SANTA FE, NM (Associated Press) – Bronze statues of legendary methamphetamine chefs Walter White and Jesse Pinkman were installed at a convention center in Albuquerque Friday to celebrate the TV series “Breaking Bad” and its entertainment legacy, drawing applause in the city for its bold supporting role.
Local politicians including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keeler mingled with “Bryan Cranston” stars, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and director Vince Gilligan to help unveil the artwork donated by Gilligan and Sony Pictures.
The 2008-2013 show and its ongoing predecessor “Better Call Saul” helped fuel a renaissance in filmmaking across New Mexico, while also approaching Albuquerque’s real-life struggles with drug addiction and crime.
Gilligan said he realized that statues of “two notorious bogus methamphetamine dealers” would not be universally cherished in New Mexico.
“In all seriousness, there’s no doubt some people will say, ‘Wow, just what our city needs,'” Gillian said. ‘I see two of the best actors America has ever produced. I see them, in character, as two tragic, larger-than-life characters, cautionary tales.”
Still a staple on Netflix, AMC’s series Breaking Bad follows the fictional underworld path of a high school science teacher, played by Cranston and a former student, played by Paul, as they collaborate to produce and distribute methamphetamine amid violence and suspense. Knitted tricks.
The show and its main characters have already been snuggled up on T-shirts and airport merchandise, while tour guides at Albuquerque Shepher cheer fans to previous movie locations in an RV replica of the show that doubles as a meth lab.
New Mexico has long struggled with the toll of addiction, with more than 43,000 deaths linked to alcohol and drug overdoses in the past three decades. Albuquerque is also currently dealing with a record series of murders.
Overdose deaths from meth and fentanyl surpassed heroin and prescribed opioids as the leading causes of drug overdose deaths across the state in 2020.
Keeler praised the positive economic impact of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” on Albuquerque, acknowledging the dollars and joy they bring to a city he jokingly called “Tamale Wood.”
“While the stories may be fictional…the jobs are real every day,” Keeler said. “The city is also a character. … We see ourselves in many ways, good and bad.”
Farmington Republican Representative Rod Montoya said he admires Cranston as an actor but the statues are bringing the wrong kind of attention.
“I’m glad New Mexico got that job, but really?” Montoya said. “We’re down the path of literally glorifying methamphetamine makers?”
He also questioned the logic of the tribute after Albuquerque in June 2020 removed a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Onat.
Protesters have attempted to bring down this bronze artwork in denunciation of Onat’s brutal treatment of Native Americans nearly 500 years ago. Fighting that erupted during the protest resulted in gunfire, wounding a man.
New Mexico politicians, including Gov. Michelle Logan Grisham, have pinned their hopes on the film industry to boost economic opportunity in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country.
New Mexico’s film and television industry recently reached a new production peak, with government spending reporting $855 million for the fiscal year ending in June. Recent video projects drawn to the country include “Stranger Things” on Netflix.
New Mexico offers between 25% and 35% off government spending on video production that helps filmmakers big and small to secure their work. The stimulus payments were $148 million in 2019.