The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Giancarlo Esposito (“Revolution”)

It’s a matter of public record that I’ve interviewed a huge-ass number of people over the years, but given that most of those interviews tend to be on the phone, it never fails to give me a warm feeling inside when someone actually remembers me from an in-person encounter. Then again, one presumes that the cast of “Breaking Bad” doesn’t sit down and break bread with journalists on their home turf of Albuquerque all that often, so maybe that makes it a little easier to remember such an occasion.

Either way, it was still nice to see the warm glow of recognition in Giancarlo Esposito’s eyes when I came up to him at the Television Critics Association press tour this summer. I mean, it’s certainly better to see that than the steely anger we came to expect from him in his final appearances as Gustavo Fring, right? Sadly, it was a short chat, so we didn’t even get a chance to talk about Gus’s last days (except in passing reference) or even his Best Supporting Actor Emmy nod, but you can still look back at the far lengthier conversation we had a few years ago to get a bit more insight into his feelings about Gus and his career as it stood prior to “Breaking Bad.” For now, though, Esposito is all about looking forward…really, really intensely.

Giancarlo Esposito: Hi, Will! Oh, my goodness, I remember that evening in Albuquerque. I totally remember that evening!

Bullz-Eye: I’m glad I’m not the only one!

GE: How are you? It’s good to see you again.

BE: It’s mutual, of course. So I’m curious: with “Revolution,” you’ve taken on another supporting role. Not that you don’t do them well, but do you have an active desire to kick it up to leading-man status, or do you just enjoy the challenge of making the most out of a smaller part.

GE: You know what? I always have a desire to make it to the big time. [Laughs.] But the more I’m able to put my heart and soul into a role and the fuller that character that is, then the more screen time it has, and for me that’s a plus. But I love doing what I do as a character actor, and I think that’s also important, because that enables me to strengthen my craft. And in this case, that supporting role is with some of the best folks in television. So to me, it’s a journey. I feel like there is a moment in time when there’ll be that moment to step up into films where I’m doing the lead and carrying everything, but right now I think that all is well.

I’m coming off this time with “Breaking Bad” and that’s been very special for me, and it’s a nice way to decompress and play a character that’s a heavy but probably a little more of a loose cannon, a little more psychotic. He’d love to think he’s always in control, but he does lose it. And he’s a guy who’s a little bit different than the last guy, but…audiences just love the bad guy! [Laughs.] And they love the character actor that can play him in a fuller way. So I’m all in. I’m all in with this “Revolution.” I think the show itself is about evolution of human beings, and on a grand scale. I mean, this is an epic show. I don’t know what people expect, but some seem to think that they may be seeing something they’ve seen before. They’re not. It’s a big show to do, a big show to produce…it’s a big, wide canvas of a show, but I think it’s not only a grand action/adventure series but it’s also a very dramatic, character-driven show as well.

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The Light from the TV Shows: God Bless the TCA Press Tour

If you’ve been a regular Bullz-Eye reader for awhile now, then you may be aware that, twice a year, I take a jaunt from my home turf in Chesapeake, VA, to southern California in order to attend the Television Critics Association press tour, which takes place in January and July. I arrived here in Pasadena yesterday, which means the proceedings have only just gotten underway, but based on my previous experiences, there’s every reason to believe that this tour will prove to be just as amusing, fascinating, and consistently entertaining as it has been every other time I’ve been here.

My original plan for this week’s column was to discuss which of the panels and events I’m most interested in attending, but then it occurred to me that it probably wouldn’t look a whole lot different from my list of the 12 new series I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2012. Instead, I thought I’d look back at some of my favorite TCA tour experiences since joining the organization in 2007. I can’t imagine any other organization which could provide a writer based in Virginia with the opportunity to mingle with everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Mike Tyson, giving me once-in-a-lifetime experiences twice a freaking year.

With that, I present you with some highlights from past tours…

Summer 2007

Most enjoyable panel: The “Family Guy” live read-through of their 100th episode. Watching Seth MacFarlane (right) bounce back and forth between his voices for Peter, Stewie and Brian is mind-blowing.

Best panelist rants: James Woods.

When one of the reporters bemoaned the panel (Woods, co-star Jeri Ryan and producer/creator Ian Biederman) for not giving them anything that made for good copy, Woods stepped up to bat. “OK, well, I honestly hate these motherfuckers, but I’m getting paid so, you know, what am I going to do. That fucking Jeri Ryan bitch. She shows up in a fucking Borg suit and says, “Hey, remember me when I was hot?” One more fucking time and I’m done!” At this point, he finally gave in to laughter, saying, “OK, I think we’re done now.”

In the last moments of the panel, Woods tackled the issue of his character’s questionable moral decision in the season finale, when he knowingly sent a man to prison for a crime he didn’t commit because he knew that he was guilty of other crimes. As it happens, Woods didn’t really agree with Biederman’s decision to have Sebastian Stark do what he did. “I don’t believe in vigilante justice,” he said. Then, after a moment, added, “Except if I were pissed off about something. Then I would believe in it. I mean, you know, I get lousy customer support, I want to get involved in a workplace killing.”

At this point, Woods began to mime speaking into a phone. “‘Where in India are you, motherfucker? Where exactly in Sumatra are you, you fucker?’”

Pause for a heartbeat.

“Oh, boy, that wasn’t politically correct,” said Woods. “I wouldn’t want to see that get out.”
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