Breaking Bad premiered on January 10, 2008. Though it didn’t start with high ratings. It quickly became a television phenomenon throughout five seasons, thanks in large part to word of mouth and the growing popularity of binge-watching. At its most basic, it’s the story of a soft-spoken chemistry teacher who, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, risks everything he’s worked for to ensure that his family is cared for in the case of his death. But, like with all excellent TV series, the plot is not as straightforward. And it changes, with each season somehow—miraculously—eclipsing the one before it.
1. MANY NETWORKS, INCLUDING HBO, PASSED ON IT.
Vince Gilligan said in 2016 that he is working on a limited series about Jim Jones for HBO. However, the “It’s Not TV” network wasn’t always a fan of Gilligan. In a 2011 interview, Gilligan revealed that it was “the worst meeting I’ve ever had when he pitched Breaking Bad to HBO.”
2. MATTHEW BRODERICK WAS DESPERATELY WANTED TO STAR ON THE NETWORK.
It’s challenging to picture Breaking Bad without Bryan Cranston as the lead, but he wasn’t as widely recognized when the show first aired, and AMC needed a star. They were very interested in casting Matthew Broderick or John Cusack in the starring roles.
3. JESSE PINKMAN WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO LIVE THROUGH SEASON ONE.
While Breaking Bad eventually became mostly on Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s rocky friendship, Jesse wasn’t originally planned to be essential. While it’s widely assumed that he was supposed to be killed off in episode nine and that the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strikes saved him, Gilligan set the record straight in 2013, stating that it was clear much earlier than that that Jesse’s character—and his relationship with Walter—was essential to moving the show forward.
4. THE WRITERS’ STRIKE CHANGED THE STORY ARC FOR SEASON ONE, WHICH WAS A GOOD THING.
The Writers Strike did, however, result in the show’s first season being cut short, forcing Gilligan to eliminate two episodes that would have shown Walter’s transformation into Heisenberg proceed much more quickly—and viciously. Gilligan was relieved that everything worked out the way it did.
5. THE DEA ASSISTED AND TAUGHT BRYAN CRANSTON & AARON PAUL HOW TO COOK METH.
Because of the subject matter, the show’s creators felt it was only proper to notify the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of their plans—and to welcome their assistance. “With all due respect and consideration, we informed them that we’re creating this show and asked, ‘Would you like to be a part of it in a consultancy to ensure that we do it right?'” Cranston revealed to High Times. “They could have said, ‘We don’t want anything to do with it.'” However, they recognized that it might be in their best interests to ensure that we do it correctly. As a result, DEA chemists joined the team as advisers and taught Aaron Paul and me how to produce crystal meth.”
6. THE SCIENCE IS VALID, BUT IT IS NOT PERFECT. AND IT WAS ON PURPOSE.
Dr. Donna Nelson, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma, joined the show as a science advisor midway through the first season and was tasked with ensuring that the science was correct—or as “correct” as possible.
7. ROCK CANDY IS THE ORIGINAL BLUE METHOD.
Blue rock candy is what you see whenever you see Walter and Jesse’s characteristic blue meth. More specifically, blue rock candy from The Candy Lady, an Albuquerque-based boutique candy shop. (They sell a complete line of Breaking Bad-inspired goodies under the name The Bad Candy Lady.)
8. GUS FRING WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY A MUCH SMALLER ROLE.
Giancarlo Esposito was initially hesitant to take on the role of Gus Fring, which was a much lesser part at the time. “I hadn’t seen Breaking Bad, but my manager told me it was his favorite show at the moment,” Esposito told TIME. “My wife suggested I give it a shot, but it was a guest appearance, and I’ve done a lot of guest spots.” I wanted to flesh out a character. But after doing one episode, I decided to do two more with the stipulation that I wanted to be a member of a filmmaking family.”
9. GIANCARLO ESPOSITO CONNECTED WITH HIS INNER EDWARD JAMES OLMOS.
Giancarlo Esposito had a couple of appearances on Miami Vice in the mid-1980s. The event impacted him since he utilized Lieutenant Martin Castillo, played by Edward James Olmos in that series, as a model for Gus Fring.
10. THE WALKING DEAD CREW HELPED GILLIGAN WITH THE FINAL EPISODE OF FRING.
Fring’s ultimate sendoff is one of the series’ most iconic visual images, and they were able to seek the assistance of some actual gore experts. “We did have a lot of aid from the prosthetic effects people on The Walking Dead,” Gilligan told The New York Times. “And I’d want to thank Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, as well as KNB EFX, those two gentlemen and their company, for creating that effect.” Then there was the visual effects work of Bill Pawloski and his colleagues, who digitally married a three-dimensional sculpture made by KNB EFX with the reality of the film scene. So, you can see into and through Gus’s skull at the final reveal. It’s a blend of fantastic makeup and visual effects. And it took months to complete.”
11. YES, AARON PAUL SAYS “BITCH” A LOT—BUT MAYBE NOT AS MUCH AS YOU THINK.
While any Jesse Pinkman portrayal concludes with a “bitch,” Paul uses the term a total of 54 times during the series, according to one count. Given the 62 episodes, which appears to be a tad on the low side.
12. PAUL DEVELOPED A “YO, BITCH” APP.
Even if the above figure appears underwhelming, Pinkman’s favorite add-on became so synonymous with Paul that the actor released a Yo, Bitch app in 2014.
13. WALTER’S BOSS AT THE CAR WASH IS A REAL-LIFE CHEMIST.
Many of the show’s viewers were unfamiliar with Marius Stan, who played Bogdan, Walter’s employer, at the car wash. The series marked his (and his brows’) acting debut. In real life, he has a Ph.D. in chemistry and, according to a Reddit AMA, is a “Senior Computational Energy Scientist at Argonne National Lab—one of the national laboratories under the United States Department of Energy—and a Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago, the Computation Institute.”
14. WALTER WHITE’S ALTER EGO REFERENCES A REAL PERSON.
Walter White’s drug kingpin alter persona, Heisenberg is a homage to Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who created the principle of uncertainty.
15. THE SIGNATURE HAT OF HEISENBERG WAS A MATTER OF PRACTICALITY.
Although it began from a convenient place, Heisenberg’s porkpie hat became synonymous with Walter White’s dark side. “After he shaved his head, Bryan kept asking me, ‘Can I have a hat?’ because his head was cold,” Kathleen Detoro, the show’s costume designer, recounted. “So I asked Vince, and he kept saying no; Jesse was wearing the headgear.” (If you want to get your own Heisenberg hat, Goorin makes them.) finally, Vince stated, ‘I believe there is a place…’ Bryan asked for a hat, I asked Vince, and Vince figured out where in the plot it made sense: that’s when he truly becomes Heisenberg.”
16. THE WHITES’ HOUSE HAS BECOME A TOURIST ATTRACTION, WITH LOTS OF PIZZA THROWN ON THE ROOF.
Though Walter White and his family live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, the house seen in exterior photos is 3828 Piermont Drive NE, a private property in Albuquerque that has become a popular tourist destination. Many admirers, enthralled by the sight of the house where Walter White hurled the world’s most giant pizza onto the roof in one rapid move, have sought to reproduce the event, leaving the home’s owner with a typical mess.
17. CRANSTON WAS ABLE TO THROW THAT PIZZA IN ONE TAKE.
Speaking of the notorious pizza incident, it was thrown by Cranston, and he did it in one take. It was a “one-in-a-million shot,” according to Gilligan.
18. JESSE RECEIVED A CONCUSSION FROM TUCO.
A brawl between Jesse and Tuco (Raymond Cruz) turned deadly when Cruz unintentionally knocked Paul unconscious. “Yeah, Raymond Cruz, who portrayed Tuco, caused me a concussion during the episode ‘Grilled,’ where Tuco takes Walt and Jesse to his hut in the middle of nowhere, and we meet the renowned Uncle Tio,” Paul explained in a Reddit AMA. “Tuco takes Jesse and tosses him through the screen door outside, and if you watch it again, you’ll notice that my head gets trapped within the wooden screen door, flipping me around and landing me on my stomach, and the door splinters into a million pieces.
19. JANE’S DEATH WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT SCENE FOR PAUL TO CAPTURE.
During a Reddit AMA, Paul was questioned about the most challenging scene to shoot, and he said it was Jane’s death. “I honestly think the most difficult sequence for me to do was when Jesse awoke to find Jane dead next to him,” Paul stated. “Seeing Jane through Jesse’s eyes that day was tough and traumatic for all of us.” I couldn’t be pleased the day was done since I honestly felt like I was living those torturous moments with Jesse.”
20. MIKE’S DEATH WAS DIFFICULT FOR EVERYONE.
When questioned about recording his final scene, Jonathan Banks explained, “The workers on the set that day all wore black armbands all day.” On that squad, I have a lot of buddies. Onset, it was an emotional day, to say the least—there were many tears. “It’s been a difficult day, brother.”
21. JESSE’S TEETH ARE STILL ANNOYING GILLIGAN.
When asked if he had any regrets about the program or any of its plotlines, Gilligan acknowledged having one: “Looking back on the entire series, one thing bothered me: Jesse’s teeth were a touch too beautiful. There were all the beatings he endured, and, of course, he was using meth, which is damaging to your teeth. In actual life, he’d most likely have rotten teeth.”
22. WARREN BUFFET VALUES WALTER WHITE’S BUSINESS ACUMEN.
Warren Buffet was a fan of the show and even attended the fifth season premiere. On the red carpet, he praised Walter White’s business acumen, calling him “a terrific businessman” and stating, “he’s my guy if I ever have to go toe-to-toe with anyone.”
23. THERE ARE A TOTAL OF 62 EPISODES—A NUMBER WITH A SPECIAL MEANING.
Breaking Bad produced 62 episodes throughout five seasons, which is not random. Samarium, the 62nd element on the periodic table, is used to treat a variety of malignancies, including lung cancer.