Breaking Bad Facts: 37 Things You Didn't Know
Unless you've been living under a rock the last couple of years, you will be well aware of the show and its characters. You may well consider yourself an expert in Breaking Bad trivia already. But Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, has a habit of hiding clues, references and hidden messages within each episode, so there are bound to be some facts you didn’t know!
Although it didn’t achieve amazing results initially, by the time season five came to an end, Breaking Bad had attracted quite a following, turning into something of a TV phenomenon.
Many of us spent days on end binge-watching what some people claim to be the greatest television series of all-time. No matter how many times you might have re-watched it, here are 37 things you might not yet know about the story of Walter White…
***Spoiler alert: This article contains some plot spoilers, so please do not read on if you haven't seen it yet! You have been warned...***
1. Walt’s alter ego is based on a German scientist
Walt’s chosen name for his drug boss alter ego, is a nod to German physician and Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg, a highly respected scientist who was one of the co-creators of the theory of quantum mechanics.
2. The show’s intro gives spoilers on what happens in the finale of season two
Did you notice the black and white teaser intros that appear at the start of the first, fourth, 10th and 13th episode of season two? When you combine these four titles you get ‘Seven Thirty-Seven’, ‘Down’, ‘Over’ and ‘ABQ’. Put them together and the combined message points to the plane crash in the final episode of the season.
But, what does ‘ABQ’ mean you might be thinking?
3. ‘ABQ’ is short for Albuquerque - the place Breaking Bad was shot
Although, Breaking Bad was originally meant to be shot in California, the location was moved to Albuquerque (a city in New Mexico), because the state offers a significant tax rebate on productions for film and TV.
Boosting New Mexico’s tourism industry, local businesses have cashed in on the popularity of the show; producing the likes of blue-meth inspired candy and doughnuts, as well as locally brewed Heisenberg beer and Pez dispensers.
4. The coordinates on the lottery ticket don’t lead to the $80m in cash
The lottery coordinates actually lead straight to the location of Q Studios in Albuquerque. This was the very studio the show - as well as many other Hollywood blockbusters - were filmed.
Bad news treasure hunters!
5. The science is rooted in fact, but not 100% accurate
The chemical process used by Walt and Jesse to cook methamphetamine is intentionally incorrect, as the producers didn’t want people copying the formula and making their own drugs! However…
6. They had a real scientist on-hand to advise
Chemistry Professor Dr. Donna Nelson, from the University of Oklahoma, began working with producers midway through the first season. She was tasked with making sure the show’s science was on point (without being unsafe for broadcast!) During an interview in 2013, Nelson suggested “There’s always going to be some creative license taken, because they want to make the show interesting. But, this isn’t a science education show. It’s a fantasy.”
7. The scene featuring Walt throwing a pizza onto the roof was done in one take
Managing to do it in just one take, Gilligan called Cranston’s fluke a “one-in-a-million shot.” Many fans travel to Walter’s fictional house to try to recreate the scene—leaving the homeowner to deal with the mess of many failed attempts.
8. Yes, the Whites’ house is an actual family home
The house in Breaking Bad has been the real-life home of a woman called Fran since 1973. The house attracts hundreds of fans every month. If you’re planning a visit, leave the pizza at home.
9. Walt starts morphing into some of the characters he’s killed
Walt takes on some of the characteristics of the people he has killed. Ever noticed him cutting the crusts off his sandwiches, (yes, that’s thanks to Krazy-8), drinking whiskey ‘on the rocks’ (that one was Mike) or driving a Volvo just like Gus Fring?
Not noticed? Sounds like it’s time for a re-watch!
10. There’s some colour-coding going on when it comes to Walter’s clothes
The colour of Walt’s clothes are very significant; they represent the level of control he has over his life. They become lighter in his moments of weakness, but darker when we see him in a position of power or authority. So, when you see him in black, you know what’s coming…
11. The first character Gilligan created for Cranston was more disturbed than Heisenberg
Before creating Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan was best known for his work as a writer and producer on The X-Files, in which Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and Dean Norris all featured. Cranston actually got the role of Walt after Vince showed AMC his performance in The X-Files episode ‘Drive’ (an episode that Gilligan wrote himself).
12. Breaking Bad’s most-viewed episode was the season five finale ‘Felina’
Throughout its lifespan, the show was bringing in a steady average of 1.5 million viewers per episode, which is impressive in itself. But by the time it entered its final run, the series was effortlessly breaking the five million mark, whilst the finale brought in a colossal 10.28 million viewers.
13. The show summed up in three words: blood, meth and tears
The name of the season five finale episode - ‘Felina’ - is a reference to the song that plays during the closing credits. As well as, being an anagram of ‘finale,’ it’s been noted that ‘Felina’ can be split up into ‘Fe’, ‘Li’, ‘Na’ — the chemical symbols for Iron, Lithium, and Sodium. Or, in other words; blood, meth, and tears.
14. Walter White is real. FACT.
An Alabama man rose to the top of America’s ‘Most Wanted’ list after building a large meth empire. His name? Walter White. Although, the crimes committed occurred before the TV show aired, it’s claimed Breaking Bad was not born from these events.
15. Jesse's teeth are Gilligan's only regret
He admitted that Aaron Paul's teeth were far too nice to be realistic for Jesse Pinkman, saying "one thing that sort of troubled me, looking back over the entirety of the show: Jesse's teeth were a little too perfect. There were all the beatings he took, and, of course, he was using meth, which is brutal on your teeth. He'd probably have terrible teeth in real life."
16. The ‘moustache man’ landed the part whilst playing golf with Dean Norris
Let’s face it, he’s consistently stolen the show. Yes, it’s the man with the hefty moustache (often seen in the background at the DEA office). Robert Sanchez - the man behind the now famous facial hair - admitted he got the part after playing golf with Dean Norris.
When he’s not playing golf or on set, you can find the retired fireman competing in moustache competitions in his free time.
17. Bryan Cranston was once a suspect in a murder case
The actor has openly discussed the time he unwittingly got caught up with the law, whilst working with his brother as a waiter in a Florida restaurant. Head chef at the restaurant - Peter Wong - was known by many to be something of a tyrant. When the chef was found murdered, the police visited the restaurant, asking if anyone had ever voiced an interest in killing Peter Wong. Cranston shared that this was a long running joke and "everybody talked about killing Peter Wong.” That, together with the news that the brothers had just resigned, meant the two were briefly suspects.
Fortunately, the real killer was later arrested.
18. Even the Salamanca cousins’ eyelids are terrifying
If you think the silent killers who almost got Hank are tough, then you haven’t met Daniel and Luis Moncado (the brothers who played the cousins). Did you know the two have both been in gangs and served time in prison?
A bona fide tough guy, Luis has ‘f*** you’ tattooed on his eyelids. Wondering how that’s possible? So were we!
Turns out the concealed message was etched there by placing a spoon behind his eyelid - "your eyelid is so thin the needle will go through and puncture your eye."
Thanks for the tip, but we won’t be copying!
19. The Heisenberg hat was only ever meant to protect Bryan’s head from sunburn
Although it helped bring his identity more in line with his hard man character, the now iconic hat wasn’t originally intended to add to Heisenberg’s ‘look’. According to costume designer Kathleen Detoro, the real reason Cranston started wearing the hat was to shade his newly-shaved head from the blazing New Mexico sun.
***Extra Breaking Bad fact alert: The scene when we see Walt unveil his bald head to his family for the first time was legit. Anna Gunn and RJ Mitte – who played Walt’s wife Skylar and his son Walt Jr. – hadn’t actually seen the actor’s new hairdo prior to filming, so their reactions were completely genuine.
20. Walt and Jesse’s cooking flashback in ‘Ozymandias’ was the last scene ever filmed
On the final day of filming for season five, to mark the occasion the cast and crew spent a drunken night in a local bar. This was the same night a drink-fuelled Cranston ended up with a tattoo of the show’s logo on his finger, much to his wife’s disgust.
21. Tuco only died because Raymond Cruz got another job
Gilligan wanted Cruz, the brilliant actor who plays one of Walt and Jesse's first enemies – Tuco - to be the bad guy for all of season two. However, he had to meet an explosive end in season one because he became a regular on US TV series The Closer, and could no longer appear in Breaking Bad.
22. Tuco's tooth grill is lurking somewhere in a river in Albuquerque
Propmaster Mark Hanson confessed that when Hank threw his desk trophy – in the form of Tuco's paperweight style gold tooth grill - in the river, his team had to make between 15 and 20 of them to make sure Dean Norris (Hank Schrader) was able to have more than one shot.
With many thrown in and later retrieved, there’s still one prop at large. Hanson announced "we did have people just off camera with hip-waders and nets to try and retrieve the cubes as they were thrown. If memory serves, I think we only lost one cube that day."
Happy hunting folks!
23. Lydia was almost Mrs. Brody (in Homeland, that is)
The original pilot for Homeland named Scottish actress Laura Fraser as the wife of Marine-turned-terrorist Nicholas Brody. The producers had second thoughts, and reshot the pilot as the co-creator Alex Gansa decided to cast the “more vibrant, more sexual” Morena Baccarin.
24. Lots of networks didn’t want the show, including HBO
2016 brought us the news that Vince Gilligan had signed on to write Raven, an HBO series about Jim Jones, the notorious leader of a cult who led his followers to a mass murder-suicide in 1978. However, his relationship with HBO hasn’t always been fruitful. In a 2011 interview, Gilligan revealed that he pitched Breaking Bad to HBO, claiming it was “the worst meeting I ever had … the woman we [were] pitching to could not have been less interested.”
She’ll be kicking herself now!
25. Jesse Pinkman wasn’t supposed to live past season one
A major part of the magic mix that makes Breaking Bad so good, was the storyline’s focus on the turbulent relationship between Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. However, Jesse wasn’t originally intended to be a major character. Many people think it was the Writers Guild of America strike that saved him. But, Gilligan has since set the record straight, saying that keeping this focus in the storyline was an integral part of moving the show forward, suggesting “it became pretty clear early on that that would be a huge, colossal mistake to kill off Jesse.”
26. Aaron Paul’s favourite word is “bitch”, but…
Yes, Aaron Paul says “bitch” a lot—but, maybe not quite as much as you think. Jesse Pinkman uses the word 54 times throughout the entire series. So, considering there are 62 episodes, it’s not even one “bitch” per show!
If the number above seems underwhelming, you can get your “bitch”-fix once again…
27. You can download Paul’s “Yo, bitch” app (if you live in America)
After the term became so synonymous with Aaron Paul, the Yo, Bitch app was released in the US only (bad news UK fans) back in 2014.
Yo Bitch! To everyone that has ever asked me to call them a bitch, here you go. It's an App Bitch! Happy Holidays. https://t.co/CjS1rcSROe— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) December 5, 2014
28. The total number of episodes has a special meaning
Over its five seasons, Breaking Bad produced a total of 62 episodes—which was no accident. In the periodic table, the 62nd element is Samarium, which is used to treat cancer patients.
29. The folks at The Walking Dead helped on Fring’s final episode
It was one of the most striking images from the entire series, so when it came to getting the gore-factor right, they drafted in the experts from The Walking Dead. Speaking about season four’s pivotal episode ‘Face Off’ (when half of Gus' face is blown off), Gilligan told The New York Times “It’s a combination of great makeup and great visual effects. And it took months to do."
30. Warren Buffet respects Walter White as a businessman
After showing up to the season five premiere, it’s no surprise that the billionaire businessman Warren Buffet was a fan of the show. On the red carpet, he expressed admiration, calling Walter "a great businessman," suggesting, "he’s my guy if I ever have to go toe-to-toe with anyone."
31. The final death toll is well over 250 people
Whilst the number of times Pinkman muttered “bitch” may have come in lower than expected, the death toll might have quite the opposite effect. Throughout the show’s entire run, 270 people were killed off (that’s an average of 4.4 per episode!)
32. Even George R.R. Martin thinks Walter is worse than any villain in Game of Thrones
Throughout it’s time on air Breaking Bad had a flourishing celebrity fan base. With the likes of Sir Anthony Hopkins famously sending Bryan Cranston a letter of appreciation upon the conclusion of the series. And, it didn’t stop there. After ‘Ozymandias’ - the 14th episode in season five - Game of Throne’s George R.R. Martin called Walter White a bigger monster than anyone he’d created, vowing to "do something about that" when he was writing his next book.
33. The crew were in mourning during Mike’s last scene
When filming the episode in which Walt kills the legendary Mike Ehrmantraut, played by Jonathan Banks, the entire crew wore black armbands to mark his final episode.
34. RJ Mitte was that good-looking it almost lost him the role
Gilligan had very specific criteria in mind for the actor that would play Walt Jr. After basing him on a friend who had cerebral palsy, he knew he wanted somebody who had the lifelong condition to portray the character. After a nationwide search, they found Mitte. Although, casting director Sharon Bialy admitted, “at the time, there was concern that he was too good-looking and his disability was not that pronounced.” However, it was clear RJ had spent his entire life working hard to improve - they realised it would have been wrong to punish him for that, and Bialy quickly realised that his personal experiences would help him do the character justice on screen.
35. Jonathan Banks was so impressive during his audition that his notes read “Does it get any better? So good!!”
Bialy summed up his Banks’ audition perfectly, saying “Clearly he had more experience than Sherry and I put together.”
36. The network really wanted Matthew Broderick to star as Walt
Before Bryan Cranston’s suitability for the role of Walter White was confirmed, several other actors were strongly considered, including Matthew Broderick and John Cusack. With AMC searching for a star, Gilligan was against recruiting big named actors. Whilst it’s clear both would’ve likely been talented enough to portray White’s everyman-turned-criminal character, it’s now impossible to imagine anyone other than Cranston in the role, especially Ferris Bueller himself!
37.Walter White's Breaking Bad underwear sold at auction for $9,900
Yes, in UK talk that’s over £7,600! We know people love to buy props from their favourite movies and TV shows. But, boxers? Really?
Seems so; the briefs he wore in the pilot became an iconic image of the series, but it’s still a seriously committed fan that forks out over $9,500 more that the starting bid of $250. Final bonus fact: Hector Salamanca’s bell went for $26,750!
Consider yourself an expert when it comes to Breaking Bad facts – how many did you already know? Super-fan or total novice, let’s face it, you don’t really need an excuse for a re-watch!
You can buy the complete Breaking Bad box set here.