Yesterday I came face to face with the meth kingpin of the southwest; Gustavo Fring. Well actually, I met the guy who played Gustavo Fring – Giancarlo Esposito. Suprisingly, he’s nothing like the calculated and ruthless character he portrays in Breaking Bad. In fact, he’s the exact opposite. He’s lively, animated, and even a little flamboyant (I assume a lot of actors are). He answered all my questions thoughtfully, and he even let me take a selfie with him. He gave an inspiring lecture to a room full of students at Hudson County Community College and even stayed an hour later to answer questions and take more pictures. What a guy.
Two things I found interesting: he wore the trademark “Heisenberg” hat on his way out of the building, yet nobody seemed to comment on it. He also seemed genuinely excited when I told him my parents loved him in a 1997 TV show he starred in called “Bakersfield PD” (the photo above captures that exchange).
Favorite Quote: “I’ve been bankrupt twice and divorced. After the first bankruptcy my wife told me she would leave me if it happened again. She kept her word.”
The following is the story I wrote about him for the Jersey Journal, with some extraneous information taken out. Enjoy.
In other words, he was the polar opposite of “Gustavo Fring”, his emmy-nominated portrayal of the meth kingpin on the critically acclaimed TV series “Breaking Bad.”
“Acting is not a private club, it is open to whoever is willing to sacrifice and dedicate themselves,” the 56-year-old Esposito told a room of more than 200 people, mostly students, at the College’s Culinary Conference Center. “Everything you need is already inside you.”
The crowd seemed to be hanging on his every word as he weaved between topics of his early career, Breaking Bad, finding his passion, and encouraging other to find theirs.
His overall message was simple; if you believe in yourself and work hard you can achieve any level of success you desire.
“I am here to remind you how it works,” said Esposito. “We all need illumination in the recesses of our conscious to inspire us. Learn to love yourselves, and give yourself the gift of your time and commitment.”
The current star of NBC’s “Revolution,” the African-Italian actor’s career began in 1979 and includes roles in multiple Spike Lee films. However, he understands he owes it to Breaking Bad for his most recent rise to stardom.
“I know I would not be here if it was not for Breaking Bad,” said the former theater actor, who has also dabbled in directing and producing. “(Gustavo Fring) was a great role to play, it took a lot of calming of my spirits to be able to create a guy that had the attributes that Gus had. He listened well to other characters and he wanted to bring people on the whole to their best selves, which made him a powerful character.”
“He had integrity and a very interesting morality that served him, he was meticulous and cared about what he does, and that’s very different than some of us,” explained Esposito.
Esposito added that he does not believe he has played his defining role, and believes that there is another role out there that will define him more than Gustavo Fring.
Esposito worked the room for 45 minutes, gesturing and joking and clapping his knees every time he laughed. On multiple occasions he used the famous Chilean accent that was a staple of Gustavo Fring, and at one point he broke out into a rap.
He then opened up the floor for 30 minutes of questions, but it took nearly another hour to sign every autograph and take every picture before the mob of adoring fans let him leave the building.
“He really inspired me, it was great motivation for me to do what I want to do,” said Jonathan Drayton, a HCCC theater arts student.
“I think we’re going to see a long-term effect from having him here on the campus,” said HCCC Theater Arts Coordinator Joseph Gallo. “I think the students will take away a lot and leave very enthusiastic.”