Giancarlo Esposito Interview: ‘Better Call Saul’
“After playing Gus for so many years on ‘Breaking Bad,’ working to play him backwards has been an interesting part of my journey,” reveals Giancarlo Esposito about the character he reprises in “Better Call Saul.” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), he adds, “This year I learned he can get to a point where he’s going to explode but stop himself and keep his cool.”
“Better Call Saul” tells the prequel story of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) becoming the criminal lawyer Saul Goodman from “Breaking Bad.” Esposito plays Gus Fring in both series as a charming head of fast food chain, ‘Los Pollos Hermanos,’ by day and a menacing drug boss by night. It was a role that has brought him Best Supporting Actor Emmy nominations for both programs.
The actor describes, “This season in one scene, Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Gus were outside of ‘Los Pollos Hermanos’ after it had been burned to the ground. Gus is a little irritated when Mike pulls up. When I went to do additional sound recording, I didn’t know if I liked it. I looked up at myself and thought ‘he’s a little too irritated. Gus is cool. Gus is calm.’ I had all these doubts. The ADR supervisor and I had a discussion. I remembered what I was thinking on the day. It’s a younger Gus. He is less seasoned. He is going to show some emotion. She convinced me it was perfect. It made me realize, ‘I’m not playing the Gus of 10 years ago on ‘Breaking Bad.’ I’m playing a Gus who’s on his way to that other Gus.’”
Another moment when Gus meets Mike was in the season’s fifth episode, ‘Dedicado a Max.’ Esposito says, “It’s a challenging scene because Mike is desperate to get out of there, but he knows Gus is right in many ways. Mike doesn’t want to be controlled. Gus, as he did with Walter White (Bryan Cranston), makes people feel like they are important. Gus tells Mike the truth. He knows what revenge is. He knows what being hurt and put down is. Gus does too. Before he has solidified his hold it’s a fascinating journey to see Gus in this position. He’s a solider and he’s in a war.”
It’s been a busy time for the actor who recounts, “I had the opportunity to also do a show called ‘Godfather of Harlem’ where I showed myself in a different way. ‘The Mandalorian,’ a version of the ‘Star Wars’ mythology where you can do something different. Then I go onto ‘The Boys’ where superheroes are real people. We are in the golden age of television. I am very grateful.”