Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito Reveals How Miami Vice Affected Gus Fring

Gus Fring

Giancarlo Esposito's Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul character Gus Fring is one of the most acclaimed villains of modern television, so it may be surprising to hear Esposito's inspiration for the character came from a classic television series. Esposito revealed his time on the cop drama Miami Vice certainly played a factor in creating Gus Fring, but it wasn't one of the characters he played on the former series that inspired him. Instead, Esposito said his inspiration came from a cop, specifically Edward James Olmos' Lt. Castillo:

He wasn't a guy that seemed like a stereotypical police captain who runs around yelling orders, telling people what to do. He was very laid back and very, very relaxed. And I wanted to take it even further. I wanted to make Gus more of an observer than anything else and I wanted to make him completely unreadable.... Only a little bit of twinkle in his eye or fear or 'What is this guy thinking?' from the audience standpoint, so that they were not really knowing what decision Gus might make.

Fans of Gus Fring need only watch a couple clips of Edward James Olmos in Miami Vice before they see exactly what Giancarlo Esposito is talking about. Miami Vice's Lieutenant Martin Castillo has that same air of mystery and calmness that makes Gus Fring so creepy, although it's only creepy in the regard that the audience knows Fring is a bad guy. Much like how Olmos broke the stereotype for a police captain with his portrayal of Castillo, Esposito channeled that calmness and unreadable nature and created an iconic villain certainly different from the average drug kingpin character.

Lt. Castilo Edward James Olmos Miami Vice NBC

Miami Vice wasn't the only inspiration Giancarlo Esposito drew from while creating Gus Fring, however, as the actor also credited mafia shows and yoga to shaping his character. Esposito, who may have been watching someone's head put in a vice whilst performing a volcano pose, explained to EW how both helped him achieve Gus' zen:

I thought of the majority of mobster movies and also James Gandolfini's performance in The Sopranos --- a very volatile, very powerful guy but obviously a little more colorful of a mobster than we've seen. I thought I could harness the calm, and what yoga did is to help me be calm and leave space in between the question and the answer within a scene.... For me, that breadth of space left time for Gus to be.

As for what created the rest of Gus Fring, Giancarlo Esposito says he owes a lot of credit to Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan. It was Gilligan who created the friendly hiding in plain sight businessman persona, which certainly helped compliment what Esposito brought to the table as Fring. Esposito found that part of Fring really interesting, and noted it makes his character's scenes in Breaking Bad like the "box cutter scene," that much more intense.

Giancarlo Esposito will be back as Gus Fring for what looks to be an exciting Season 4 of Better Call Saul, which premieres on AMC Monday, August 6 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out what's coming to television in the meantime by visiting our summer premiere guide, or read about why Bob Odenkirk isn't all that happy to see Jimmy transition to Saul.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.