Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in a scene from “Breaking Bad.” (Ben Leuner/AMC)



Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Aaron Paul stopped in any and every business he could find on the way home that night in 2009.

Walking down Central Avenue with a grin he couldn’t wipe off his face and an Emmy in his hand, it was a good night.

No, the small gold statue was not his own. Three of those would come later in his career.

On this particular night, Paul carried from a presentation at the University of New Mexico back to his Nob Hill home the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series that belonged to Bryan Cranston, his friend and co-star in a then relatively unknown show set in Albuquerque.

Cranston got called back to set, leaving the hardware he had earned for the first season of “Breaking Bad” in the trustworthy hands of Paul.

“I lived near there, so I’m just walking down the street now in ABQ, holding his Emmy,” Paul recalled in a recent interview with the Journal and KNML-AM radio. “It just seemed so out of place. I would go into as many shops as possible. I go into the Starbucks and put the Emmy down and order a drink ….

“I have such fond memories of just walking down Central with Bryan Cranston’s Emmy.”

Thirteen years later, the two are still making memories in Albuquerque.

Friday inside the Albuquerque Convention Center – with Cranston, Paul and “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan on hand – the city of Albuquerque will unveil bronze statues of the iconic characters who changed their lives: Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.

A public viewing of the statues is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and will include Mayor Tim Keller. The Mayor’s Office recently told KOAT news in a statement that it attributes $385 million in economic impact to New Mexico from the filming of the “Breaking Bad” franchise.

“We meet people all the time who say, ‘Hey, I just came back from Albuquerque. I took the Breaking Bad tour.’ It’s great. It makes me smile because it’s one way to say thank you to the city and to the state for being such great hosts to us over all these years,” Cranston said.

In 2019 Gilligan commissioned sculptor Trevor Grove of California to create the bronze statues and has gifted them to the City of Albuquerque as a thank you for the 15-year run of success for not only “Breaking Bad” but its wildly popular prequel “Better Call Saul.”

“Over the course of 15 years, two TV shows and one movie, Albuquerque has been wonderful to us,” Gilligan said in a statement earlier this month when news of the statues broke. “I wanted to return the favor and give something back.”

Cranston and Paul will also be a part of Saturday night’s Albuquerque Isotopes game, which will include an auction of items the two donated from “Breaking Bad” with proceeds going to two New Mexico-based charities.

Many of the shows creators and stars have long heaped praise on Albuquerque – not only as a nice setting for the two shows, but as a city that grew into a vital character in the development of each show.

Cranston and Paul, who are scheduled to appear in Monday’s episode of “Better Call Saul,” both still own homes in Albuquerque, where they say their fondest memories aren’t necessarily from the show.

“I wanted to have a variety of restaurants to go to and be able to just walk down Central,” Cranston said. “There’s that little independent movie theater (the Guild) – that tiny movie theater that was fun to go to. Just patronizing your neighbors, you know? … There are all kinds of places that we go to. The Church Street Cafe, which I love. It’s kind of tucked out of the way in Old Town. Or El Pinto. Duran’s Pharmacy was fun. You find those little places that if you’re just a tourist, you cannot always find those places, but if you get around a little bit, pretty soon you know where to go and how to get there.”

Though the show’s popularity is unquestionable, not everyone has been happy to hear the city will immortalize two characters, fictional though they may be, who represented some of the city’s most glaring problems rooted in drugs.

Nevertheless, the two actors, along with most of their cast mates through the years, have been walking billboards for the city and state since being introduced to it some 15 years ago.

“Honestly, when I talk about this state, I talk about the endless beauty, the endless skies you know?” Paul said. “It’s called the Land of Enchantment for a reason. You know, there’s dark corners in every city that I’ve been to. If you look for them, you’ll find them. …

“Albuquerque became such a character of the show. When you watch our show – ‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ – you just you get a sense of its vastness and its beauty.”