Actor Giancarlo Esposito, best known for playing the role of Gustavo Fringe in the television show Breaking Bad, spoke to students Thursday night in the Commons ballroom.
He discussed a variety of topics including his initial childhood acting roles , his experience being on the cast of Breaking Bad, and his views on the importance inner peace. He also gave life advice to the crowd and encouraged everyone to view everyday as a new opportunity to redefine themselves.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan often referred to the show as one of transformation. The show followed the progression of Walter White from a high school chemistry teacher into a meth drug lord. During his speech Esposito encouraged students to be open to transformation in their personal lives.
He feels that many people are hesitant to disrupt the status quo and therefore are stuck in jobs that they don’t enjoy.
“ I urge all of you to be in the spirit of what sparks your passion and what resounds for you,” Esposito said. “If you follow that thread you’ll never be lost. You won’t be afraid of change. Change is an open door. Change is good”
He advised students to pursue a career that feels like play and not work. “If you wake up every morning and think of it as drudgery, it will be so,” he said.
Esposito spoke of his background and heritage of being half-Italian and half African-American. Born in Denmark he spent his early life in Rome before moving to New York City at age six. Upon moving there, Esposito was suddenly labeled as “black.”
“Do I really have to be just one thing? Can’t I just be a human being?” He recalls thinking.
He said that acting enabled him to keep recreating himself and not be labeled into a specific category.
Esposito also revealed some insight into his experience on Breaking Bad. By taking on the role he hoped to be involved with a show that would tell people about the country’s drug problem.
“I wanted the public, I wanted to be in a show that exposed the surge of methamphetamine use in the United States,” he said.
Esposito was nominated for an outstanding supporting actor in a drama series at the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Fringe.
He particularly liked playing the Fringe character because he wasn’t a stereotypical mobster. Even though Esposito is not a large, intimidating actor, he felt that he was fit for the role of the uniqueness of the character.
“Creating a stillness within myself, I could be accomplishing something that would serve the exercise,” he said. “And because of [ Fringe’s] difference and because of [Fringe’s] silence it could be most effective.”
When his character was killed off, he said he was sad to leave his Breaking Bad family, but embraced the opportunity to try new roles and was open to the change. He hinted at the possibility of returning to Gus Fringe role in a sequel, but said nothing was set in stone.
Junior VCU student Ted Leinbach enjoyed getting to know Esposito outside of his Breaking Bad role. “It was easy to disassociate the person, Giancarlo, with the character, Gus, because of his charismatic personality,” Leinbach said. “ He was inspiring, influential and funny, really the whole package.”