Becoming an Alien

Giancarlo Esposito immerses himself in his roles


Actor Giancarlo Esposito adapted to the New Mexico landscape, using it as inspiration during the time he was in Albuquerque filming the “Breaking Bad” series.

“I had great experiences shooting Breaking Bad,” he said.

But it was not his only time in the state. He remembers shooting “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” (2018) in the Sandia Mountains and worked on two smaller independent films here as well, “Stargirl” (2020) and “Unpregnant” (2020). And, of course, “Better Call Saul.”

“I spent 17 years in and out of New Mexico shooting film of different levels,” he said. “My experience in New Mexico is also about illuminating great crews.”

Esposito is the kind of actor who works to become the part he plays, no matter how big or small the role might be. New Mexico became part of the fabric of the story in the “Breaking Bad” universe and therefore was part of his creation of the character of Gustavo “Gus” Fring, chicken restaurant entrepreneur and dedicated narcotics distributor.

“New Mexico had a deep effect on how I played the role,” Esposito said. “I feel like Fring, who came from Chile, had a community he could relate to and a place that had a certain distance. He could blend into that community and become part of it and have space to hide in plain sight to forward his business.”

To Esposito, making a part his own in depth and nature, honors the author’s words.

“I think what I do is a personal experience,” he said. “You can feel the difference because my choice to do a role is based on what resounds to me. I pick the material based on the statement it makes, and the impression it could make on a wide variety of people.”

In 1988 Esposito had his first major role in the Spike Lee film “School Daze” and it kicked off a friendship and more movies (four in total) with Lee. The two had a background in common, from growing up mixed race and raised in Catholic schools.

“He [Lee] called me an Afro-European actor,” Esposito said. “At the time we didn’t have any positive representatives of ourselves in the mainstream world. I have the blessing to be half European.

“A very different impression was made on me connecting me to both worlds of black and white. By being both it allows me a space to understand how people connect and also disconnect. I am blessed to be in that position. We are all connected somehow, some way.”

When asked what he would tell an alien about himself, Esposito said he is an alien too.

“My definition of an alien is someone who is in but not of,” he said. “It’s about the creative expression of forward moving that may not be understood. I am a creative artist, using words, expressions physically, visually and creatively.”

Esposito’s experience is not limited to movies and television, he has also played a major part in the 2021 video game “Far Cry 6.”

The experience of playing the evil Anton Castillo took him back to his days of live theater, he said. But there was no costume but a bulky helmet, a hundred cameras and greenscreen-wrapped furniture.

“It returned me to a black box theater situation,” he said. “There are no physical elements to relate to except your scene partner. It was challenging and interesting. I loved it, working in a very technical medium which I had to bring a human experience to.”

Esposito looks forward to new challenges.

“As an actor I’m embedded in the character,” he said. “I want [the audience] to see themselves, at least one trait they would want to be. I am obsessed with playing the everyman.”

Esposito will be in Las Cruces Thursday, April 13, for the 2023 Las Cruces International Film Festival and receiving the “Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment” award at the event. He is screening a film of his at the Allen Theatres Cineport at 7 p.m. and hosting a question-and-answer session with the audience after the movie.

The eighth Las Cruces International Film Festival takes place April 12-16, live and in-person at the Cineport. More information and tickets are available at

Las Cruces International Film Festival