The acclaimed Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul ended its six-season run last month, closing out a tragic saga in the New Mexico desert that captivated viewers for the last decade and a half. Saul creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan realize just how fortunate they were to strike golden lightning twice with this franchise — "Sometimes it's good to know when to leave the party," Gould says — and they are fondly waving goodbye to this methed-up story so they can develop other projects.
For now, at least. They haven't definitively ruled out a return to the ABQ one day down the bad choice road. "This world is so rich and these characters are so layered and these actors are so wonderful that we'd be crazy not to at least wonder and daydream about what the other possibilities are," Gould says. "The dreams I have about these characters and the fantasies seem as real to me as my real life. Almost."
One actor who also wonders what might lurk there is Giancarlo Esposito. While he's excited to be in the driver's seat on another show (more on that in a minute), Esposito could imagine more opportunity and adventures ahead for the masterful meth lord, rising fast-food chicken restaurateur, and man of few words Gustavo Fring. Ever since Breaking Bad concluded in 2013, Esposito has expressed interest in a Rise of Gus prequel, and he was initially reticent to sign on to Saul because he was unsure of how his character would fit into the lighter world of Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). He ultimately would get to tap into a new side of the drug kingpin who'd yet to fully claim his power on Saul, especially toward the end of its of run when Gus was challenged by (and rather scared of) Lalo (Tony Dalton).
"[The writers] were able to see the crack in my veneer, in terms of how I controlled the chaos and led my organization, and were able to write to a certain vulnerability or fear of Lalo Salamanca," explains Esposito, who has received four Emmy nominations for his turn as Gus. "Then I was able to be more vulnerable, and a little more frustrated in my performance that Lalo was a worthy opponent and I couldn't figure out where he was, how to get him, how to be ahead of him. And that kernel allowed me to explore a different part of Gus Fring than I had ever explored before."
Greg Lewis/AMC Giancarlo Esposito on 'Better Call Saul'
Still, even as he was forward-looking in shaping his performance to connect the dots to the Gus that viewers meet in Breaking Bad, Esposito always remained curious to learn more about his character's mysterious past.
"I've always kept these [Breaking Bad] pillars in my head, as much as I've wanted so much as an actor to explore Gus's previous life — Gus' life in Chile, all these things," he says. So now, even though his two-show ride as Gus is over, "there is a yearning inside me, and I keep coming back to the Rise of Gus," the actor shares. "It fits the puzzle, and we could see where he had come from and maybe explore more of who he really is underneath the mask. [Gould and Gilligan] have exactly said that — it's not over till it's over, and you never know. I totally believe that they should take a break. It's an intense world to live in for a while. And they both have skills in other areas and should tell those stories too. But I'm not averse to one day coming back to him. I just hope if that is supposed to happen, that it's sometime before I'm 90."
In the more immediate meantime, Esposito is plenty busy. In addition to his role on The Mandalorian on Disney+, the actor is anchoring a new AMC drama. Debuting next year, Parish is an adaptation of the 2014 British crime drama The Driver, about an everyman taxi driver whose life changes when he crosses paths with a New Orleans-based Zimbabwean gangster who exploits undocumented immigrants.
"I wanted to play someone who was not so special, but have people realize through watching him that everyone is special in some way, and that the validation of that specialness comes from inside yourself you," says Esposito, who recently costarred in the Netflix movie Beauty and stars in the upcoming Netflix drama series Jigsaw. "I wanted to represent someone who wasn't making it in this place we call America and got involved inadvertently with criminals who could threaten his family and his life. It's evolved into an interesting story about a guy who's just a driver and he has a menial job and he's barely making it, and then he gets asked to drive for someone who he doesn't know has a criminal past, and he starts making more money and is able to take care of his family the way he wanted to."
He continues: "This particular family has lost a son, and there's a daughter left who's a teenager, and they're all grieving in different ways. I wanted to tell the story of internal grief and pain that isn't really looked at beyond just the surface of how we grieve. Do we give ourselves the opportunity to grieve our loved ones when they're gone? How do we keep them alive? I also wanted to tell a story of American justice and what that means in regard to how we want justice when something is not right, but how our justice system is flawed."
So it seems Esposito will be, well, driving a different narrative for now, but who knows what the future will Fring? Fans who hold out hope for the Los Pollos Hermanos doors to swing open again will live by the words of a revenge-minded Gus: "And yet I wait."