THEY SAY LEGENDS NEVER DIE. And when a frantic chemistry teacher stumbled out of an RV into the red New Mexico desert—brandishing that stainless steel pistol in his tightly-whities—a television legend was born. AMC’s Breaking Bad universe has since expanded, with Better Call Saul, a spin-off prequel series, set to enter its sixth and final season in 2022. But the gang boss behind the crime drama is one and the same. Industry expert Jess Coffer has done it all when it comes to creating the Breaking Bad world, from dressing sets to overseeing construction and landing in purchasing. He sat down with us to discuss his time on the show and, of course, Walter White’s infamous mobile lab: the 1986 Fleetwood Bounder.
What was it like to create an entire world for shooting in a limited space, like an RV?
R We split the filming into exterior and interior shots and used the actual Bounder model for filming any scenes on location or while Bryan Cranston (Walter White) and Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman) were driving. The RV was stripped in the back; it was completely empty beyond the curtain that separated the cab from what would be the living space. Bryan and Aaron did a really amazing job working in a confined space for the exterior scenes. They delivered every single time.
Where did you shoot the interior scenes if the RV was stripped?
JC We recreated the interior of the RV on a sound stage where the actors would have more performance space, and we could be detailed. Our producers really pushed detail and accuracy—to the point that one of our crew got a call from the local police with a few questions on how accurate we had made the lab! It all worked out, but it was funny.
How did it feel when you had to crush the RV in season three at a junkyard?
JC Funny enough, I wasn’t there that day for that scene. I was supervising a build on another scene but knowing that the Bounder was being crushed felt a little like losing a friend. We actually had two Bounders, because they weren’t known for running really well. So, there’s still one model housed on the Sony back lot.
Breaking Bad came to a close in 2013. What happened after that?
JC I’ve stayed with the Breaking Bad Universe and worked on Better Call Saul and El Camino in sets and props. A few years ago, a buddy of mine actually started the Breaking Bad tour, and we’ve since outfitted two more Fleetwood Bounders for tours through New Mexico and to make convention appearances. Our convention RV is so accurate to set that it’s the one used in El Camino, not the original Bounder.