Giancarlo Esposito spoke at the University of Florida in mid-February of this year. He was interested in what UF has to offer or in the potential of UF students to create the kind of world he wants to live in. UF Accent Speakers Bureau hosted the event where the 64-year-old actor, director, and producer spoke with Ted Spiker, UF College of Journalism Chair. He encouraged students to stick with what inspires them and make their dreams come true.
“That moment of inspiration that comes to you from the pit of your stomach — that makes you think ‘I’ll never find the money to do this,’ ‘I’ll never get the investment,’ ‘It might be a good idea,’ Esposito said. “That moment of doubt? Throw it away.”
Esposito’s nine-year stint as New Mexico drug lord Gus Fring in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” made him famous. Fans waited in a long line that stretched outside the University Auditorium and onto 13th Street to hear him speak. Some wore yellow hazmat suits and Los Pollos Hermanos T-shirts, staples of “Breaking Bad.” An 18-year-old UF history freshman Tomas Cerniglia and 18-year-old UF computer science student Matt Brown waited in line for over two hours dressed as characters Saul Goodman and Walter White.
Esposito discussed how his biracial identity affected his worldview, with his European upbringing complicating his identity when he came to America.
“When I came to America, I suddenly became Black,” he said. “I refused that label because I wanted people to know who I was.”
He also talked about how he develops complex characters, such as Fring, crediting the space between the lines. He believes that how you do anything is how you do everything, as the expression is entwined with daily life, informing our character.
“My interpretation came out of leaving space, being meticulous, bringing parts of myself that I felt would really bring Gus alive,” said Esposito. “A picture speaks louder than words. Being an actor, you put all that together and its poetry in motion.”
The Gator Star Wars club sat VIP in the front rows. It erupted into applause when Esposito discussed his role as villain Moff Gideon in “The Mandalorian.” A UF history sophomore, Dooley held up a homemade poster she hoped Esposito would sign. The actor said that he had been a fan of the Star Wars franchise since he was a kid and had wanted to be a part of the universe. So when he received the offer from director and friend John Favreau, Esposito requested a cape.
“Part of life is to allow the child within you to live and to grow,” he said, “I grew up fast, I lost some of those opportunities, but I’m getting it back now. I stood in that mirror, and I just blew that cape back.”
Esposito ended the event by answering student questions ranging from his favorite collaborators to requests to be his Valentine. Esposito received a standing ovation as the event ended, and fans rushed to the edge of the stage with pens and memorabilia. He carefully signed dollar bills, PopCorners bags, beakers, hazmat suits, and lightsabers. Although the actor was ushered off the stage, he stopped to sign Dooley’s homemade poster. She was thankful for the incredible evening as a massive fan.
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