This story about Giancarlo Esposito and “The Mandalorian” first ran in the drama issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Giancarlo Esposito knows villains.
The actor, whose career began in the early 1980’s (yes, that was him in a jail cell with Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places”), has always flitted between television and movie roles—he has appeared in movies by Jim Jarmusch, Wayne Wang, Spike Lee and Bong Joon-ho. And he has a particular specialty when it comes to playing characters with a, let’s say, loose moral compass.
Esposito is probably best known for his role as mannered drug kingpin Gustavo Fring on “Breaking Bad” and the prequel series “Better Call Saul.” He entered “Star Wars” lore in Season 1 of “The Mandalorian” as Moff Gideon, an Imperial zealot who returned in Season 3 to terrorize the titular hero (Pedro Pascal) and enact his evil plan, which involved creepy clones of himself. So his presumed death in the Mandalorian finale isn’t so certain. When clones are involved, you never know.
You’ve had quite the year.
I have. I’ve been blessed with a lot of great stuff. I actually thought I would maybe slow down a little bit, but I knew when all these great opportunities started coming up that it would be a great year.
What was it like to be back on “The Mandalorian?” After last season, your fate was unclear.
Yeah, I was in the gulag for a little bit, which is always a disastrous place to be for an actor if you’re worried about what your next move might be because you could be there forever. In my case, I never worry about those things. I love working with this particular team—Disney has been so wise and so generous in allowing Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to continue their childlike investigation of this “Mandalorian” show. They create in a way like no other and they’re inclusive, at least they have been greatly with me, in regard to really allowing me to give ideas, to be thoughtful about the character and allowing time for conversation. That certainly affects performance on the day. And that’s been a really wonderful part of it.
I liked this character of Moff Gideon for a lot of reasons. One is he controls the chaos like no other; two is that he’s very smart and knows everything. That’s a given. And he has abilities. He’s not only good with this very foreign object, the darksaber that doesn’t belong to him but really does fit with him. He’s really good with his TIE fighter. And now in this third season, we see him masterminding something that he really wants not knowing, as an audience, what the true vision is. And that’s exciting. The antihero is really just a fallen hero. There’s a complication about him that I try to live and breathe with when I’m on the set.
Moff Gideon revealed a secret army of clones. Is there a possibility you could be back?
I know nothing about Season 4. (Jon) hasn’t tipped his hat to me. So many fans are like, “You were a clone, right?” It could be. I trust Jon knows what he’s doing. I would love to keep dying and coming back. That’d be my favorite thing of all. There are a lot of ways to go and I’m open to whatever they have in play.
One character of yours that will definitely not be back is Gus Fring, who you brought to life on “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” Will you miss him?
I will. Yeah, there’s no doubt. I feel like characters teach me. If I’m really in the pocket, not doing anything I’ve ever done before, then they educate me. Gustavo Fring taught me how to breathe, taught me how to look at my scene partner and just look them up and down. Someone asks me a question. I don’t answer. I just look at them. People get fucking unnerved. And I realized, Oh, no one gives you time to be thoughtful. They don’t want to give you that time. They ask you again, and I look them up and down again just because I’m not ready to answer. It taught me patience, breathing, relaxation, just allowing space between the lines which were so good—the space to hear, the space to speak. And it taught me to be demonstrative. Second season taught me to layer in vulnerability underneath the steel. You know, that flicker of a tell. I learn from my characters, they teach me something new. And then before you know it, they’re done. You’ve got to let them go.