WARNING: Only spoilers for Seasons 4 and 5 will be whited out.
Actor Allusion: DJ Qualls, who played Toby Loobenfeld, who played Sheldon’s‘cousin Leo’, appears as an undercover cop trying to buy meth-in other words, the second time he pretends to be a drug addict for a living.
Mark Margolis played a ruhless cartel enforcer in Scarface.
Actor Role Confusion: The intense hatred for Skyler ended up spreading to her actor, with many people (particularly on Twitter) openly stating they would attack Anna Gunn if they met her in real life. An article by Gunn revealed she even received death threats by idiotic fans who couldn't separate her from her character.
In the years since Mr. Show, Odenkirk's acting career had taken a bit of a back seat to his career as the producer of shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Tom Goes To The Mayor. Now as the series winds down his acting profile has been raised considerably and the 2013-14 season will see him head up a Saul Goodman spin-off, titled 'Better Call Saul,' a new sketch comedy show and supporting roles in FX's Fargo miniseries and the Alexander Payne film Nebraska.
Jonathan Banks was previously well known for costarring in the TV series Wiseguy in the 80s and had mostly done low profile parts since. His role as Mike netted him an Emmy nomination and opened the door for a series of parts in high profile movies and a season long guest arc on Community and he'll also be a series regular on Better Call Saul.
Cast Showoff: Skinny Pete's actor is actually a very skilled pianist, which he demonstrates in one episode.
Breaking Bad might not show Albuquerque in the best light, but the place to pass though on the way to Santa Fe (and where Bugs Bunny keeps making a wrong turn) has reaped a substantial tourist benefit from the show's popularity. The Visitor's Bureau has a page dedicated to all the related tourist information.
"The Candy Lady", the sweet-maker who produces the blue-dyed rock sugar that appears as Walt's product in the show is also making a mint selling bags of it, especially after Bryan Cranston gave some to David Letterman on his show.
Generally speaking, any song that was featured on the show got a rise in popularity. The biggest one is 'Baby Blue' by 'Badfinger,' used in the final scene of the final episode. After the show, online streaming of the song increased by 9000%.
Inverted at first with RJ Mitte who was 15 years old playing 16 year old Walt Jr. in Season 1. Eventually played straight as the series progressed.
Skinny Pete is in his late 20s in season 5b, while Charles Baker was in his early 40s.
Directed by Cast Member: As if being the best actor on TV wasn't enough, Cranston also directed the Season 2, 3 and 5B premieres.
Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: RJ Mitte (Walt Jr.) has mild cerebral palsy in real life. Walt Jr. was conceived from the start as having it, and Mitte had to learn to walk with crutches and speak less clearly to portray the level of affectation that the show's creator had in mind.
Dueling Shows: Vince Gilligan has said that if he'd known about Weeds (dark comedy about a middle-class surburban parent who gets into drug dealing to solve a financial crisis, tries to keep it a secret from her family and quickly gets out of her depth), he'd probably have given up trying to make a series with such a similar premise.
Dyeing for Your Art: Bryan Cranston lost weight and shaved his head to play Walter. RJ Mitte (Walt Jr.) also quit taking physical therapy for Cerebral Palsy so that it would regress enough to convincingly play the part of someone who needed crutches to walk and had slurred speech.
Executive Meddling: A rare positive example. Walt was initially supposed to murder Jane rather than letting her die; either by injecting a second dose of heroin or deliberately pushing her onto her back to make her choke to death. Executives (and most fans) believed that the change was for the better, as it was far too abrupt a change in character so early on.
The main state prosecutor in the penultimate episode is Steven Russell's snooping colleague in I Love You Phillip Morris.note The one who figures out he's moving company funds to skim interest, and who later turns out to be a juror who recognizes him as a wanted felon.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: Needless to say, the show's assorted homicidal lunatics, ruthless drug barons and other unpleasant people are much friendlier in real life. Particularly notable are:
Jesse Plemons plays Todd, a creepy neo-Nazi psychopath who murders a child in cold blood, tortures Jesse, kills Andrea, and threatens Walt's family. In Real Life, Jesse is a country/bluegrass songwriter.
The Cousins are almost robotic hitmen who kill without mercy or hesitation, even if their victims don't need to die. Vince Gilligan has described Daniel and Luis Moncada, the brothers who play them, as "a joy to be around".
Krazy-8 was originally scripted to die in the first episode of the series, but the crew so loved his actor, Maximino Arciniega, and so loved working with him that Krazy-8's story was extended for a couple more episodes, and Gus' "brother" in cooking meth was named after him.
Bryan Cranston is such a nice guy that when Betsy Brandt (Marie) had to say "Why don't you just kill yourself?" to his character in a scene, she physically hurt afterward and immediately had to hug him after they finished filming the scene.
Compare and contrast hitman/fixer Mike Ehrmantraut to Jonathan Banks, who was on the verge of tears throughout his "really tough motherfucking day" of shooting for the series.
Gustavo Fring is one of the most terrifying villains in television history. However, his actor, Giancarlo Esposito, is, by all accounts, an incredibly easy-going and sweet person.
A number of interviews with Vince Gilligan have said that he's remarkably affable and gentlemanly in person for the man who created such a dark and brutal world.
Uncle Jack is the leader of a gang of Neo-Nazis, and one of the most despicable villains in the series. His actor, Michael Bowen, is a well-spoken Method actor and father of four.
Lydia is constantly tense from a fear of things collapsing around her and is willing to stab anyone in the back who could be a risk to her. Laura Fraser, on the other hand, is relatively soft-spoken and openly speaks in reverence of her co-stars. Her charming scottish accent also helps to highlight the difference between her and the character.
Giancarlo Esposito practised yoga techniques to achieve Gus's trademark calm demeanor and behavior.
Bryan Cranston was taught to make meth by the show's DEA advisors.
In the DVD extras, all the actors talk about their characters in the third person except for Bryan Cranston, who refers to Walt's thoughts and actions as "I'm thinking that..." and "I'm going to...".
Name's the Same: Walter White was the name of an ATC controller involved in the crash of Aeromexico Flight 498 when that plane collided with a Piper Cherokee in midair and subsequently crashed into a suburban neighborhood in Los Angeles. Probably coincidental, but eerie considering that the show's Walter White is also involved in exactly the same thing happening on the show, indirectly.
A real-life meth cook named Walter White was arrested in Tuscaloosa, Alabama after the show had already been running for a few seasons. While such an event normally would only have made the local news, the popularity of the show brought the amusing coincidence into the public eye. It's worth noting that the real-life 'Walt' was far more blue-collar and had a much smaller operation than the Walt in Breaking Bad.
In "Thirty-Eight Snub", they discuss various zombie games.
In "Blood Money" they go into their long Star Trek discussion about whether the transporter teleports or copies its users and about Badger's fanfic about Spock and Chekov competing in a blueberry pie-eating contest.
In "Rabid Dog", an attempt to bug Badger's mom's house results in the listener hearing three straight hours of Badger talking about Babylon 5.
The Other Darrin: Louis was originally played by Kyle Swimmer, but was replaced in his later appearances by Caleb Landry Jones.
The Pete Best: Walt co-founded a multi-billion dollar chemical firm called Gray Matter, but early on had a falling out with his partners and sold his shares for a piddling sum of money. The full extent to which this eats away at him only becomes completely clear in Season 5.
As noted above, Bryan Cranston was best known for his role as the archetypal Bumbling Dad Hal in Malcolm in the Middle before being cast as Walter White. The fact that White's personality and situation seem outwardly similar to Hal's at the beginning of the series makes his gradual slide into villainy all the more shocking.
Real-Life Relative: Leonel and Marco Salamanca are played by real-life brothers Daniel and Luis Moncada.
The Red Stapler: Similar to how Back to the Future turned the obscure and worthless DeLorean into one of the most iconic cars of its era, Breaking Bad has created a new wave of interest and enthusiasm for the Pontiac Aztek due to its association with the Walter White character; it has gone from being probably the biggest Butt Monkey in the automotive world to somewhat of a Cool Car, due to it being "Heisenberg's Ride".
An Aztek used in filming of the series, which was wrecked and completely undrivable, sold for $7,500 on eBay recently. Prior to Breaking Bad, it would have been a miracle to get that much money for a serviceable Aztek.
And of course we have what is most likely the most disturbing example of this trope:
Stephen Colbert: Is there actually blue crystal meth? Did you make that up or is there actually blue crystal meth out there? Vince Gilligan: There is now.
Shown Their Work: The crew actually included several DEA chemists, who help shaped Hank's character and gave some pointers on meth lab operations.
Star-Making Role: Aaron Paul went from a bit actor to being a two-time Emmy winner and one of the biggest stars on television with his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman.
The Other Darrin: Holly White was played by three different actresses over the course of the series.
Throw It In: In a late scene of "Ozymandias", Walt leaves his family and takes Holly with him. However, when Holly repeatedly says "mama", he realizes his family has no attachment to him anymore and returns Holly. This wasn't scripted; Walt was supposed to just stare at Holly before deciding that he had to return her. Luckily the mother of Holly's actress was standing nearby, prompting the girl to cry for "Mama" repeatedly. Bryan Cranston worked with it, creating a far more powerful scene.
Vindicated by Reruns/Viral Marketing: The show is being held as a huge example of the impact internet streaming can have on a show. While it became a massive critical success very quickly, it always struggled in the ratings until its last eight episodes. The show took five years to go from under a million to 2 million viewers, only to jump to 10 million and become an internet phenomenon by its final episode a year later, thanks to excellent word of mouth and Netflix, seeing the show go out in a blaze of glory, both critically and commercially.
What Could Have Been: Learn anything about the issues this show has faced that caused radical plot rewrites, and marvel that it turned out so well. For starters, if the first season hadn't been cut short by the writers' strike, Jesse would have been killed at the end of it.
Raymond Cruz, the actor who played Tuco, asked to be written out of the show because he didn't feel comfortable playing such a violent character.
Vince Gilligan originally envisioned the show as being only four seasons long. It's possible that the actor playing Tuco deciding to leave earlier than expected made the writers have to build up to a new villain thus making the story longer than originally planned.
Hector Salamanca was originally planned as the villain for Season 3, and Gus Fring would never have existed if Tuco's actor hadn't resigned.
Walt was originally supposed to purposefully turn Jane on her back to ensure her death, as opposed to just letting her die but the studio and Bryan Cranston both disagreed with it.
Earlier versions of the scene had Walt kill her by injecting her with an extra dose of heroin.
While Bryan Cranston was always Vince Gilligan's first choice for the role of Walt, AMC initially offered the role to John Cusack and Matthew Broderick. It wasn't until they turned it down that Cranston finally got the part.
Breaking Bad was originally planned to be set in San Bernardino, California, but Albuquerque's incentives for filmmakers were such a big draw that the show relocated there. (In an interview, Vince Gilligan said the restrictions on camera shots necessary to pretend that New Mexico was California meant they simply moved the story to Albuquerque.)
Jesse was originally supposed to die in Season 1, and even after the writers' strike cut the season short, Jesse was originally going to be killed by Tuco "A No-Rough-Stuff Type of Deal", the Season 1 finale. No-Doze was killed off instead because Vince Gilligan realized how much potential Aaron Paul had for the role.
Jesse's character was originally named Marion Dupree, and Hank's last name was initially Weld.
Saul Goodman was originally going to be the one to clean up the scene of Jane's death. When Bob Odenkirk was unavailable, the character of Mike was created.
The original first-season finale would have had Walt kidnap a man (possibly Jesse's killer) and slowly torture him over the course of several weeks, cutting off joints (a finger joint, a toe joint) and cauterizing them with a blowtorch, all the while having him tied to a shotgun that he could trigger at will to end the pain. The episode would have ended with Walt Jr. coming downstairs, at which point the tortured man would grab him and trigger the shotgun, killing them both. This was scrapped because turning Walt into a sadistic torturer would have sent him Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and destroyed the entire theme of the show.
Vince Gilligan provided an explanation (during Comic Con 2013) as to what took place when Walter had Brock poisoned off screen.
Vince Gilligan: That’s an excellent question and my writers and I would always tell the stories to ourselves of the evil juice box man who somehow… Our best guess is… I can tell you that the way we worked it out in our timeline he had just enough time to do it but it would have been very tricky indeed and it was improbable perhaps but not impossible. That he could have got in over once he got that idea you know spinning the pistol by the pool and waiting to die essentially, looking at that lily of the valley, contemplating the idea at that point… Uh I think at that point what he did is he kind of crushed some of the stuff up, put it in a juice box or something and then somehow snuck into, being a guy who’s a teacher, he knows his way around a school, probably got into Brock’s nursery school and swapped it out. This is kind of the inner story for how it happened for the writers and I, but it would have been tricky timing. He was a very motivated individual at that point; he had to save his family, that’s my best guess on how it actually happened.
Gilligan has also revealed what happened to Jesse after he was saved from being a slave to the Nazis. He managed to get clean and start a wood shop, living happily ever after. Since Vince Gilligan is a major believer of karma, he seems to think that Jesse needed this after all he went through over the course of two years.
Walt saving Jesse in "Felina." Its confirmed that Walt was planning to kill Jesse but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Every season with the exception of the second, which Vince Gilligan has said was very stressful. Notably, the Cold Open of "Live Free Or Die" was written without them knowing what the M60 would be used for.
"Face Off" feels a lot like a Series Fauxnalewith the deaths of Gus and Hector, and the ambiguity of whether Walt will stay in the meth trade because the writers didn't know at the time whether the series would get a fifth season.
The lead-up to the grand finale was only possible because the writer received a letter from a dying fan asking if Grethen and Elliot would be coming back. Prior to this the writers had no idea how to get Walt from being in hiding to the final showdown, and had completely forgotten about the Grey Matter arc. If not for that letter things would have played out very differently.