Real people inspire fictional characters on TV and in movies. It is also not uncommon that they share the same names with actual people.

Some intentionally tell life stories in either biographical or non-biographical style, while others are pure coincidence.

When “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan invented his protagonist turned antagonist character Walter White, there was little evidence to support a claim that he knew anything about an actual man of the same name.

Gilligan once said that the inspiration for the character was none other than Tony Soprano, a fictional character from another popular series. The real Walter White cooked meth, too.

The fictional Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher. For much of his life, he never hurts a fly, let alone breaks any law.

When the going gets tough, especially now that he has been diagnosed with cancer, he decides to get his hands on cooking methamphetamine and becomes a master at it.

By the time Breaking Bad premiered in 2008, the real Walter White was already at the top of the business.


10 /10 A Meth Empire

About a decade before the rest of the world heard about Walter White, a character in AMC’s Breaking Bad, the people in Alabama’s illegal drug-dealing business circles knew of another meth cook named Walter White.

Like in the series, the actual White sat among the most respectable figures in a massive meth empire.

It was around the time that methamphetamine started to become a national epidemic.

The main ingredient for meth is pseudoephedrine, and a 2004 federal restriction on the chemical managed to reduce meth-related incidents a great deal.

9 /10 A New Cooking Method

Meth-related incidents skyrocketed again on a national scale from 2007 to 2011. Some cooks discovered a new and more straightforward method to manufacture the drugs on a large scale without setting up a massive operation.

They could produce meth from portable labs in hotel rooms or even vans.

All across the United States, meth was distributed in large volumes partly because the factories were easy to hide. An accurate depiction of the issue was also depicted in Breaking Bad.

8 /10 A Ghost Town

In one part of a county in Alabama where the real White used to live, everywhere around looks like a ghost town. Foreclosed houses and abandoned trained stations fill the glooming scenery.

According to the actual White, he could make several thousand dollars daily from his meth-cooking enterprise. He never denied that it was a highlight of his life.

Money was easy, and he could provide a lot for his family. He worked in the construction industry when he was not in a portable lab.

7 /10 Albuquerque

If the real Walter White ran his business from Bessemer, Alabama, the fictional one does it from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The mythical White, portrayed by Bryan Cranston, is just an ordinary high school teacher and a family man.

As soon as he becomes involved in the drug business with a former student, his transformation into a ruthless drug lord begins.

Although he starts with the intention to earn “just enough” money, in the end, there is never enough plenty. The fictional White has so much money he doesn’t know what to do with it.


6 /10 Stockpiling Cash

The circumstances couldn’t be better with the real White as well. He made so much money that he could finance the entire operation independently.

He bought trucks, cars, and every imaginable tool to support the business. When he made a lot of money, the sky seemed to be the only limit.

However, the meth cook also spent a big chunk of the cash to sustain a newly-found expensive lifestyle. He spent just about as much as he earned.

5 /10 No Cancer

He would drop off an amount of his product at a specific secluded spot and then come back the next day to pick up the money.

It was possible that anybody who paid for the meth had no idea who produced the drugs. Unlike Walter White in the show, the real man was never diagnosed with cancer.

However, like the depiction in Breaking Bad, living as a meth cook and drug dealer was far from easy.


4 /10 No More Family

The real Walter White had a more challenging family life. As he began to drift further from his role as a husband, his wife filed for divorce.

His oldest son also shared how White gradually distanced himself from home to spend more time in the meth labs. His partner, Sammy, was arrested multiple times.

White’s activity soon became an objective point of interest for the authorities. The police began an investigation into his drug-making enterprise in 2008.


3 /10 Foundry Rescue Mission And Recovery

White was playing a cat-and-mouse game with authority, a dangerous game where he was on the losing side each time.

He attempted to run his business from another county, but the cook was finally arrested.

The police didn’t have damaging evidence against him, so the court “only” ordered him to enroll in a faith-based recovery program at the Foundry Rescue Mission and Recovery in Alabama.

In 2012, he violated probation and was immediately considered a most wanted man.

2 /10 A $2 Million Bond

The subsequent arrest would be even more consequential. After spending some time on Alabama’s most wasted list, White was taken into custody with a $2 million bond.

When asked about the possibility of imprisonment, he figured it would be just him paying for what he had done in the past.

White said that he could not hurt anybody in prison. At least his family wouldn’t have to deal with him again. He was on his own, and probably for the best.


1 /10 Convicted For Meth Distribution

On December 16, 2013, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy delivered the sentence. Walter White was sentenced to 9 years in prison for possessing methamphetamine and 3.5 years for weapons-related charges.

He was held responsible for distributing more than 32 pounds of meth. For sure, the end of the story was not quite as dramatic or provoking as the fictional Walter White.

However, the similarities in the life experiences between the imaginary and real White were just too striking to ignore. 

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1 Comment

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