Fans of “Breaking Bad” saw the character of Gustavo “Gus” Fring, as played by Giancarlo Esposito, come to a very definitive end. But, he exists in TV where death is not necessarily permanent.
Fring has resurfaced through the “Breaking Bad” sequel, “Better Call Saul,” that returns for a third season at 10 p.m. Monday, April 10, on AMC. The prequel sets up the character that would eventually become a foil for Walter White (Bryan Cranston) on “Breaking Bad.”
Esposito told TV critics that he was excited about returning to the role both because it’s a great character and because he liked working with series creator, Vince Gilligan, and his team so much. Slipping back into the role took a little preparation.
“I had to remind myself, in coming back, to be very present within the character, and that we were at a time where he is a little more immature than where we left off,” Esposito says. “So I’m reminding myself that he’s still finding his way to the businessman that he is, and finding his way in regard to where we left off, where he was at with the cartel.”
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The one thing that will be similar is the way Esposito approaches the role. He’s also played the character as someone who doesn’t necessarily stand out and doesn’t reveal his agendas. The only twist with “Better Call Saul” is that fans of the character already know who he will eventually come.
Esposito knows that sometimes it’s more exciting to have a character that’s a little bit more mysterious because viewers are left with wanting to know more. But the way both “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” twist and turn plots leaves a lot of opportunity for surprising viewers.
“We’re in a show that’s very unexpected. Jimmy McGill, who is a character that you look at and you think he could be one way, and just when you think he’s moving toward that, he comes right back to a place where you go, you’re surprised by it. So I’m hoping that Gustavo Fring will be similar in that way and resemble that kind of trajectory as well,” Esposito says.
Talking to Esposito for “Better Call Saul” is very different than my first chance to chat with him. He was one of the stars of the short-lived comedy, “Bakersfield P.D.” in the early 90s. I got to chat with him on the set of the series while he was playing Detective Paul Gigante on the offbeat comedy.
One of the major sets on the FX series “Feud: Bette and Joan” is the home of Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). The interior of the home was built on a massive sound stage in Los Angeles through the work of production designer Judy Becker.
The woman behind the show’s design describes the details of her work during a tour of the set.
“There are a lot of horse sculptures. That’s because Joan was very good friends with a well known decorator of the time, William Haines, who started out as an actor and then became a pretty famous interior designer. He first redesigned her house and kept redesigning them, and one of his innovations in design was to take Asian art and Asian sculpture and turn it into lamps and other things,” Becker says. “So he took a lot of these horse heads and made them into lamps, and that’s why we did that.
“He also designed all the furniture that’s in the living room. The kind of tufted furniture. We made those for the show, but they’re based on his designs, which cost a fortune now if can find them. And Joan had all that furniture in her real house, and she also had plastic slipcovers on everything.”
Details include a portrait of Lange as Joan Crawford over the mantel.
The sets had to be built because the original Crawford mansion could not be used because, due to renovations, it now looks like it was built in the 1980s.
She also had to recreate the restaurant, Perino’s, that was one of the main hangouts for the rich and famous. The round layout of the restaurant was designed to make sure that whoever got the center table would be the center of attention and that all the patrons could see each other.
Many of the details in the set can’t be fully appreciated with one viewing. Becker kept the circular look all through the set from doorways to the phone booth. For those of you born in this century, a phone booth is an old fashioned place in a business where people could use a public phone.
“We definitely took creative liberties because you always do. You almost never reproduce reality the way it is in reality, whether it’s period or not. We did not try to modernize it, so the liberties we took would be more for space or to make a statement about the characters or to make a statement about the color palette of the show,” Becker says.
The restaurant set built for the mini-series is actually smaller by 10 to 15 feet from the original. The original dimensions would be too big for the soundstage.
Smart idea: Neil Patrick Harris hosts NBC’s new game show “Genius Junior,” which celebrates the brightest children in America.
Twelve teams of children compete to be crowned Genius Junior. Over five rounds teams of three children will have to work together to beat the competition. It’s not enough to win a spelling bee, be a mathlete or even a memory champion — to win “Genius Junior” you have to be brilliant at everything.
No launch date has been announced.