Co.Create

"Breaking Bad" Artifacts Trace Walter White's Transformation From Mr. Chips To Scarface

Curator Barbara Miller talks to Co.Create about the new exhibit, "From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White’s Transformation in Breaking Bad" at the Museum of the Moving Image.

The pink teddy bear.

Barbara Miller knew she had to have it, and the curator kept an eye out for it as she searched a Los Angeles warehouse full of Breaking Bad wardrobe and props about two months ago, culling items for an exhibit dedicated to the television series at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens.

She didn’t find the stuffed animal that was a recurring motif on Breaking Bad during her search, but Miller put in a request for it, hoping the keepers of what are now some of the most iconic artifacts in television would find it.

And they did.

The pink teddy bear arrived at the museum via special delivery. “Getting the teddy bear was a wow,” Miller enthuses.

The pink teddy bear, the tighty whities Walter White wore in the Breaking Bad pilot and the pork-pie hat the antihero donned as Heisenberg are now on display as part of “From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White’s Transformation in Breaking Bad,” an exhibit that opened on July 26.

Walt’s bright yellow Tyvek suit and gas mask are also there, and you’ll see his copy of Leaves of Grass, too, among other key props and pieces of wardrobe.

Video is a component of the exhibit, of course, and visitors view about a dozen scenes of the show while going through the experience, witnessing the evolution of the character played so brilliantly by Emmy winner Bryan Cranston for five seasons. “We really wanted to make that the focal point of the exhibit—Bryan’s performance—and then have the material, the artifacts, to provide context,” Miller says.

There are also making-of videos throughout the exhibit, giving viewers insight into how pivotal scenes were constructed. “I think what we try and do with any of our exhibits about the moving image, whether it’s about film or video games or television or media art works, is we try and pull back the curtain a little bit,” Miller says. “We always think that it deepens the mystery instead of diluting it.”

“From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White’s Transformation in Breaking Bad” was designed not only for fans but also for people who have never seen an episode of the dark drama about a high school teacher who learns he has terminal cancer and starts cooking crystal meth with a former student to earn money for his family. (Well, that was Walt’s motivation at the outset of the series.) “You have to imagine somebody walking into our galleries never having heard of the show,” says Miller, who happens to be a fan herself, “and you have to tell the story about why anybody should care about it.”

The reasons why the Museum of the Moving Image would do an exhibit on Breaking Bad are obvious—at least to anyone who watched the AMC series, the final eight episodes of which will start airing on August 11. “We certainly wouldn’t do an exhibit for just any TV show that’s entering its final season, but this was such an exemplary television series—the writing, the character development was so excellent, and the performances. We felt like we could really tell a story about the way the character developed and the methods the filmmakers used to show the character’s development throughout the series,” Miller says, noting, “That’s really in sync with what we do with our core exhibition, which deals with the production and promotion and exhibition of the moving image in all its forms.”

“From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White’s Transformation in Breaking Bad" will be on display through October 27.

[Images courtesy of Sam Suddaby | Museum of the Moving Image]

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1 Comments

  • Jeffrey Ayars

    Leaves of Grass is *Walt's* not Hank's, Hank just finds it in Walt's bathroom.