Giancarlo Esposito is well-known for playing some not so good guys on Breaking Bad and Revolution, but the man himself, as he appeared at Toronto ComiCon, was warm, jovial, and inspirational. More than the standard Q&A with a celebrity guest, Esposito sometimes wandered into the realm of the motivational talk as he discussed memories from the set, and lessons learned for the everyday.
“People want stories again,” Esposito said in regards to the golden age of TV he’s found himself a part of. “They see those big tentpole movies with the big explosions, and what we want now is to expand ourselves, expand out humanity.”
Expanding humanity was foremost on Esposito’s mind in regards to his current role as Maj. Tom Neville, an insurance broker turned militia leader in a powerless world on Revolution. He said that it was easy to get in touch with his inner-warrior because he knows that he was a warrior in a past life. “Not everyone has that inside them unless you’re in touch with that,” he said.
Esposito added that he likes the message of the series, what would we do if all in the sudden, our modern, electrical world were to disappear? How many of us know what’s safe to eat out in the woods? Esposito pondered as an example. “When you’re faced with odds that are completely against you, you can do amazing things,” he said.
The other message that Esposito wants people to take away from Revolution is the need to question the powers that be, lest we find ourselves in a similar situation to those characters in that show. “We have to find our voice again,” he explained. “The first step is to ask our leaders ‘What are you doing?’ We have to ask our leaders, ‘Why are you in bed with big business?’”
On joining Breaking Bad in the role of drug distributor Gustavo “Gus” Fring, Esposito said he was inspired to take the part to help highlight, in a small way, the drug problem. “I understand it’s a bit of a problem here in Toronto too,” Esposito added, referring in an oblique way to the crack-smoking scandal involving Mayor Rob Ford.
Esposito told a story he had heard about a pair of young Mormons who, while doing missionary work, were kidnapped, pressed into the drug trade as indentured dealers and were later freed by police. “I did Breaking Bad because I wanted to be part of a show that exposed this,” he explained. “The more we understand the connection through an entity like Breaking Bad, the more we can look at our own selves and our own habits.”
Another aspect to Gus that Esposito enjoyed was the idea of hiding in plain sight. “Gus knew who he was, but he was hiding something illicit,” he said.
It wasn’t just all Breaking Bad and Revolution talk though. One fan asked about Esposito’s time as the magic mirror/Sidney Glass on Once Upon a Time and got an unusual confession from the actor. “When I grew up I always wanted to be a genie,” he said with a laugh. “It’s such an in-service gig.”
Esposito also talked about his appearance on Community as Gilbert Lawson, Pierce’s illegitimate half-brother who first appeared in the classic 8-bit episode “Digital Estate Planning.” “It was fun,” he said. “I enjoyed it and wanted to do something different. It was a great way to free myself up from what I had been doing and be more spontaneous.”
As for dream gig as an actor, Esposito had an easy answer for that too. “I’ve always wanted to play Martin Luther King, Jr.” he said. “He’s been played so much I don’t know if will happen in my lifetime, but he was such an inspiration and a great figure to emulate.”
But real-life figures aren’t the only ones worth emulating, according to Esposito. He looked out over the see of costumed heroes who came to hear him talk and said we should take inspiration from each other. “You can see somewhere in Batman, and Superman, and all these character, you see yourself, you see a piece of yourself,” he said. “I see it. I am a superhero! Today you wake up and realize you have that power inside you. They are living their superhero life and you should live yours too.”