Celebrity Names Blog

Color Commentary On the Names From TV's "Breaking Bad"

Color Commentary On the Names From TV's "Breaking Bad"
Bryan Cranston (Walter White) and Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman) via AMC

With shootouts, run-ins with the DEA and money laundering, AMC’s Breaking Bad — about a chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-manufacturer — certainly is an action-packed series. But beyond the, um, addicting plot lines, there’s a more subtle theme — color — and not only does it play a part in the story (blue meth, anyone?), it pertains to the names of characters as well.

High school teacher Walter White is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and to provide for his pregnant wife, Skyler White, and son, Walter White Jr., after he’s gone, the chemistry whiz turns to another colorfully-named character — a former, flunkey student of his, Jesse Pinkman — to make a high-quality, ultra pure form of meth. Their concoction, which is blue (thus their signature in the drug world), becomes the most in-demand meth in New Mexico. 

The use of the names White and Pinkman as central characters is an obvious nod to Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs with Mr. White and Mr. Pink as part of a group of criminals with color codenames (there’s also Mr. Blue, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Brown and Mr. Orange), hired for a diamond heist. Before that, 1974’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was about four men – who went by the color names Blue, Green, Grey and Brown — that hijack a subway train. As Breaking Bad progresses — it’s now in its fourth season — school teacher White transitions to drug kingpin and all that that includes, and falls into that same bad guy category. (Pinkman was already pretty bad to begin with.)

Not only do the main characters have color names, color is a huge supporting character in Breaking Bad. Each of the main characters is represented by a color to reflect the state of mind they're in. They’re often dressed in "their color" too and as the character evolves, so does their signature color. Show creator Vince Gilligan recently spoke to New York mag about the meaning of color in relation to Walt’s name, saying: “Character names are a situation where you know it’s right when you hear it, and ‘Walter White’ appealed to me because of the alliterative sound of it and because it’s strangely bland, yet sticks in your head nonetheless — you know, white is the color of vanilla, of blandness. “

Here are some other name-related tidbits pertaining to Breaking Bad:

Skyler: Walt’s wife often goes by Sky and frequently wears blue (sometimes sky blue). The character, who’s in her early 40s, would have been early on the Skyler name trend. The female Skyler didn’t appear the Social Security Administration’s popular name list until 1990. In fact, the name really peaked in 2000 when it rose to No. 250 on the list.

Walter Jr.: As Walt becomes immersed in the drug biz, he’s away from home — causing a disconnect between him and his teen son, Walter Jr. Because of this, Walter Jr. decides he no longer wants to share a name with his father and trades in Walter (No. 372) for Flynn, which hasn’t been on the popular name list yet but will likely grow in usage following the birth of Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr’s son Flynn Bloom.

Holly White: Walter and Skyler welcome a daughter during the series and name her Holly (No. 412). Gilligan explained that he named the character after his real-life girlfriend Holly. “Here’s some trivia: I try to put her name or an allusion to some element about her into all of the scripts,” he also told New York. “The name of the street she lived on back in Richmond, Virginia, stuff like that.”

Heisenberg: Walt, who continues to teach, creates an alias — Heisenberg — to use during his illegal dealings. Werner Heisenberg was a famed German physicist.

Saul Goodman: The hilarious dial-a-lawyer that Walt and Jesse retain revealed that his real surname is actually McGill, not Goodman. He explained that he thought his clients felt more confident with a Jewish lawyer, so he changed his name to better his business. Saul is derived from the Hebrew shā'ūl meaning “asked for” and has been on the popular name list pretty much since the 1980s. It’s currently No. 376.

Gray Matter Technologies: Before Walt became a teacher, he and grad school buddy Elliot Schwartz planned to start a company — largely based on one of Walt’s scientific discoveries — called Gray Matter Technologies. The name came from Schwartz, which is derived from the German Schwarz which means “black,” plus White (for Walter) making Gray. Walter ultimately dropped out of the project; Elliott went on to make the company a multimillion dollar, award-winning success.

Check out our post all about color names — there’s some interesting information about which color names cross over to people names... including how the name Orange once appeared on the Top-1000 names list. And read more about two 2011 celebrity babies who were given color names: Pink’s daughter Willow Sage and Alicia Silverstone’s son Bear Blu.

Now tell us what you think: What are your favorite color names? Share your favorites — Ginger? Ruby? Violet? — below. Plus, Breaking Bad fans: What do you think about the color theme in the series? Did you notice it right away?



Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

September 5, 2011 3:36 PM
By Lane

I like the character name Walter White. Interesting about the other color names, and also all the references to Gilligan's girlfriend Holly.

September 5, 2011 6:30 PM
By Suzy

He previously was a writer on X-Files and he did the same thing with that show. How cool. Decades of TV references for this gal.

September 6, 2011 12:41 PM
By Lindsay (not verified)

Great post! There is a major color theme going on for Hank's wife, Marie. (Hank is Walt's brother-in-law who is a DEA agent.) Everything she wears is purple! While Hank is bed-ridden (recovering from being shot) their house becomes even more purple - purple towels, purple curtains, rugs, pillows, etc. As he becomes weaker, she tries to cover up her pain with more and MORE purple to the point of insanity...and let's face it, she is just a bit crazy. LOVE this show!

September 6, 2011 2:47 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

While I do not necessarily endorse all of these for bestowal onto a child, these are some color names I came up with for each color in the rainbow. Curiously, most of them work best as girls names. The only ones that stand out to me as strong boys names are Rusty, Forest, and Cobalt. Though the cat on Blue's Clues was a boy and his name was Periwinkle.

Red: Scarlet, Ruby, Garnet, Sienna, Auburn, Rose
Orange: Coral, Peaches, Persimmon, Apricot, Rusty, Amber
Yellow: Citrine, Saffron, Goldenrod, Lemon, Sunny
Green: Kelly, Sage, Forest, Chartreuse, Olive, Jade, Myrtle
Blue: Azure, Aqua, Teal, Sky, Cobalt, Indigo, Periwinkle
Purple: Violet, Aubergine, Orchid, Fuschia, Lavender, Lilac

April 30, 2012 12:19 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

You missed an important detail about Saul Goodman's name "It's all good man!" -- S'all Goodman! Saul Goodman!

August 4, 2012 9:49 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Saul Goodman = (it)'s all good, man

August 4, 2012 10:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Saul Goodman. Saul means "asked for"

Asked for good man. Lawyer.

April 29, 2013 11:43 PM
By Tsquared (not verified)

I came across this researching Dutch names for girls:

Schuyler (meaning protection, shelter)

May 2, 2014 1:56 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Pinkman, Heisenberg and Goodman are Jewish names. And Walter White is an allusion to Walt Whitman, also Jewish.

Breaking Bad is in all likelihood based on a true story of how three Jews started a meth business in the USA. Considering that the Jews control everything in this country, it's no surprise.

On the other hand, I believe Mr. Gilligan is essentially trying to point out the obvious relationship between people of the Jewish faith, and criminal behavior, in a predominantly Christian country. (ie. Jews have no concept of going to hell because of immoral behavior, whereas Christians do.)

September 8, 2014 7:07 AM
By click here (not verified)

I also benefit from learning the assessments, but learn that alot of people ought to stay on essay to try and add worth in the direction of the authentic weblog release.

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