With ‘Parish,’ Giancarlo Esposito Is Both the Top of the Call Sheet and an ‘Everyman’

The AMC star went above and beyond for his first executive producing credit

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Giancarlo Esposito as Gray Bourgeois "Parish" (Photo Credit: Eliot Brasseaux/AMC)

From “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” to “The Usual Suspects” and “Do the Right Thing,” Giancarlo Esposito has long been involved in some of the biggest, buzziest projects across TV, film and even video games. That’s why it’s surprising to see him finally lead his own prestige TV project now with “Parish.” Not only does Esposito star as the titular character of the AMC crime thriller, but the series also marks the actor’s first time as an executive producer.

“It’s an honor to be a No. 1. It really is,” Esposito told TheWrap of his leading role. “People have put their faith in you, and they’ve trusted you. It becomes less about trying to do something but trying to really live and be as you are … This is what I’ve been wanting for many, many years is just to do great work. I have that attitude every time, out of the box. But with this, it becomes more special.”

After working with Esposito on “Parish,” executive producer Eduardo Javier Canto “totally” understands why the actor is so revered in the entertainment industry.

“He really is the kind of guy who can pick you up on a slow day or on a bad day. He can really elevate a company just by showing up on set, and that’s not just on his days where he’s acting,” Canto told TheWrap. “He was on set even when he wasn’t performing that day to make sure that everyone was up to snuff and to be able to talk to younger actors if they needed guidance.”

“For me, there’s a responsibility that comes with being lead of a show. You wind up caring about every line, every episode, every story. You want to make it the best it can be,” Esposito said. “As an actor per hire, you want the same, but sometimes those things are out of your control. So when you’re able to contribute as much as I have to this show, you have a certain pride you carry with you.”

The object of Esposito’s pride is “Parish.” Based on the BBC One series “The Driver,” the crime drama tells the story of Gray Parish (Esposito), a driver for hire living in New Orleans. Following the death of his son, Parish’s life is torn apart, leaving him in desperate need of money. That’s when his old habits rear their ugly head and this family man returns to his life of crime as a getaway driver.

“This is the story is about an everyman who has to become an extraordinary man under pressure,” Esposito said. “I really wanted all of these things that I’ve felt in my life to flourish in ‘Parish’ and to see this man go through this journey and come out — somewhere in the fourth, fifth, sixth season — whole for it. But he’s got to go through a hell of a ride on his way there because, after all, this is a crime drama.”

Esposito noted that he was “moved” by the original BBC One series, which is what originally led him to this project. As the team worked more and more on this series, it became clear that New Orleans was the perfect setting for this project.

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Giancarlo Esposito as Gray Bourgeois and Skeet Ulrich as Colin Broussard “Parish” (Photo Credit: Alyssa Moran/AMC)

“I can’t think of a better place to set this season of television,” Canto said, emphasizing the “duality” of the city. New Orleans during the day is a very different place than the hard-partying Bourbon Street you may see at night.

“It just fit the situation that we were in with Gray: the duality of Gray’s character, what he’s bringing from his past into the present, who he is, who he wants to be,” Canto said. “These are all questions that we wanted to bring up.”

New Orleans also provided a refreshing filming experience. The crew filmed from May to September of 2023, “the hottest time of year,” Esposito said. Filming on location allowed the crew to really capture this “vibrant” city.

“There’s a tremendous film community, and everyone involved in local government is really helpful,” Canto said. “When you’re outside of LA, when you’re outside of Atlanta, when you’re outside of New York, it’s just a different vibe. People like that you’re there.”

Setting “Parish” in New Orleans also allowed the production to better highlight another major theme of this series: income inequality. In a TV climate awash in wealthy antiheroes, “Parish” stands out as a series that takes an unflinching look at modern day economic disparity and the desperate choices people have to make in order to survive.

“[Gray Parish] is middle class. He’s not the poorest of the poor. And in New Orleans, you see poor people, you see people living on the street because the weather’s good, you can survive. You see people who have succumbed and have been conquered by substance. There’s a high rate of drinking and a high rate of drugs there,” Esposito said. “All those themes play heavily on our show. When you have a choice, what choice do you take? Do you take a choice to try to bail your family out by doing something that’s not very good?”

Canto paints Gray Parish as a man who used to believe in the American dream but whose life is now in chaos because of the death of his son and “because the economy went in a certain way” and “things didn’t work out the way he hoped.”

“Being in a situation right now where people struggle to make ends meet, it’s something that a lot of people can relate to and that we could relate to,” Canto said. “[Executive producer Ryan Maldonado and I] felt it would be nice to be able to present or engage in a conversation about where we’re at right now as a country.”

“Our North Star was always was always to make it feel real. We wanted to make it feel like you’re watching almost a documentary of a person’s descent,” Maldonado told TheWrap.

Comments

One response to “With ‘Parish,’ Giancarlo Esposito Is Both the Top of the Call Sheet and an ‘Everyman’”

  1. Charles Rule Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this publication.
    From an old, out of work, actor.
    charles rule

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