If you’re only familiar with Giancarlo Esposito as the menacing figure of Gustavo Fring, I’m excited for you, because you’re about to discover that the dark, malevolent, and iconic Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul role is being played by one of Hollywood’s most intelligent, kind, and genuine actors.
Esposito initially broke out in indie films like Do the Right Thing, Bob Roberts, and Malcolm X, but as he explains in this video interview, the latest in our Collider Connected series, he understands that the role of Gus is what has brought him to the attention of so many people — it’s been over 10 years since the character was introduced, and as he says, “I feel blessed to have Gustavo Fring be leading the charge for people to see my work.”
He’s been incredibly busy over the last year or two, in fact, getting to play roles he’s incredibly proud of like real-life historical figure Congressman Powell in the Epix original series Godfather of Harlem (which required a very different accent from his usual voice) and Stan Edgar in Amazon’s The Boys (“a very interesting take on the world of superheroes and how our government co-opted their work and protection methods… that’s a great, great show. I’ve had a great time on that”). He also, of course, made a big splash in the Season 1 finale of The Mandalorian, a role to which he returned for Season 2, which was a very unique filmmaking experience.
But his connection to Breaking Bad remains profound, which is why he might be the perfect host for the upcoming AMC documentary series The Broken and the Bad, which premieres Thursday, July 9th, and tackles the real-life repercussions of what the show depicted. Esposito is currently spending quarantine in his Albuquerque home, and while prior to the pandemic the plan was for him to film his segments in one 10-hour day in New York, things changed after productions shut down and (more importantly) he saw the show.
While he initially was just going to do voiceover for the show, “when I saw the material, I was like [voice-over] is not going to cut it. The material was so very good and so interesting. I think people will really be fascinated by it,” he says. So, instead, with the help of his daughters Ruby and Shayne, he decided to “just go out and guerrilla film all my introductions… we ran around town and we shot a lot of material.”
Adds Esposito, “when I think about it, I really haven’t stopped working.” Though of course, there’s plenty more work to come, as Gus Fring’s story has not yet been completely told.
You might not expect this to be the case, by the way, but when it comes to Gus, Esposito’s yoga practice plays an important role in how he portrays the character:
“Every time I’m on the set I do what I can do to just relax myself, so I can be more of an observer. As performers we love to perform — there’s a an energy about performing for a live audience and even in front of the camera, it exists as well… It’s almost endorphin-esque. And so that energy is the kind of energy that we actors love to play on. Because then we can spontaneously do things that we wouldn’t allow ourselves otherwise. But actors love to act. That’s our forte, so to speak. So what I learned in playing Gus, and with some of my other characters that I play as well, there’s a sprinkling of being able to step back and relax and become and allow the organic nature of the character to come through you.”
The things above are just the beginning of everything Esposito and I were able to talk about. Other topics include:
- What it was like to shoot on the massive virtual set of The Mandalorian.
- The difficulties of acting for motion capture, including a big upcoming video game Esposito couldn’t reveal.
- How he likes to handle the moment right before a director calls “Action!”
- His love of Spike Lee and regret that he wasn’t able to be in Da 5 Bloods due to production schedules.
- What it means to him to play Lex Luthor as a person of color on Harley Quinn.
- And how the events of the past few weeks have made Do the Right Thing, one of his earliest films, all too relevant today.
Watch the full interview above. The latest season of Better Call Saul can be watched with a cable subscription on AMC.com