Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the chillingly calm Breaking Bad drug lord who lost a battle with a wheelchair bomb in the Breaking Bad season 4 finale, confirmed his return to action in the Bad prequel on Wednesday. No other information was given (hints about story lines, number of episodes, etc.), beyond a commercial for Fring’s fast-food chicken restaurant chain Los Pollos Hermanos. But on Saturday at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, California, Esposito was a surprise guest at AMC’s Better Call Saul panel, personally delivering boxes of Los Pollos Hermanos chicken to reporters, while declaring “Anyone hungry out there? We have some chicken for you. The best chicken in the world!… Los Pollos Hermanos — where something good is always cooking!”
“I tried some,” cast member Michael McKean quipped. “I was up for two weeks.” (It was actually pretty tasty.)
Esposito explained that while he was “honored to be asked to come back and recreate this character,” he had to remind himself that Gus was “a little more immature from when we left off. I’m reminding myself that he’s still finding his way, business man that he is, in regards to where we left off where he was at with the cartel.”
As for what to expect in the new batch of episodes, “we unroll it in a way that will leave you with a thirst,” says Esposito. “We’re in a show that’s very unexpected. Jimmy McGill is a character who you look at and just when you think he’s slopping off of all of those characteristics that you’ve seen, he comes right back to a place where you’re surprised by it, so I’m hoping that Gustavo Fring will be similar in that way.”
Did he have any apprehensions about revisiting a character who was so beloved and ended in such a satisfying — if gruesome — way? “It was a process that did take some time but once Vince [Gilligan, series co-creator] called me — I love being with this family of filmmakers,” he said, quipping, “But I also mentioned that it would be wonderful for me to realize if the show were something about the rise of Gus. I think there’s enough backstory within Gus to support that. … But that didn’t stop me from wanting to be a part of this particular group.” Saul star Jonathan Banks chimed in at this moment, jokingly asking Esposito if he held their feet to the fire and inquired about how much money he was making, to which Esposito retorted: “Not as much as you.”
It was Esposito’s idea to reintroduce Gus through the Los Pollos Hermanos, which, by the way, did first air on a local channel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before spreading on the internet. Another revelation: Banks revealed that Esposito is always late for filming — “The man has never been on time” — an allegation that Esposito emphatically denied. “I’m always on time and when the cameras are rolling, I’m ready. The difference between me and you is that I have hair and it’s done when I get there!”
Gilligan and co-creator Peter Gould cautioned after the panel that you shouldn’t necessarily plan on seeing him in the first episode of season 3 — and teased that episode 2 might be a safer bet.
In other Saul news, the producers brought along a peek at a new episode. (Back in November, EW unveiled the first look at season 3 and earlier this month, a promo with a few seconds of footage from the season was released. ) The clip featured questionable lawyer Jimmy McGill, a.k.a. Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), and slightly more moral lawyer Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) trying to make their separate law practices under the same roof, while Jimmy’s mind also seemed occupied with his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), with whom much bad blood has been flowing. You can check it out below.
In addition, Gould indicated Jimmy’s transformation into Saul loomed closer than ever: He said that during the first two seasons, which showed Jimmy being a relatively good person at heart, he wondered how they were ever going to get Jimmy to make the leap into Saul Goodman. “But I have to say this season, as it progressed, I started to understand it a little better,” he noted. “It takes a lot of pressure to turn a lump of coal into a diamond, and it takes a helluva lot of pressure to turn a good man — or at least a decent man — like Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman.” Joked Odenkirk: “You mean a diamond into a lump of coal.”
As for the plan for Jimmy and Kim, Gould hinted that with the brothers’ relationship in a rocky place, “what else does this guy have left?” He raised the question of how far Jimmy would go in his relationship with Kim to make it what he wanted it to be. “Those are things that drive him — and they drive him to great lengths,” he said,
You don’t have to go great lengths to wonder when you can see new episodes of Saul: AMC announced on Saturday that season 3 will commence on April 10 at 10 p.m. ET.