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Remote Controlled: Giovanni Ribisi on What Convinced Him to Do ‘Sneaky Pete’

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks to “Sneaky Pete” star Giovanni Ribisi about what finally drew him to scripted television, what he learned working with executive producer/star Bryan Cranston, and why he wants to direct for Season 2.

As an actor for nearly 30 years, Ribisi had always avoided doing television because of the “massive commitment” it entailed, he says. “That was always a big aversion to me,” he says. “Then this came down the pike, and it involved one of my favorite actors, Bryan Cranston….I’m just trying to do things that I promised myself I would never do to try to push myself outside of the box and just explore a little bit.”

The series also evolved from its first concept when it was more of a procedural at CBS to its eventual home at Amazon under showrunner Graham Yost. “It was like this explosion at first where everything just fell apart, and then it all just came back together in this way that I think we were all really excited about,” he says. “I think that one of the things you learn about when you’re doing a television show is because you don’t necessarily have the whole season or you’re not necessarily privy to the entire season, all the specifics of it, of how it maps out, or how the story unfolds, so it really is your decisions and the thing that you want to nurture for the best show. It’s really about the relationships and the people that are working on the show and cultivating that and making sure that that dynamic is developed because that’s where the story’s going to come from.”

Giovanni Ribisi photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Ribisi praises the experience of working with his co-star Cranston, who also served as an executive producer and writer on “Sneaky Pete.” “‘Breaking Bad’ really just opened the floodgates for me for television and I think for a lot of people,” he says. “I think that he was very specific about not knowing anything about how the season unfolded or the subsequent episodes. He just wanted to concentrate on what was there. Because a lot of, I think, acting and a lot of going through an experience and the great thing is the dangerous cliffhanging sensation of training yourself to not know.”

Adds Ribisi, “I just have an immense amount of respect for him.”

He reveals that he’s going to be directing the second episode of the second season. “That’s my passion,” he says. “It was just something that I want to do only because I think that I really want to support the show in every way and in any way I can. I think that also doing that helps you have a more of a perspective on it, and for that reason I think it helps the acting. I think it helps the performance.”

You can listen to this episode here:

New episodes of Remote Controlled are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes of Remote Controlled here.

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