Giancarlo Esposito Was Surprised To See How 'Vicious' His Better Call Saul Character Could Be

"Breaking Bad" boasts some of the best writing on TV. Especially when it came to plotting and character, the writers had a great ability to connect every single dot and make it seem like everything in the show was connected and planned out in advance. Likewise, every character felt well-rounded and fleshed out, from side characters, one-off characters, and villains.

And when it came to villains, none was as terrifying or fascinating as Gus Fring, a businessman who could be ruthless one minute, and calm and gentle the next. This is in no small part thanks to a brilliant performance by Giancarlo Esposito, who brought forward the humanity as well as the enigma of the character so as to easily lure the audience into trusting Gus as a reasonable businessman before revealing a merciless drug lord.

This brings us to "Better Call Saul," which has defied any and all expectations of what a spinoff and prequel could do, becoming as good if not better than "Breaking Bad." The show has slowly but surely brought back a lot of the big and small players of the original show, exploring how they got to where we first met them, without falling into prequel tropes of explaining the origin of every dumb thing or showing vastly different characterizations of known characters.

But then there's the "Better Call Saul" version of Gus, who we meet at a time before he becomes one of the biggest drug lords north of the border, as he starts to build an empire in secret. This version of Gus is a much more erratic and volatile character, and even Esposito was surprised by it.

Wait a minute. That's not the Gus I know

Speaking to Collider, Giancarlo Esposito shared his bewilderment over realizing the guy he's played for so long as someone who has his stuff together is everything but, at least for now. "How much of that do I show?" Esposito asked, as he tells the story of an automated dialogue replacement recording for a scene later in the season and thinking "That's not the Gus I know," and being uncomfortable playing the character. In the end, the show's sound editor, Kathryn Madsen, convinced Esposito that being uncomfortable and playing a different Gus is exactly what he wanted. Esposito continued:

"I want the audience to really understand and see the Gus that they know and love who is a Gus that they're also very fearful of. I scare people, and I do it in a way that's kind of ... It's disarming and frightening, because you never know when it's coming and because we know that he can do his own dirty work ... I feel sometimes like a little boy in that I am in wonder and enchanted by the world, but when you take my toy away, and I don't get what I want, I'm vicious. That, to me, is a great analogy for who Gus really is under me."

Rock And Hard Place

While we saw the "Chicken Man" act cruel toward Jesse (Aaron Paul), and even threaten to kill Walt's infant daughter, his treatment of Nacho Varga (Michael Mando) in "Better Call Saul" has been incredibly cruel in a way that almost comes from out of nowhere. After discovering Nacho had poisoned Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) by switching his pills, Gus coerced Nacho to work for him under the threat of turning him over to the Salamancas and later of killing his dad if he didn't follow Gus' every command.

This takes us to the episode "Rock And Hard Place," which shows Gus at his cruelest yet. But before we go any further, be warned. Heavy spoilers for season six of "Better Call Saul" ahead.

The episode serves as Nacho Varga's swan song, as we see him agreeing to be a sacrificial lamb for Gus to keep his father safe. Gus agrees, but not before one last smug show of force, asking Mike to beat the crap out of Nacho right after his last meal. We barely see Gus in the episode, staying squarely focused on Nacho's experience as going from a promising crime career to a thankless scapegoat that dies just to serve the ego of a man who will die just a few years later. 

This may be a different Gus than Giancarlo Esposito remembered, but it is still the same old Gus we met in "Breaking Bad."