Spike Lee, over his decades of filmmaking, has worked with a wide array of our most talented actors. But like many directors he’s definitely developed ongoing relationships with certain people, who he has cast in multiple projects. One of those actors is Giancarlo Esposito, who first worked with Lee in 1988’s School Daze, followed by the iconic role of Buggin Out in 1989’s Do the Right Thing. And, if schedules had worked out, Esposito would have also starred in Lee’s most recent film Da 5 Bloods, alongside an equally amazing cast.
In a recent Collider Connected interview set to post soon, the Better Call Saul star revealed that he had been in talks to join the cast as one of the titular Bloods, alongside a true all-star cast. “It was me and Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington, and Denzel’s son,” he said of the initial plans for the project.
“Denzel’s son” most likely means BlacKkKlansman star John David Washington (as Washington’s other son is not an established actor), which would also mean that, if the two men were playing father and son, Denzel was originally set for the role ultimately played by Delroy Lindo, while John David would have played the role filled by Jonathan Majors.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Da 5 Bloods.]
As for Esposito, he would have played the role of Eddie (played by in the film by Norm Lewis). In his words: “He’s the gentleman that I believe he steps on a mine and gets blown up… I would have played that particular character. I was looking forward to that film.”
Unfortunately, Esposito and the rest of the cast wasn’t able to be a part of the film because of other commitments. “I just love and adore Spike Lee, and the messages that he created in his films that are so powerful and strong, and also because the cast he was talking to at that time. But it didn’t work out for any of us because the shoot got pushed, and Spike was wanting everyone to be there the whole time overseas when he shot it, and I was still shooting Better Call Saul, and was juggling that with Godfather of Harlem, so it didn’t work out. It was so hard for me not to be able to do that film.”
While Esposito had yet to see the film at the time of our conversation, he did say that he was excited to do so, because “Spike’s scripts contain so much… I’m really anxious to see Da 5 Bloods, to see how it translated from paper to film, because that’s the time I grew up in as well. We’re close in age, and his brilliance is not lost on me at all — and it affects me deeply.”
Just recently, in fact, Esposito had been watching the news, and came across video of a Minnesota police station on fire, following the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests. “And I’m hearing the chant, ‘no justice, no peace.’ And I’m watching the fire. And I grabbed my heart. It took me right back to burning down Sal’s in Do the Right Thing. That’s when I went, Spike Lee then was way ahead of his time, and it’s reflected of our time now,” he said. “I got choked up and started to cry and turned my newsfeed off on my phone. Because I lived that moment in shooting [the film]. And I lived that in my life.”
Added Esposito, “that’s when I got a little sad, but a little happy. Because an artist that I know and love, so committed to what he does — the true mark and test of time in all of his films, has been Do the Right Thing. This is the movie that still holds up today.”
After all, as Esposito observed, “he takes chances, which I think is just so courageous. Even if there are chances that you don’t agree with. He takes those chances and those risks and creates something really different from it. And it’s really been lovely to know him all these years and watch his filmmaking progress and have a deeper and more profound statement in a more subtle way. He’s just brilliant at what he does. And so I look forward to seeing this movie.”
Da 5 Bloods is streaming now on Netflix.