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Better Call Saul Q&A — Giancarlo Esposito (Gustavo Fring)

Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Gustavo Fring on Better Call Saul, talks about seeing a side to Gus we’ve never seen before, wrangling Lalo, a developing respect for Mike, and what he’s looking forward to in Season 6.

Q: Gus publicly takes responsibility for part of the Werner incident in order to cover up the larger fact: he’s building an underground drug lab. How difficult is it for him to own this misstep?

A: I think it’s a great character point for Gus. We’ve seen him so much in Breaking Bad leading into Better Call Saul, and it’s been an effort of mine to create a very different Gus, maybe a Gus who’s a little more vulnerable, who does make some mistakes. And for us to see him, as an audience, own up to this particular mistake I think is important because it’s part of his growth to being that very nefarious businessman we knew in Breaking Bad. I think it’s an important step for the character, to allow us to see that he is not only plotting some bigger business adventures but that he has to learn from his own mistake. So, for me, it was a very important piece of us understanding Gus’s humanity and who he really is as a human being.

Q: Lalo doesn’t buy Gus’s story about building a chiller (not freezer!) for his chicken. Is Gus concerned, or does he feel in control in this moment?

A: Well, I believe that Gus is giving the best story that he can. He’s presented himself very well to cover up what he’s really doing, but I believe that he completely knows that Lalo doesn’t buy it. And I only say that because I think Tony Dalton’s such a wonderful actor and in those moments, when we were going back to playing that scene, I was very, very aware of not only the writing but also his performance. I fully believe that Lalo is going to investigate more. Whether he believes it or not, he’s still going to go further, so I think that Gus realizes and knows that and will be ready for him.

Q: Is Lalo more difficult for Gus to deal with than Hector?

A: In many ways, I believe he is. There’s a twofold answer to this. He is younger, more virile and a hothead — and so he’s dangerous. And so Gus has to watch out and be very careful because Lalo is a wild card and could do anything. He doesn’t have the experience that Hector does and is more volatile than Hector and not as much of a thinker. So I think when you’re dealing with a person in that position, you have to really think ahead of that person because that person could and will do anything. The other part of it is that he’s someone who, because he’s so volatile, he could cause a war, and I believe that Gus really knows this. So, when Gus is explaining himself, part of that is about being able to settle Lalo down enough so he won’t blow things up within the family.

Q: When Lalo puts the pressure on, Gus threatens Nacho‘s father to instill fear in him and ensure he’s being the best informant he can be. This doesn’t feel like a typical Gus move, does it?

A: It does not, not the Gus that we know. Again, it’s a revelation to see him threaten Nacho’s father, but he wants something from Nacho and he does that obviously for a reason — but that’s also a little bit out of character. But he’s got to keep Nacho as close to him as possible and Nacho also is someone who’s less experienced than Gus is, but he needs to give him a reason to do what he needs him to do, put him on the hot plate. And so that’s another very, very essential piece of our story that allows you to see more into Gus as he was before.

Q: Despite the construction project being on hold, Gus wants to keep paying Mike to keep him on his crew. Mike refuses. Does Gus respect where Mike is coming from?

A: Completely. I love that move because, from Mike’s standpoint, money can’t buy respect, and he makes this move by turning down that money and that gains Gus’s respect. That whole conversation Mike is angry because he’s been put in this position to do this really horrible thing [killing Werner], but I believe that Gus really understands how awful that is. Gus knows that he had to do something that was really horrible, but he also knows that, look, you became close to someone you shouldn’t have, and this mistake was made because that person took advantage of a pseudo-friendship that you had with that person. I feel like that’s another really, really great moment in time for Gus and Mike’s relationship because Gus really looks to Mike in a different way when he declines payment because what he had to do was so personal. I think that really gets Gus’s attention and really starts to bond these men in a different way.

Q: Would you say Mike is softer than Gus when it comes to the reality of their work?

A: I believe Mike is softer because of Mike’s background and what he’s had to deal with. I really believe that those demons eat away at Mike. It allows Gus to see that Mike is really, really, really human and also vulnerable. He realizes Mike is sensitive. And I think [Mike refusing payment] also propels them into a position where Gus realizes that Mike could grow into someone who would do anything for him.

Q: How do you feel going into the sixth and final season?

A: It’s with great anticipation that I move into this season. To think that this journey would be ending is sad, but also it feels like it is almost complete. It’s completing something that has been such a very powerful show but also a show that has allowed so many creative beings to express themselves in a very filmic way, especially this season. This season takes a step beyond any other season of Better Call Saul. This show is so very different than Breaking Bad because we’ve had a very personal character study of Saul Goodman, of Jimmy McGill, and we’ve been able to really get inside a human being and follow their personal journey into a different world than they’ve ever been used to. And so finally we get to see who Saul Goodman really is, with all the good and bad. I’m excited because I want to see what our writers come up with in regard to his personal journey but also in regard to the larger world that he’s entering into and how it affects each and every one of us who are players in that world.

Read a Q&A with Jonathan Banks, who plays Mike Ehrmantraut on Better Call Saul.

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