‘Better Call Saul’: Giancarlo Esposito’s Gustavo Fring Returns for Season 3

Los Pollos Hermanos is open for business. Producers of “Better Call Saul” had a treat for reporters Saturday evening as AMC wrapped up its Television Critics Association presentation with a panel on the show’s third season, which bows April 10.

The surprise guest at the panel was Giancarlo Esposito, who played a key role in “Breaking Bad” as the meth supplier Gustavo Fring, who also runs a local fast-food chicken joint. Esposito got a round of applause as he walked on the TCA stage in Pasadena, Calif., confirming his involvement in the prequel series starring Bob Odenkirk.

Returning to the character was exciting for Esposito as an actor. But it’s a different Fring than the coolly efficient drug distribution middleman that he played on “Breaking Bad.” For one thing, he’s less experienced.

“We are at a time when he is a little more immature,” Esposito said. “He’s still finding his way. Gus is a very cagey character.”

Esposito is enjoying the challenge. “Sometimes it’s more exciting to have a character that’s a little bit more mysterious. We’re left wanting to know more,” he said.

Esposito is expected to make his appearance in the second episode of the new season. Co-creator Vince Gilligan directed the first two episodes.

The camaraderie of the “Breaking Bad” alums was on display when Esposito was asked if he had any reservations about coming back to the role. As Esposito began to offer a very actorly answer, co-star Jonathan Banks interjected: “How much are you making?” Esposito shot back: “Not as much as you.”

Among other highlights from the panel:

  • Co-creator/exec producer Peter Gould admitted that he’s only now starting to get a real handle on how Odenkirk’s title character transforms from the earnest Jimmy McGill to the crooked Saul Goodman. McGill may have a shady side to him but he has a core sense of decency that will eventually evaporate. “This season as it progressed, I started to understand it a little bit better. You’ll see that it takes a lot of pressure to turn a lump of coal into a diamond. It takes a hell of a lot of pressure to turn a decent man into Saul Goodman.
  • Michael McKean, who plays the straight-laced older brother Chuck McGill, said the actors have no long-term insights into the storyline. “None of us in this room know whether or not we’re going to die tomorrow,” he said.
  • Rhea Seahorn, who plays Jimmy McGill’s love interest Kim Weller, said she enjoys getting to watch the story unfold as a fan even as she works on the show. “I don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about (Kim’s future),” she said. She also said she’s been impressed at how fans have embraced characters such as hers who are not part of the original “Breaking Bad” canon. “It’s riveting to me to watch people hurtle toward a destiny that I know,” along with the mystery of what becomes of the new characters, she said.
  • Gould hinted that time jumps could become more frequent as the show likes having the option of moving backwards and forwards in the chronology of the characters. “In some ways it’s also a sequel to ‘Breaking Bad’ — who knows what we’re going to see,” he said.
  • When Gould tap-danced around a question about whether there would be more sequel material, Odenkirk jumped to the reporter’s defense. “Will you give this lady just a little tidbit of something,” he implored Gould. To which Gilligan responded: “If 2016 taught us nothing else, it’s that anything is possible.”

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