBO has passed on a number of popular shows including, Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, and a Lord of the Rings TV series. In addition, HBO passed on Breaking Bad after a meeting that Vince Gilligan described as, “the worst meeting I’ve ever had”.
“The woman we’re pitching to could not have been less interested — not even in my story, but about whether I actually lived or died. My agents could never even get her on the phone afterward to even say no,” said Gilligan.
Prior to the meeting with HBO, Gilligan had meetings with FX, who passed on the show because it was too similar to their other shows. Gilligan also met with TNT who were only interested if Walter White was a counterfeiter, instead of a meth cook.
10. The Science In The Show Is Purposefully Incorrect
The DEA did more on set than simply teach Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul how to make meth, they also consulted with show runners on how to portray the process without actually teaching audiences how to cook meth.
In an interview with NPR in 2011 one of the show’s science advisors, Donna Nelson admitted that the science in Breaking Bad is intentionally flawed. “That was actually one of the concerns of a lot of people, but Vince Gilligan has been very clever,” said Nelson. “You know, there are multiple ways to make meth. And so, although his scenes are very accurate, he will sort of (unintelligible) together parts of different syntheses, so that if you just simply followed the one synthesis as it’s presented, you wouldn’t come out with methamphetamine.”
9. Tuco Was Originally The Main Villain of Season Two
Despite being one of the most memorable villains in the show, Tuco Salamanca only made it until the beginning of season two. This wasn’t originally intended, as Tuco was supposed to be the show’s main antagonist throughout the entire second season.
In a 2009 interview with AMC Raymond Cruz, the actor who played Tuco, ultimately made the call because he found the role too difficult to portray.
“I asked them to kill me,” said Cruz. “Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to coming back and doing the part. It’s really difficult to pull off. They were like, ‘We want you to come back and do eight more episodes.’ And I said, ‘No. I’ll do one more and that’s it. You guys have to kill me.’
8. Jesse Wasn’t Supposed to Live Past the First Season
Throughout the writing of the show, Vince Gilligan had a reputation for coming up with morbid and crazy ideas, that had to be reined in by the writing staff. One of these ideas, which was pitched before the pilot, involved Jesse Pinkman being killed in the first season.
In an interview on AMC’s Breaking Bad Insider Podcast, Gilligan detailed his early idea. After Jesse’s death, Walt was supposed to kidnap Jesse’s killer, lock him in a basement and torture him. Walt would methodically remove the murderer’s toes, cauterizing the wounds each time to keep them from bleeding out. Walt was also supposed to provide the killer with a way out, a shotgun connected to a trip wire.
Eventually, Walter Jr. was supposed to discover the killer and try to help him escape. The killer would then take advantage of Walt Jr.’s kindness and pull the tripwire, killing both of them.
7. Aaron Paul Actually Got A Concussion On-Set
Breaking Bad was a difficult show for the cast and crew, but few had it as difficult as Aaron Paul, who was sent to the ER after receiving a concussion.
During a Reddit AMA in 2013, Paul recounted the experience, “Raymond Cruz who played Tuco gave me a concussion during the episode “Grilled” where Tuco takes Walt and Jesse to his shack in the middle of nowhere where we meet the famous Uncle Tio. Tuco takes Jesse and he throws him through the screen door outside, and if you watch it back you’ll notice that my head gets caught inside the wooden screen door and it flips me around and lands me on my stomach and the door splinters into a million pieces…The next thing I know I guess I blacked out and I woke up to a flashlight in our eyes and it was our medic.”
6. The Pizza On The Roof Scene Led to Unintended Consequences
In a 2012 interview with Jimmy Kimmel Bryan Cranston revealed that the infamous “Pizza Scene” in season three of Breaking Bad, was done on the first take, without the use of special effects. The scene became an instant fan favorite and prompted several fans to try and recreate it themselves.
Fans traveled to the real house used in the show and, much to the chagrin of the owners, took to throwing their own pizzas on the roof. The fast food throwers eventually forced a response from Vince Gilligan, who in 2015 urged fans to leave the homeowners alone.
Unfortunately, Gilligan’s urgings went unnoticed and the homeowners decided to build a fence around their property to keep people at a distance.
5. The Coordinates on Walt’s Lotto Ticket Actually Lead to Q Studios
When Walter White more money from his drug empire than he knows what to do with, he eventually is forced to bury it deep in the New Mexico desert. In order to remember exactly where he left it, Walt records the location’s GPS coordinates, and, in order to keep them from being discovered, records them with a lottery ticket.
The ticket’s location (N 34, 59′, 20″, W 106, 36′, 52) don’t actually lead to $80 million. Instead, the coordinates will lead you to Q Studios in Albuquerque, New Mexico where the show was shot.
The studio has played host to many well-known movies including, Logan, Independence Day: Resurgence, and The Avengers. According to an interview with The Playlist in 2012, Samuel L Jackson wanted to make a background appearance in Breaking Bad as Nick Fury.
4. Drug Dealers Started Making Blue Meth
Since Breaking Bad’s debut in 2008, drug dealers around the world have tried to duplicate Heisenberg’s blue colored meth, in an attempt to piggyback off the show’s success. Unlike Heisenberg’s product in the show, the blue drug was often less potent.
According to authorities, drug dealers unintentionally worsened their product by adding additional chemicals in an attempt to dye it blue. Any attempts to dye the drug would ultimately dilute its purity, because chemically pure methamphetamine is actually colorless.
In addition to dealers trying to replicate the drug’s appearance, 5 men were arrested in 2013 for replicating its purity. The drug was manufactured in North Korea and was being shipped overseas when it was seized by law enforcement. Subsequent testing confirmed the product was 99% pure.
3. The Actors Who Played the Cousins Were Real Gang Members
Leonel and Marco Salamanca, better known as the cousins, were two of the most intimidating characters on Breaking Bad. For their silent, menacing performance, the real-life brothers playing the cousins drew from their own experience. The brothers, Daniel and Luis Moncada, both spent time in jail and were previously gang members.
Luis Moncada, who also has tattoos on his eyelids, talked about their background in a Q&A with AMC. “We’ve been around the block,” Luis said. “I was in jail a long time ago, so I went through that. I was in a gang. Everything bad you can think of that happened to someone, happened to me and my brother. That’s why we are the way we are now. But I used it in a positive way. I’ve done a lot of motivational speaking for schools, prison camps and programs for youth.”
2. Copies Of Tuco’s Grill Were Left In A New Mexico River
After killing Tuco at the beginning of season two, Hank Schrader keeps the drug kingpin’s “grillz” as a trophy. After going through quite a bit of psychological trauma, Hank’s paranoia starts to overwhelm him and he decides to dispose of Tuco’s property by throwing it in the river.
To make sure that Dean Norris, the actor who plays Hank, would be able to have multiple takes, the Breaking Bad props department had to make more than 15 verions of the prop. While, most of them were actually thrown into the river, many were retrieved by divers working for the show.
1. AMC Originally Wanted Matthew Broderick or John Cusack To Play Walter White
Bryan Cranston won 4 Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Walter White, but Cranston was almost never cast in the role. After finally finding a network that was willing to air the show, Vince Gilligan had to fight for the casting he wanted. Gilligan had worked with Cranston on the set of The X-Files and knew he had the chops to take on a major dramatic role.
The executives at AMC, however, were only familiar with Cranston’s role in Malcolm in the Middle. “We all still had the image of Bryan shaving his body in Malcolm in the Middle. We were like, ‘Really? Isn’t there anybody else?’” one former executive told The Hollywood Reporter.
Instead, they wanted to cast an established film star and proposed Matthew Broderick or John Cusack. Both actors passed on the role and AMC finally agreed to cast Cranston.
Do you know of any other secrets from the making of Breaking Bad? Let us know in the comments!
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