Albuquerque unveils ‘Breaking Bad’ statues of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Bronze statues of legendary meth cookers Walter White and Jesse Pinkman were installed Friday at a convention center in Albuquerque to celebrate the television series “Breaking Bad” and its entertainment legacy, earning applause in a city that played its own gritty supporting role.

Local politicians including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller mingled with ‘Breaking Bad’ 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 prequel “Better Call Saul” helped fuel a filmmaking renaissance across New Mexico, while getting closer to Albuquerque’s real-life struggles with drug addiction and crime.

Gilligan said he recognizes the statues of “two fictional and infamous meth smugglers” would not be universally cherished in New Mexico.

“Seriously, some people will no doubt say, ‘Wow, exactly what our city needed. And I understand that,” Gillian said. “I see two of the best actors America has ever produced. I see them, in character, as two larger-than-life tragic characters, cautionary tales.

Still 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 bond to produce and distribute meth amidst a violent cliffhanger. Turnaround.

The show and its iconic main characters are already adored on airport t-shirts and merchandise, while Albuquerque tour guides lead fans to former filming locations in a replica of the show’s motorhome which also served as a meth lab.

New Mexico has a long history of battling the toll of substance abuse, with more than 43,000 deaths related to alcohol and drug overdoses over the past three decades. Albuquerque is also facing a record wave of homicides.

The spike in methamphetamine and fentanyl overdose deaths has overtaken heroin and prescription opioids as the leading causes of drug overdose deaths in the state in 2020.

Keller announced the positive economic impact of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” on Albuquerque, acknowledging the dollars and fun it brings to a town he jokingly called “Tamale-wood.”

“Although the stories may be fictional…the jobs are real every day,” Keller said. “The city is also a character. … We see each other in so many ways, good and bad.

Republican State Representative Rod Montoya of Farmington said he admires Cranston as an actor, but the statues get the wrong kind of attention.

“I’m glad New Mexico got the deal, but really?” Montoya said. “We are literally going to glorify the meth makers?”

He also questioned the logic of the tribute after Albuquerque in June 2020 removed a statue of Spanish conqueror Juan de Oñate.

Protesters attempted to topple this bronze work of art to decry Oñate’s brutal treatment of Native Americans some 500 years ago. A fight that broke out during the protest resulted in gunfire which injured a man.

New Mexico politicians, including Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, have pinned their hopes on the movie industry to boost economic opportunity in a state with the nation’s highest unemployment rate.

New Mexico’s film and television industry hit a new production peak recently, with record spending in the state of $855 million for the fiscal year ending June. Recent video projects drawn to the state include the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

New Mexico offers a rebate of between 25% and 35% of in-state expenses for video production, which helps filmmakers big and small underwrite their work. Incentive payments peaked at $148 million in 2019.

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