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Crystal meth comes to the Smithsonian courtesy of 'Breaking Bad'

USA Today, Nov 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan officially has a new favorite museum: The National Museum of American History. He and the cast of the Emmy-winning AMC drama reunited there Tuesday to donate props to the Smithsonian.

"I'm sorry to say it, Air and Space Museum, but another has taken your place in my heart," laughs the show's mastermind, a Richmond, Va., native who grew up making regular visits to exhibits in the capital.

You can't fault Gilligan, though. Getting crystal meth into the Smithsonian kind of trumps astronaut ice cream. But he still can't believe it 's actually happened. "If you had told me there'd be crystal meth in the same museum as The Star-Spangled Banner, Thomas Edison's light bulb, Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch and Dorothy's ruby slippers, I'd have told you you were using too much of Walter White's product."

Two baggies of that product — his signature baby-blue, highly potent (but fake) crystal methamphetamine — are part of the exhibit, scheduled to open in 2018. The collection also includes a pair of hazmat suits and gas masks worn by stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, though If Paul had gotten his way, he says, "you could press a button and the suit would inflate," hearkening back to one of his favorite scenes from the series, in which a bored Jesse Pinkman tried to amuse himself in the drug lab.

Among other artifacts, donated by Bad producer Sony Pictures Television: A soda cup from Los Pollos Hermanos, Gustavo Frink's (Giancarlo Esposito) money-laundering fast-food restaurant, the DEA badge belonging to Dean Norris' ill-fated character Hank Schrader and a purple corkscrew from the house he shared with wife Marie (Betsy Brandt). Norris was on hand, along with Jonathan Banks, who just wrapped Season 2 of the spinoff Better Call Saul, and RJ Mitte, who played Walt Jr.

And then there's the pièce de résistance: the black hat that transformed Walter White from from a meek, cancer-stricken chemistry teacher to Heisenberg the fearsome drug lord — or as he famously put it, "the one who knocks."

When Cranston was introduced to the crowd at the ceremony, he went straight for that hat and tried it on, explaining, "I wanted to see if it still fits." He and Gilligan each kept one after Breaking Bad wrapped in 2013 after five seasons. Paul's most prized possession is the one-eyed, burned pink teddy bear that landed in Walt's pool as the result of a plane crash in Season 2. "They made four, and Vince gave me the one they actually used in that scene," he explains, adding that it now resides in his living room.

If Breaking Bad's Smithsonian exhibit is a hit, curators could easily produce a macabre sequel featuring the unusual items used to kill people on the show, which depended less on guns than most crime dramas — well, except for Gilligan's pick, the car-trunk-mounted machine gun Walt engineered to wreak havoc on the Aryan gang who stole his cash and imprisoned Jesse near the end of the series. Paul voted for the box cutter Gus used to murder one of his own henchman and the axe, the weapon of choice for the silent assassins known as the cousins.

And which weapon would Cranston put in such an exhibit? "The barrel of hydrofluoric acid that we used to melt people." He can even picture the tourists saying, "Come on kids, jump in the barrel!"