Covid-19 alert: Before reserving your spot, please check the attraction’s website for restrictions or requirements.
“Say my name.” Those words sent chills down people’s spines when spoken by Heisenberg – aka Walter White – on the uber-popular series Breaking Bad. Airing 2008-13 on AMC network, the series was filmed in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The television drama focused on the story of Walter White, a meek high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer, and former student Jesse Pinkman, a down-and-out drug user. Together, they create the perfect meth, known as “Blue.” The operation starts out in an old RV. The duo’s story takes off from there.
Before his five seasons as Walter, I knew Bryan Cranston as the dad on Malcolm in the Middle and as a recurring character on Seinfeld. The dude can act! He won the Emmy four times for lead actor in a drama series. He’s gone on to star in movies and new series.
Aaron Paul’s Jesse grew from a druggie loser to a guy you rooted for to survive and succeed in life. The things he suffered through – beatings, loss and more beatings – you wonder how Jesse could manage all that. The role was Paul’s breakthrough after bit parts in other Hollywood projects. He won three Emmy awards as the outstanding supporting actor for Breaking Bad.
Fans love the tour
Fans – and there are many – continue to flock to Albuquerque just for the Breaking Bad tour, hosted by Breaking Bad RV Tours. Guides include people who appeared in episodes as actors or extras. Fans enjoy a 3-hour tour of more than 20 film sites, all while in the comfort of a converted RV or a shuttle. My hosted tour used a shuttle, because the RV was undergoing maintenance. It would have been nice to ride in the RV, but I appreciated the comfort of the shuttle.
With about a dozen hardcore fans, our tour took us around the Albuquerque film sites, including a storage yard where the RV was kept in an impoundment lot on the show.
Despite having a script, Vince Gilligan, creator and showrunner, always looked for ways to improve a scene, said Frank Sandoval, our tour guide. Gilligan noticed a porta-potty at another facility and bought it. The scene we saw at home had Jesse trying to climb on the porta-potty as he broke into the impoundment lot. It collapses, sending him crashing into the excrement-filled bathroom. While we get grossed out at home, actor Aaron Paul fortunately only had make-up and props on him. Still, gross.
Stories such as this highlighted the tour, which is a mix of drive-by views (due to location) and stops, including ones where you exit the vehicle. Drive-bys include the White home, where the actual owner has installed a security fence and cameras, because some “fans” have thrown pizzas onto the roof (based on an episode), Sandoval said.
Breaking Bad seems to have a life of its own, he said. Regardless of the time that passes, people continue to reserve spots on the tour. Fans keep talking online about bringing the series back.
A behind-the-scenes look at the show
As the tour travels around the city, it’s interesting how a series is edited. For instance, a scene from one episode showed one of Jesse’s stoner friends getting set up by an undercover cop at a bus stop bench. When you see the location in real life, you learn the bench was a prop.
Then, across the street is a park where another character would spend time with his granddaughter. Some film locations are near each other.
Gilligan had a mural painted on the side of a building, which was used as a drug pin’s office, Sandoval said. The mural stayed.
The same building got a new air conditioning and heating unit from the show after a scene. An explosion in one of the offices was so powerful it knocked the rooftop unit off its moorings and it flew over the front of the building, hanging by its cables. The scene during the episode was amazing, but it wasn’t planned. The building’s facade also received a makeover.
As Walter and Jesse started raking in money with their drug sales, Walter looked for ways to launder his money. So, he and his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) bought the A1A Carwash. Our tour stopped at the actual carwash used as the fictional A1A. The visit included a walk through the lobby area, where you can see inside the wash area.
Another fan favorite is the site of Los Pollos Hermanos, a chicken fast food joint that fronts for a major drug operation overseen by Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Our tour enjoyed an extended visit to the actual Los Pollos Hermanos – Twisters, a burger and burrito eatery. We enjoyed a quick snack and drink on-site while taking pictures of the Breaking Bad section, including the booth used by the lead characters.
A drive near downtown government buildings included a quick look at the federal building used as the Drug Enforcement Agency for Walter’s brother-in-law, Hank. Yes, Walter, a drug manufacturer, had a relative who worked for the feds. In fact, Hank was in charge of investigating the Heisenberg case. It couldn’t end well, could it?
Well-written, great acting
Sandoval, our guide, actually played a DEA agent in one episode. You can catch him walking through the building with Hank (Dean Norris) and his partner, Gomey (Gomez), portrayed by Steven Michael Quezada. I dare you to keep a dry eye during Hank and Gomey’s climactic scene near the series’ end.
The series was well-written and had great acting, and, though it focused on illegal drug manufacturing, it was also a show about family, and love.
Characters were easy to like, and you felt sad and awful for the way it turned out for many of them. Some of my favorite characters were portrayed by actors Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk, RJ Mitte, Matt Jones, Krysten Ritter and Mark Margolis as Uncle Tio. Betsy Brandt as Marie often irritated me, but that all changes in one scene. Then, you feel for her. Jesse Plemons’ character freaked me out. The actor did an impressive job moving from Friday Night Lights’ lovable Landry to a sociopath.
Breaking Bad spawned a spin-off – Better Call Saul, starring Bob Odenkirk – and a movie special, El Camino, which focused on Aaron Paul’s Jesse.
If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad, you’ll absolutely love the tour. If you’re not a Breaking Bad fan…yet, watch the series. Then, after you’ve been converted, you’ll also love the tour.