Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Gus Fring on AMC’s Better Call Saul, discusses his favorite aspect of playing this character again, why Gus is playing the long game against Hector, and what Gus and Mike see in each other.
Q: What sort of reaction did you see/hear personally once word got out that you would be returning to the show? Were you relieved to no longer keep it a secret?
A: The reaction to my returning to the show has always been strong and positive. Since Breaking Bad ended and Saul began, fans have been asking me if I would return for a cameo appearance. There has been great expectation as the fans love Gus. I am happy that the cat is out of the bag. I am very conscientious and did my best to keep my return a secret. I am, however, relieved that I don’t have to hide anymore and that the fans can be in the expectation of what is to come knowing that I am back and bad as ever.
Q: Although this is set before Breaking Bad, Gus is already in control of his business(es). Do you think Gus was ever a green amateur, or has he always been the smartest guy in the room?
A: I would like to show that Gus is a bit more youthful in his thinking. Less set in his way of doing things in regard to his plan and ideas about how to grow the cartel business. That being said, Gus has always had a plan and, of course, he has always been ahead of everyone else in regard to his thinking. So, yes, Gus has always been the sharpest knife in the drawer.
A: I love the scenes where we are in the landscape of the desert. I also love working with Jonathan Banks. The face-off scene on the road in the desert has so far been one of my favorites. Cat-and-mouse play is always exciting between two men who think alike and have respect for each other. Gus planned this manipulation with Mike completely. He knew that Mike would outsmart his men. He manipulated the whole situation for this outcome.
Q: Gus makes it clear that Mike can’t kill Hector. Although Mike agrees, does Gus worry about his ability to ultimately control Mike?
Gus does not worry that Mike could turn out to be a loose cannon because he knows that Mike wants something from him. Mike also wants to be in business with someone that he trusts. Mike realizes Gus’s ability to lead. Mike also knows that Gus will keep his word. He asked Mike to do a job for him to gain his trust and to allow Mike into his confidence.
Q: In Episode 4, Hector disrupts Gus’s business. Why do you think Gus is so able to remain calm despite Hector’s insulting behavior?
A: Gus knows that, given enough rope, Hector will hang himself. Gus is playing the long game. He has a plan to have the Cartel’s delivery system work better with more efficiency and less risk.
Q: How much truth is in the story Gus tells his employees about his days in Mexico?
A: Gus is using a true story of his courage in the face of challenging circumstances when he rallies his employees to stand up against adversity in the story about his days in Mexico. It is an absolute affirmation.
Q: Gus makes it clear to Mike that his beef with Hector is personal. What it’s like for you to explore the Gus-Hector feud knowing how it ultimately ends on Breaking Bad?
A: It is exciting to explore the past history between Hector and Gus. This is a big motivation for Gus to see Hector suffer. Although his vendetta is what eventually becomes his downfall. It is a motivating factor to see Hector suffer, and to do it in a way that is cruel yet graceful in such a Shakespearean way.
Q: What’s been your favorite aspect of slipping back into this character?
A: My favorite thing about being back in the shoes of Gus is creating a slightly different Gus in this prequel. Given that Gus is younger and greener, we as an audience get to see the underpinnings of this kingpin’s rise to power. It’s great to be thinking about this new Gus as someone that the audience has never seen before — a Gus that is finding and maneuvering his way to the top.
Q: Speaking of Gus’s rise to the top, his Los Pollos Hermanos training videos really highlight his meticulous attention to detail…
A: I love the training videos as they are so specific. They also are fun! They give and extend Gus’s offer “come work for me — you too can be a success in all that you do!”
Read a Q&A with Jonathan Banks, who plays Mike Ehrmantraut.
Better Call Saul airs Mondays at 10/9c. For the latest information and exclusives sign up for the Insiders Club.