Better Call Saul‘s third season is currently airing on AMC and continues to garner a distinctly positive response from fans and critics alike, with partial thanks to the return of Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring, who the actor describes as “more vulnerable” in the prequel series. Better Call Saul features Bob Odenkirk’s James McGill (otherwise known as Saul Goodman) and reliable man for hire, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and chronicles the duo’s misadventures in the days prior to Breaking Bad.
The show’s third season has noticeably increased elements from Better Call Saul‘s more famous parent series, the most significant of which being the aforementioned return of genius drug lord, Gustavo Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito. Unlike Jimmy and Mike, who are attempting to live relatively law-abiding lives, the Better Call Saul version of Gus is very much a criminal when introduced, although he isn’t yet the mastermind viewers will remember faced off against Bryan Cranston.
In a new interview with NPR, Esposito dug into some of the nuances involved in resurrecting his character for a prequel series and attempting to craft an earlier, rougher version of a villain that is iconic for many TV fans. Esposito states:
“It was a very interesting journey to think youthfully, I wanted a Gus that was more vulnerable, a Gus that was… not so definitive, knowing where he was going, but not knowing exactly how to get there.”
The actor also had a few words to say on how he creates Fring’s distinctive vocal tones, claiming:
“I try to let the words speak to me and jump off the page in silence, so I can hear the rhythm of what they are trying to write… and then allowing my voice to join it in a whisper… and from that whisper comes a sound, so that I can allow what the writers have honored in this character, and my voice, to join together in a seamless way.”
To this end, Esposito and the Better Call Saul team (which includes Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan) have certainly achieved the type of character they were aiming for. Gus Fring’s recognizable cold and calm demeanor is very much present but the character doesn’t always seem completely in control, something his later self would become renowned for. The interview also reaffirms Esposito’s fondness for the character, after recently claiming that he’d be up for his own spinoff show.
For some, the return of Fring this season could be seen as a cynical attempt by Better Call Saul to play on fans’ fond memories of Breaking Bad and take advantage of that show’s huge reputation. After all, while B.C.S. has been a critical success, it hasn’t attracted as many viewers as the adventures of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman did a few years ago.
However, as any viewer of Better Call Saul can attest, the series is very much its own unique entity and the addition of Gus has only served to enhance story elements that were already present. Sure, there is a certain novelty in seeing such a gripping and intense character returning to the small screen but to dismiss Gus’ return as a shallow attempt to tempt in new viewers does a disservice to the character and his role in this prequel.
Better Call Saul continues June 12th with ‘Fall’ on AMC.