The Mandalorian’s Giancarlo Esposito Reflects On Playing A Non-White Villain In The Star Wars Universe

The Mandalorian has introduced several characters into Star Wars lore that have already endeared themselves to fans. This includes the mysterious Moff Gideon, played by Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul alum Giancarlo Esposito. The Imperial commander only appeared in the final two episodes of the season, but his demanding presence earned him instant respect among fans and landed Esposito an Emmy Nod for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. It doesn’t even need to be said that Esposito has more than proven himself as an actor over the past several decades. Yet it isn’t lost on him that he gets to play a Star Wars villain that isn’t a white man:

Well, it means a lot to me because I’ve strived in my career to be colorless. I am of mixed race, half Italian, half African American, and I grew through the period of time where I was relegated to playing thieves and thugs. I learned how to do a Spanish accent, to play Spanish street characters, who were murderers, killers, robbers, the like. So for me, it’s a crowning moment when I could get a phone call from Jon Favreau, to say, ‘I wrote a role for you.'

It has to be a good feeling to know that a creative took the time to craft a role meant solely for you and, during a time in which people of color are still craving representation, it likely means the world. Having seen the obstacles many people of color face when coming up in Hollywood, Esposito tells IndieWire he’s glad to see progress is being made when it comes to who gets what roles:

Certainly I’m captivated and in wonder and enthusiasm that this character could be, and is, me; someone who has an understanding of what race and status mean here in America and has suffered of that as well. But my Hollywood family has grown throughout the years to become more and more understanding that we are special, because actors are actors, and you don’t have to be a color to play a role.

It may not seem like much to some, but seeing a character like Giancarlo Esposito’s in the Star Wars universe is so important to so many. It’s crazy to think that the franchise has been around for over 40 years and there have still been few BIPOC characters in major roles.

Now, that’s not to say there haven’t been any strides for Star Wars in this particular area, as actors like John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Kelly Marie Tran were cast in prominent roles over the last few years. But honestly, even their characters were somewhat shortchanged when it came to their stories.

Moff Gideon’s presence in The Mandalorian has been small so far, but he’s off to a good start. And Esposito is already teasing that Season 2 will shed more light on his backstory, especially when it comes to that Darksaber he was wielding in the season finale. Let’s hope that both Esposito and Jon Favreau can continue to give this character the layers he deserves.

The Mandalorian Season 1 is currently streaming on Disney+, while the second season is slated to premiere on the streamer this fall.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.