In AMC’s ‘Parish,’ Actor Giancarlo Esposito Drives Story: NPR

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Giancarlo Esposito as Parroquia Gracián (Gray).

Eliot Brasseaux/AMC


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Giancarlo Esposito as Parroquia Gracián (Gray).

Eliot Brasseaux/AMC

“I’m tired of being the passenger of my own life,” says Giancarlo Esposito in the first episode of AMC Parish. It’s a sentiment that holds true for both the actor and Gracian Parish, the main character he plays.

Parish premieres on AMC on Sunday, March 31.

Esposito, the actor best known for playing villainous characters, such as drug lord Gus Fring in Breaking Bad and Better call Saul – is finally behind the wheel as a hero, or perhaps antihero, in a series he executive produced.

If you are looking for a show to relax at, Parish It’s probably not for you. Within the first three minutes, Gracian “Gray” Parish is already skidding through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Soon, “you get the feeling that maybe he had a past life, which starts to come to light when an old friend who spent some time in prison finds him,” Esposito told NPR. That friend, played by Skeet Ulrich, asks Parish for help: he needs a driver for a businessman he knows.

Esposito’s character quickly discovers that “businessman” is actually code for the Zimbabwean gangster involved in human trafficking.

As the story progresses, you realize that Parish needs cash for his black car business and needs answers about his son’s murder.

So the previously retired criminal driver is dragged back into the fold.

It’s a familiar premise, of course. But Esposito said what attracted him to this new American version of the BBC series. Driver It was the character’s possibility of nuance.

“One thing I’ve cultivated in my career is that you can say things without words and say them with actions or facial expressions,” he said. That career began on stage before Esposito appeared on screen in Commercial places and Spike Lee movies like Do the right thing and More better blues.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in season 4 of Breaking Bad.

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Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in season 4 of Breaking Bad.

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Esposito Breaking Bad His co-star Bryan Cranston said that decades before the two had the opportunity to work opposite each other as dueling drug dealers, he was impressed by Esposito’s menacing stage presence in a 1984 Off-Broadway production of Balm in Gilead.

“In this play he played a street drug dealer, but he was so committed and so believable that I thought he was a guy who came off the street to start selling drugs to the public,” Cranston said.

Esposito remembers playing the role of Ernesto in Balm in Gilead Well. She would go out into the audience with a Polaroid camera as people filed into the theater to see the show.

“When they came in and sat down, I would rush them to take a Polaroid. And some people thought it was free and I was like, ‘No, this is like ten dollars a photo.’ People who thought I was joking tried to keep it in their pocket. pocket… I remember I had a switchblade, I would take it out and open it, and people would get scared.

A nervous stage manager confiscated his knife after some complaints from the audience, but Esposito said he brought a new one the next night. He also said he took profits from his Polaroid business and used them to fund cast parties.

It’s that kind of commitment to the craft that another Breaking Bad recalls his co-star, Bob Odenkirk.

“Giancarlo is present in every aspect of this effort,” Odenkirk said. “He’s there to analyze the script, ask what matters (and) prepare it.”

Esposito later joined Odenkirk again in the prequel series. Better call Saul.

“What you always look for in a role is a subtext that is almost contradictory to the text,” Odenkirk explained. “I just think Giancarlo played (Gus Fring) with so much texture and subtlety that he had a rich inner life.”

That subtle texture has become Esposito’s calling card.

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But Esposito said his newest character, Parish, is more true to his own life.

“For me, this is the highlight of my career. Being able to be in a position where I can really be closer to who I am,” he said. And yes, Gray Parish is a criminal. But he is also a legitimate businessman and family man. (Paula Malcomson plays his wife and Arica Himmel plays his daughter.)

Esposito has said that the situation Parish finds himself in on the show — drowning in debt, a failing marriage — sounds familiar to him. He’s been through it himself.

“Having four daughters has taught me a lot,” Esposito said.

They’ve taught him to be more open, and not just about the parts of his life he’s proud of, but also about the things that are in the shadows. It’s important, he said, because his children watch him on and off the screen.

“I realize: They see what I do. They hear how I sound. They feel how I feel,” Esposito said. “We’ve all become very close, so I can’t be an enigma to them anymore, because I’m at a level in my life where I’m just like everyone else. I want to live a good life and make a good life.” transition (or) death. “Although I tell my kids I’m not going to die, so you guys are stuck with me forever.”

Esposito just jokes a little. He says that he still feels like his own parents, even though they are gone for a while. His father, Giovanni Esposito, was an Italian carpenter and stagehand. His mother, Elizabeth Foster, was an opera singer from Alabama. They met on one of Foster’s tours.

“My parents gave me the love of music, the love of the arts, the respect for what happens in movement in film, music and dance. They gave me the creative essence that I love and enjoy today,” Esposito said. . “They also passed on a lot of their past trauma to me, which has taught me that generational trauma exists. They both passed away a while ago, but I feel the healing of my own life healing their resting place.”

Esposito is grateful for the gifts his parents gave him and recognizes their pain.

“Every time I… feel my dad, who was very Italian, very demonstrative, in his own way or on the road… Every time that occurs to me, I stop, take a deep breath and say: ‘That’s my father.’ “That’s Giovanni. That’s not me. “I don’t have to be him. I can be me. I can heal that space that he couldn’t heal on his own, and it’s the same with my mother,” Esposito said.

Esposito recalled that his mother never got as far as she wanted in show business.

“Every time I break through and become more myself and commit more deeply to my craft, and I’m recognized because, ‘Oh, you’re so good and wonderful,’ I know what’s really being said. It’s not my ego that’s listen to it. It’s my soul. You’re really good at what you do. You’ve really created a craft,” Esposito said.

That ship is on display at Parishwhile taking the wheel effortlessly.

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