Walter White (also known by his clandestine alias Heisenberg) is a fictional character and the main protagonist of Breaking Bad, portrayed by Bryan Cranston. The show tells the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a struggling high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Together with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), White turns to a life of crime, producing and selling crystallized methamphetamine to secure his family’s financial future before he dies, while navigating the dangers of the criminal world. The title is from a Southern colloquialism meaning to “raise hell”. Breaking Bad is set and was filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A graduate of the California Institute of Technology, Walt was once a promising chemist who cofounded the company Gray Matter Technologies. He left Gray Matter abruptly, selling his shares for $5,000; soon afterward, the company made a fortune of roughly $2.16 billion, much of it from his research. Walt subsequently moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he became a high school chemistry teacher. The series Breaking Bad begins on Walter’s fiftieth birthday, when he is diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer. After this discovery, he resorts to manufacturing methamphetamine and drug dealing to ensure his family’s financial security after his death. He is pulled deeper into the illicit drug trade, taking on more desperate and ruthless measures to assure his and his family’s safety and well-being, and later adopts the alias “Heisenberg”, which becomes recognizable as the kingpin figure in the local drug trade. Series creator Vince Gilligan has described his goal with Walter White as “turning Mr. Chips into Scarface”, and deliberately made the character less sympathetic over the course of the series. Walt’s evolution from mild-mannered school teacher and family man to ruthless criminal mastermind and murderer is the show’s central focus.
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