“Gustavo won the battle with me, because I can click in to him and not really see a lot of myself anymore,” said Giancarlo Esposito about his memorable villain from the AMC drama series “Breaking Bad.” “I think Gustavo Fring should be up for the Emmy … He’s taken on a life of his own.”
After four decades of acting, it was Esposito who found himself with a first-ever Emmy nomination for his role as a friendly, low-key fast food restaurant chain owner who just happened to be a top level drug kingpin as well. He joined the show as a recurring guest star in the second season and became the major foil to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the third and fourth seasons.
In “Face Off,” the season four finale, White orchestrated a maneuver against Fring convincing frail mob enforcer Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) to set off a suicide bomb that killed both Hector and Gus.
In a video chat with Gold Derby, Esposito recalled, “Specifically, I made a choice somewhere at the end of the third season … to keep him calm and reserved and close to the vest, but I also made a choice that I didn’t want to be the typical quintessential bad guy who has the huge ego and thinks he has all this power. I wanted to play him in a much more modified fashion, where he could be someone who is hiding in plain sight, but very powerful, very strong, very demonstrative, yet polite, yet kind.”
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He contends for Drama Supporting Actor against co-star Paul, “Downton Abbey” servants Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle, Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones“) and Jared Harris (“Mad Men“). His episode submission to Emmy judges is “Hermanos,” a segment partially set two decades ago with a glimpse at his character’s past.
Esposito explained that this choice was easy because the audience “has seen enough of him to know who this new Gus is, the kingpin Gus, but we want to know where he came from, so we get this flashback with Don Eladio (Steven Bauer), where Gus goes back and you see him in a very vulnerable, humiliated position.”