Giancarlo Esposito has one of THOSE faces. You may know him as Gustavo 'Gus' Fring in 'Breaking Bad', or Agent Mike Giardello in 'Homicide: Life on the Street', or even FBI Agent Jack Bauer in 'The Usual Suspects'... the theme being that, without being a household name, he has a face that is seldom off the box.
His latest role is Major Tom Neville in 'Revolution', a post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, set 15 years after a global shutdown known as the Blackout. The series, sitting in the capable hands of producer JJ Abrams (rebooted 'Star Trek', the forthcoming 'Star Wars') and director Jon Favreau ('Iron Man'), is into its second series on ABC in the US, and comes to the UK on DVD today.
Here's Giancarlo on his character, the guiding hand of JJ Abrams and, of course, the phenomenon that is/was 'Breaking Bad'...
Can you give a sketch of the character you play, Major Tom Neville?
We are 15 years after the blackout. We live in a world that is very disparate, with people trying to reunite what used to be the United States of America. Now we are not allowed to fly the American flag and are not allowed to bear arms and Captain Tom Neville is the enforcer of the Monroe Republic. He's been sent by Monroe to find two men, Ben and Miles Matheson, in the hope that they hold the key to solving the riddle of why the power went out. Monroe wants this information. Monroe is Tom Neville's boss and Monroe wants to harness that scientific information to get the power back on so he could maybe rule the world.
Giancarlo Esposito plays Major Tom Neville in 'Revolution'
He is tired of it all when we first meet him on screen...
He wants to go back home, he has been in the field for two years, doing his job well, in these nasty heavy boots, in the mud and the dirt and the filth. He is a cultured kind of guy. Why the hell would he want to be away from Philadelphia in search of these two ruffians? He'd really rather be with his wife, Julie, and his son, Jason.
J.J Abrams is an executive producer on the show. Do you have much interaction with him?
I do. After we had our first major portion of the first season, J.J. would join us for our publicity work because he is J.J. That gave me the opportunity to talk to him and I felt like I knew him forever and I very much enjoyed that. Obviously, his expertise comes into the show at a lot of levels that we don't see as actors, because he is interacting with creators and the writing team. He reads everything. He is a part of everything. I think it is probably very easy for an actor to take for granted that he is even there. However, I am very well aware that he is there, that he is commenting and is involved in every part of the show. That's his job -- overlord, overseer.
You also worked on 'Breaking Bad'. Did you know from the outset that it would such a special show?
I loved the quality of the show. When I joined it, I came in as a guest star but I didn't want to be a guest star and I said, 'No,' at first. People who loved the show and people who I trust said, 'You must consider this!' So I watched an episode and thought, 'This is a different way of making little movies every week.' I went there and I was blown away by a couple of things.
Things didn't end well for Gustavo Fring, here with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in 'Breaking Bad'
One is that it was outside of Hollywood and [creator] Vince Gilligan was true to his vision and made a show that he believed in and they allowed me to have a voice within that show. They offered me some guest episodes and I said that I didn't want to do that. I wanted to be part of the family so I could grow too. And also I was very interested in that character, Gustavo Fring, and how to make him complicated and interesting and very, very different from anything that we had seen before. Then they were so grateful because they said I changed the trajectory and route of their show. They said to me, 'We wouldn't be here where we are now in Season Four without you.'
So for me that was a great experience, a great learning experience, a great contributory experience of being part of a great ensemble family and cast which obviously rolled in to this.
You've appeared in a lot of great films -- Do the Right Thing, King of New York, The Usual Suspects. You must have some wonderful memories...
I remember with The Usual Suspects I was at Cannes. A British producer gave me a script. He said, 'I have the money for this film; I have all these great actors, would you read it? Our writer really thinks you are the guy to play this role.' I read it and I didn't understand it. Three days later I read it again. I was sitting in my hotel going, 'Oh, my God. This is the most brilliant thing I have ever read.' I love the brains of [writer] Chris McQuarrie and Bryan Singer, who directed it, and I thought, 'Wow. I am in the right place at the right time, playing the right role,' and I was very thankful. I remember that we were all in a scene together in the first rehearsal, doing the read-through, and Benicio started talking in this mumbling manner and the whole room stopped. Everybody! We thought, 'This is a brilliant script, with brilliant actors and Benicio is talking like he's retarded!' Everybody turned to him but he had the courage to read the whole read-through like that and I finally had the courage to say, 'Are you really going to talk like that?' He mumbled, 'Yeah.' Everybody was chagrined at the time, but his was an absolutely brilliant choice!
'Revolution' season one is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 30 September. Watch the trailer below...