During an interview on the red carpet at the 2023 SAG Awards ceremony, Giancarlo Esposito discussed his time portraying the calm and calculated antagonist Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Unlike the unpredictable Tuco Salamanca, Gustavo Fring was Walter White’s formidable foe in Breaking Bad. Fring was composed, patient, and cunning, having built his empire over the years to avenge his partner’s murder. He disguised his criminal persona with legitimate businesses, including the Los Pollos Hermanos restaurants. Fring’s observant and manipulative nature allowed him to subdue cartels and make Walt and Jesse feel dependent on him for survival.
Although Esposito has since played intimidating characters in The Mandalorian, The Boys, and Harley Quinn, his portrayal of Fring in Breaking Bad seasons 2 to 4 and Better Call Saul was defining for the actor’s approach to portraying dangerous and influential individuals.
As the cutthroat businessman at the helm of a secretive drug empire, Gus Fring clashed with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) while building his own operations. Esposito shared what he misses most about playing the celebrated villain and what he learned from his experience on the series.
I miss the cool, calm and collected nature that I was able to fall in line with in regard to Gus. If you’ve read some of the articles I’ve done talking about how I built the character, it really came out of breathing practice, a relaxed state, and listening more than speaking, which sometimes intimidates people. That space and time is very important to me, so it’s taught me a lesson for the rest of my career not to jump into playing Gus, but to give myself the time and space to be thoughtful and to hear and react. Acting is also reacting, so I will miss playing him, I will miss that everyone thinks I’m so villainous, I’ll miss that in a way, but I’d like them to see a different side of myself in the new things that I’m about to accomplish.