Five years ago, Biddeford jewelry maker Coco Corral received an unusual request from a production studio executive in New Mexico.
Could Corral, the executive asked, inscribe onto a sterling silver money clip the scientific symbols for the elements bromine (Br) and barium (Ba)?
“(The executive) said we have this show coming out and we’re really excited about it and we want to give (the money clip) to the lead actor,” Corral said.
The hand-worked piece of silver, which also comes with stamped lettering declaring its owner to be a “bad mutha …,” is a staple from Corral’s collection. It was inspired by a wallet carried by the character Jules, played by Samuel L. Jackson, in the 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.”
“I said, ‘I have to ask, is this for Mr. Jackson?’” recalled Corral, 42, in a phone interview Wednesday. “She said, ‘No, it’s for Bryan Cranston.’“
The unreleased show was AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” which would go on to become a slow-growing hit, drawing viewers with its unvarnished dialogue, textured characters, and of course, Cranston. His raw, magnetic performance won him three Emmys for best dramatic performance in a television drama.
Cranston’s icy stare and gravel-track voice brought to life the character of Walter White, the chemistry teacher whose cancer diagnosis leads to his transformation from passive high school educator to a key player in the local criminal underworld, where he embraces a new talent: cooking and selling methamphetamine.
The chemical symbols Br and Ba that Corral inscribed on the money clip became part of the opening credits on “Breaking Bad” and have come to symbolize the show among its many hard-core fans.
“Breaking Bad” has just begun its much-awaited final eight episodes, but the name meant nothing to Corral when she got the unusual phone call five years ago.
Working with the studio was enjoyable, Corral wrote in a Facebook post last week showing the finished product that eventually was delivered to Cranston. “We’re crazy proud to have had a hand in how Walter White carries his wad,” she wrote.
Although most of her work is personalized for single buyers, Corral has made replicas of the Cranston piece for sale to other buyers.
The executive who contacted Corral was Gail Smerigan, who at the time was serving as vice president of communications at Albuquerque Studios, in Albuquerque, N.M., where the show is filmed.
Studios regularly produce merchandise with a production’s logo, or flag, embroidered or painted onto them, and the items often end up as freebies given to cast and crew members who work on the production.
Smerigan, now a principal at RoadTown Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based entertainment consulting business, said the money clip was likely a holiday gift, albeit an unusual one. She can’t remember how she found it, but when she stumbled on the vulgarity-laden accessory, Smerigan said she knew the search was over.
“It just seemed like, ‘Oh my God, I found the present,’” Smerigan said Wednesday. “In my career, I’ve never given a gift that was more tailor-made. It was with a snicker and a wink.”
An effort to reach Cranston was unsuccessful Wednesday.
Despite all the show’s success and her personal connection to it, Corral said she shies away from watching it.
“I have weak boundaries and an extreme suspension of disbelief. It takes me a long time to get over intense visual experiences,” she said. “But my husband has been watching it.”
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: