By the time Breaking Bad concluded in 2013, Giancarlo Esposito‘s character, Gus Fring, could already be considered iconic. The soft spoken manager of a fried chicken franchise had hidden behind the suave exterior enough secrets for several characters. It was shocking to find out that the restaurant manager was also the kingpin of a massive drug ring – one that eventually connects him with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). But it is the secret of what drives him that makes him so scary – an unspoken and insatiable need for vengeance carried deep inside.
Awards Radar sat down with Esposito to dig into the mind of Gus Fring and the man who brought him to life. The actor spoke at length about his work on Better Call Saul, the series which not only told the Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman story, but finally explored Gus in a way that injected true humanity into the often terrifying character. Esposito also discussed working with Vince Gilligan to develop Gus and broke down episode 9 in the most revealing of ways. Here are some excerpts from that conversation. Watch our full 23-minute conversation below.
On crafting Gus from a villain of the week into who viewers go to see:
“My questions for Vince for about Walter White, the story, what’s the story you’re trying to tell and how can I advance that in a way that you didn’t think of. He wanted someone who could be the nemesis to Walter, not just the villain of the week. So you want to thinker or you want a guy with a life, you want to create a dude who really has a network, and a family and his thinking and all that and that was his pitch. And to me, that was great. because then I could say, well, here’s what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to do Tony Soprano. I don’t want to do the mafia heavy, who is stroking the little dog. I don’t want to just stereotype to simply put, I want to do something that’s that’s different and forceful in a way that people haven’t seen before. And that’s thus my attitude was to be that affable guy who underneath it all was somebody else. I was really clear with Vince that I wanted to do something else. And he saw that. Then I read a stage direction, over and over again that he wrote the first episode that I did, hiding in plain sight. I took that and ran with it.”
On why Gus unexpectedly exits the wine bar during “Fun and Games” (season 6, episode 9):
“He comes out to a place where he hasn’t been out in a long time. He’s been guarded. He’s been hyper vigilant. And he lets his guard down because he can, the threat has been rectified. I’m looking for work. But he leaves himself open to having a conversation with someone other than in his organization, about wine and someone he likes. There could be more to it, but doesn’t need to be – it’s the whole action of being able to let my guard down, have a great glass of wine, have a great meal, talk to someone about art, and traveling and other things. To me, it’s a wonderful peek into who the other side of Gus that you have not been able to witness. Then realizing that it’s not time, why did he walk away? He’s not finished yet. He’s not finished. I mean, he going into the world of Breaking Bad. Don’t forget, this is a prequel. He’s not finished doing what he started out to do. And so it’s very, very important for him to stop himself. You got to understand this guy is a complete control of who he is. He sees himself not only from his standpoint, his viewpoint, but also he sees himself from your viewpoint. He’s seeing all of it. He’s that hyper-vigilant, that ahead of so many different situations. So he can’t allow himself to to become that human being again, not yet not here, in that path.”