Breaking Bad Science Advisor Dr. Donna J. Nelson: the Boing Boing Video interview

Miles O'Brien and Xeni Jardin interview the brains behind Breaking Bad's portrayal of science.

[Video Link] PBS science correspondent Miles O'Brien and I interview Dr. Donna J. Nelson, science advisor to the television series "Breaking Bad." The show's final episode airs this coming Sunday night on AMC.

Dr. Nelson is a professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma who specializes in organic chemistry, and she shared some fun insights on what it was like to provide accurate science information on which the writers, directors, and actors based the show. We taped the interview in August 2012, when she was at Comic-Con in San Diego with the cast and creators of the show.

She told us that some of the weirdest and funniest things that happened to her, in the course of working with Vince Gilligan and crew, was when they asked her "How much meth can you make from a 30 gallon drum, in pounds?"

As she explained, usually lab experiments involve the tiniest possible amounts of substances, fractions of teaspoons--not pounds, not *barrels*.

And Dr. Nelson surprised when she told us in this interview she has no idea why Walter White's meth is blue. "I didn't ask."

"Did you know how to cook meth," Miles asks?

Dr. Nelson: "No!"

"The DEA worked very closely with [Breaking Bad producers], they had done a lot of drug busts and seen illicit meth labs, so they helped Vince considerably," she says. "They told us what the labs should look like, and exactly what was used."

When we recorded this remote two-way, I had just finished cancer treatment, and was recovering at home, watching Breaking Bad on my iPad in bed, sleeping off the chemo and surgery drugs, with help from Miles.

We hope you enjoy the interview. I will really miss this show.

More videos, episode recaps, and related fun stuff for fans of the best show on television, in Boing Boing's Breaking Bad archives.

And in case you missed it, here's our "Top 11 Chemistry Moments in Breaking Bad" video, shot around the same time.

(Special thanks to Eric Mittleman and Joe Sabia, who edited the interview and the "top 11" video, respectively. There's a goof in the title card at the beginning of the episode that says we shot this in August 2011; that's wrong, it was August 2012, and that's my mistake entirely.)

Published 9:43 am Fri, Sep 27, 2013

About the Author

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.

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