Critically acclaimed TV show “Breaking Bad” put Albuquerque on the pop culture map. Friday at the Albuquerque Convention Center, “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan and Sony, which distributed the show, gave the city a gift of two bronze statues of the show’s main characters, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
Bryan Cranston, who played White, and Aaron Paul, who played Pinkman, joined Gilligan at the Convention Center Friday afternoon for the unveiling of the statues. Several of their co-workers also attended including Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler in “Better Call Saul,” Dean Norris (Hank Schrader), Michael Mando (Nacho Varga on Saul), Patrick Fabian (Howard Hamiln on Saul) and Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut).
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller kicked off the ceremony with a speech to the hundreds in attendance, thanking Gilligan and the actors for their contributions to the state, including millions of dollars in economic impact from the filming of the franchise in the state.
“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.”
After Keller spoke, he, Gilligan, Cranston and Paul unveiled the statues. Cranston grabbed his head and Paul’s jaw dropped as they saw their characters immortalized in bronze.
Gilligan commissioned sculptor Trevor Grove of California in 2019 to create the statues and donated them to the city as a thank you.
“Trevor is a sculptor of exceptional ability and he’s a fan of ‘Breaking Bad,'” Gilligan said Friday. “Trevor made a few things just for fun based on our show. The folks in our office found out about him and showed me photos. There was this one sculpt of Walter White’s head. It was the size of a champagne cork and it was made out of wax, carved out of wax. It was perfect. It was like someone had lopped off this gentleman’s head and shrunk it down. But it was so amazing that it just got me thinking. What if Trevor could sculpt a life-sized version of Walter White in bronze, a medium new to him, and what if you could toss in Jesse Pinkman to boot and then we donate the two statues to the city of Albuquerque as a thank you for your hospitality?”
Albuquerque was not just the setting for the popular show; the city was a character in it, according to Gilligan. The statues are a gift for the role the Duke City played in both “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”
“‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Better Call Saul’ are commerce certainly, but they’re also labors of love,” Gilligan said. “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. I mean, literally, we have shot in this very building before. We have shot across the street in the plaza. We have shot just past that the old courthouse. Many times we shot everywhere and we had, let me tell you, we had a ball doing it. Fifteen years ago when this journey began, I knew next to nothing about the Land of Enchantment. I wound up loving this city in this state. I wanted to give something back to a community that feels like family to me.”
Paul followed Gilligan with a a humorous but emotional speech. He talked about being at the lowest point of his career before “Breaking Bad” started and how the show and Gilligan helped him achieve success.
“You saved my career. I was struggling to pay my bills,” Paul said. “This is a regular guy who changed my life. So thank you so much. Thank you to Albuquerque, my God, for seven years right here. Seven years is such a huge part of my life. Still is; I see so many familiar faces here in the audience I love.”
Cranston said: “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. 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.”
As the private ceremony wrapped up, dozens of fans lined up outside the Convention Center waiting for their turn to see the two historic characters’ statues. The cast and crew of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” have many times praised Albuquerque and shown their love for the city. Friday showed that Albuquerque loves them, too.