'Breaking Bad' statues shine light on actors, Albuquerque

  • Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul, right, pose for photos next to statues of their characters during the "Breaking Bad" unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul, right, pose for photos next to statues of their characters during the "Breaking Bad" unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Breaking Bad fans are pictured during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Breaking Bad fans are pictured during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Bryan Cranston takes photos with his fans during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Bryan Cranston takes photos with his fans during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Walter White and Jesse Pinkman statues from "Breaking Bad" are pictured during an unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Walter White and Jesse Pinkman statues from "Breaking Bad" are pictured during an unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Aaron Paul, left, and Bryan Cranston, view statues of their characters during the "Breaking Bad" unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Aaron Paul, left, and Bryan Cranston, view statues of their characters during the "Breaking Bad" unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul view statues of their characters during the "Breaking Bad" unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Bryan Cranston, left, and Aaron Paul view statues of their characters during the "Breaking Bad" unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Bryan Cranston, left, takes a photo with a fan, Jackson Day, who is dressed as Heisenberg, during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Bryan Cranston, left, takes a photo with a fan, Jackson Day, who is dressed as Heisenberg, during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Aaron Paul greets his fans during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

    Aaron Paul greets his fans during the "Breaking Bad" statue unveiling event in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday July 29, 2022. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/30/2022 8:50 AM

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Bronze statues of mythical methamphetamine cookers Walter White and Jesse Pinkman were installed at a convention center in Albuquerque on Friday to celebrate the 'œBreaking Bad' TV series and its entertainment legacy, winning applause in a city that played its own gritty supporting role.

Local politicians including Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller mixed with 'œBreaking 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 'œBetter Call Saul' helped fuel a renaissance in filmmaking across New Mexico, while also cutting close to Albuquerque's real-life struggles with drug addiction and crime.

Gilligan said he recognized that the statues of 'œtwo fictional, infamous meth dealers' won't be universally cherished in New Mexico.

'œIn all seriousness, no doubt some folks are going to say, '˜Wow, just what our city needed.' And I get that," Gillian said. 'œI see two of the finest actors America has ever produced. I see them, in character, as two larger-than-life tragic figures, cautionary tales.'

Still a fixture on Netflix, AMC's 'œBreaking Bad' follows the fictional underworld trajectory of a high-school science teacher, played by Cranston, and a former student, played by Paul, as they team up to produce and distribute meth amid violent, cliffhanger plot twists.

The show and its iconic lead characters already are lionized on T-shirts and airport merchandise, while tour guides in Albuquerque shepherd fans to former film locations in a replica of the RV from the show that doubled as a meth lab.

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New Mexico has long struggled against the toll of addiction, with more than 43,000 deaths linked to alcohol and drug overdoses in the last three decades. Albuquerque also currently contends with a record-setting spate of homicides.

Surging overdose deaths from meth and fentanyl surpassed heroin and prescription opioids as the leading causes of drug overdose deaths across the state in 2020.

Keller heralded the positive economic impact of 'œBreaking Bad' and 'œBetter Call Saul" on Albuquerque, acknowledging the dollars and delight it brings to a city he jokingly called 'œTamale-wood."

'œWhile the stories might be fictional ... jobs are real every single day," Keller said. 'œThe city is also a character. ... We see ourselves in so many ways, good and bad.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Republican state Rep. Rod Montoya of Farmington said he admires Cranston as an actor but that the statues bring the wrong kind of attention.

'œI'm glad New Mexico got the business, but really?" Montoya said. 'œWe're going down the road of literally glorifying meth makers?'

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

Demonstrators tried to topple that bronze artwork in denunciation of OƱate's brutal treatment of Native Americans roughly 500 years ago. A fight that broke out at the protest resulted in gunfire that injured one man.

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

New Mexico's film and TV industry recently hit a new production peak, with record-setting in-state spending of $855 million for the fiscal year ending in June. Recent video projects drawn to the state include the Netflix series 'œStranger Things.'

New Mexico offers a rebate of between 25% and 35% of in-state spending for video production that helps filmmakers large and small underwrite their work. Incentive payments crested at $148 million in 2019.

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