Bronze statues of legendary methamphetamine cookers Walter White and Jesse Pinkman were installed at a convention center in Albuquerque on Friday to celebrate the Breaking Bad TV series and its entertainment legacy, which won accolades in the city for their gritty supporting roles.
Other politicians, including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, joined Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and director Vince Gilligan to help unveil artwork donated by Gilligan and Sony Pictures.
The 2008–2013 show and its ongoing prequel Better Call Saul helped fuel a renaissance in filmmaking in New Mexico, while also giving a closer bite to Albuquerque’s real-life struggles with drug addiction and crime. .
Gilligan said he believed the statues of “two fictional, infamous meth dealers” would not be universally cherished in New Mexico.
“In all seriousness, there’s no doubt that some people are going to say, ‘Wow, just what our city needs,’ and I get that,” Gilligan said.
“I see two of the best actors America has ever produced. I see them, in character, as two larger-than-life tragic figures, with cautionary tales.”
Still a fixture on Netflix, AMC’s Breaking Bad follows the fictional underworld trajectory of a high-school science teacher, played by Cranston, and a former student, played by Paul, as they encounter violent, cliffhangers. Team up to produce and distribute meth in between plot twists. ,
The show and its main characters have already been shelved on T-shirts and airport merchandise, while Albuquerque Shepherd fans double as meth labs for former movie locations in a replica of tour guide RVs in Albuquerque.
New Mexico has long struggled against addiction, with more than 43,000 deaths linked to alcohol and drug overdoses over the past three decades.
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Albuquerque currently also struggles with record-setting murders.
Meth and fentanyl overdose deaths overtook heroin and prescription opioids as the leading causes of drug overdose deaths statewide in 2020.
Keller began the positive economic impact of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul on Albuquerque, accepting the dollar and bringing it to the city.
“However fictional the stories may be, jobs are real every day,” Keller said.
“The city is also a character. We see ourselves in many ways, good and bad.”
Republican State Representative Rod Montoya said he admires Cranston as an actor but that the statues attract the wrong kind of attention.
“I’m glad New Mexico got the business, but really?” Montoya said. “Are we really on the road to glorifying meth makers?”
He also questioned the logic of the tribute after Albuquerque removed a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Onet in June 2020.
Demonstrators tried to topple that bronze artwork condemning Onet’s brutal treatment of Native Americans nearly 500 years ago.
One person was injured after a person was shot in the fight that took place during the protest.
New Mexico politicians, including Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, have pinned their hopes on the film industry to boost economic opportunity in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country.
New Mexico’s film and TV industry recently hit a new production peak, with record-setting in-state spending for the fiscal year ending in June. Recent video projects slated to state include the Netflix series Stranger Things.
New Mexico offers rebates of between 25% and 35% of state spending for video production that helps filmmakers large and small to underwrite their work.