Most of the badass part comes from the skills of Bryan Cranston, who plays the chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cooker, but the chemist part comes from the diligent work of researchers Gordon Smith and Jenn Carroll, who make sure every molecular formula that comes out of the character’s mouth is perfect.
“Since we’ve done much of the legwork before the writing, it’s usually pretty accurate by that point,” Smith said in an e-mail to Wired. “It’s less a fact-check than it is a conversation that avoids factual errors by building from the ground up.”
Neither Smith nor Carroll are scientists; in fact, both of them started on the AMC show as production assistants. But now that they’ve climbed the ranks –Smith is a writers’ assistant and Carroll is script coordinator — they spend hours working on each script, consulting reference works and contacting scientific and law-enforcement sources to make sure all the plotlines on Breaking Bad, which received 13 Emmy nominations Thursday, are plausible. (And effectively making the concept of your high-waisted-pants-wearing high school chemistry teacher transformation into a drug lord the most unbelievable thing about the show.)