Part of what makes Giancarlo Esposito so chilling on Breaking Bad is his stillness.
As Gus, the fast-food entrepreneur and secret, psychopathic meth crime lord, he employs such economy in his movements, such softness in his speech, that it magnifies his ferocity by belying it. (Wait until the Season 4 premiere of the AMC series, July 17, to see just how much Esposito can do by doing almost nothing at all in one intense, savage — and utterly silent — 10 minutes of screen time.)
So when it was announced last night that he had signed on to the feature film I, Alex Cross as another crime lord, the news almost struck a note of ambivalence: It’s great news for an actor who should be utilized more often in Hollywood and has more than distinguished himself in movies such as Do the Right Thing and The Usual Suspects. But also, he has given life to one of TV’s truly unique villains.
On the other hand, would this I, Alex Cross kingpin just be another quiet, unsmiling menace? Gus 2.0? It would be a shame if, after helping create a character so striking, Esposito were just called on to repeat himself.
Thankfully, that doesn’t sound like the case as Esposito described the role of Daramus Holiday — a street thug who ascended to dominance and has a long, mournful history with the detective Alex Cross (previously played by Morgan Freeman, but now by Tyler Perry in this reboot of the franchise loosely based on James Patterson’s mystery novels).
“I got the (script) while working a couple very brutal, brutal — in more ways than one scenes — for me in Albuquerque,” Esposito tells EW. Initially the language didn’t work for him, but after putting it down and picking it up a few times, the actor says, “It hit me in a whole different way.”
While Gus tends to says little, Holiday’s speech is like “a cross between a film noir and a contemporary rap song,” he says. “The tone of this Daramus Holiday character came to me in a whisper. They’ve written him to be hip, powerful, cool and strong. I could hear it like music in my brain.”
Esposito describes one seven-page scene between the detective and the thug as “a fabulous piece of dealmaking, a fabulous negotiation. The threats come and you expect a character to be afraid for his life, but they’re each like, ‘I own this.’”
The plot involves a search for a serial killer, but Cross also suspects Holiday had some role in the long-ago murder of his wife. By the end of the scene, he’ll either have answers, or know which are the wrong questions.
For Esposito, taking the role also had some personal benefits — his 15-year-old daughter loves the Patterson novels and wants to study forensic pathology because of them.
“Whenever you can be cast in something your kids might watch it’s terrific,” Esposito says, sounding much more cheerful than Gus ever is.
I, Alex Cross is directed by Rob Cohen (2001’s The Fast and the Furious) and is set to begin shooting in August.
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