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Salvatore Esposito Talks Fargo, Breaking Into Hollywood, And More - Exclusive Interview

Salvatore Esposito is already a big deal in his native Italy, where he stars in the wildly popular TV series Gomorrah. Now he hopes that Italian A-list status rubs off in the United States, after landing his first American role in season 4 of the award-winning FX hit show Fargo.

As Gaetano Fadda, an unhinged Italian mafia gangster in 1950s Kansas City, Missouri, Esposito stars alongside such veteran American actors as Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, and Timothy Olyphant. As brother to recently promoted crime lord Josto (Schwartzman), Gaetano stirs up trouble not only with the area's rival gang but also within his own clan, making Esposito's role as memorable as it is antagonistic.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Esposito, whose first language is Italian, went into detail about what makes his Fargo character tick, where he hopes his acting career is headed, and the real-life brotherly bond he shares with Schwartzman.

Salvatore Esposito formed a fraternal bond with Jason Schwartzman during the filming of Fargo

Fargo is your first American project. What was it like working with such a talented cast?

I'm so lucky because after [Fargo premieres], Gomorrah will be out in the U.S. on HBO Max, I think, this autumn. And I'm also very lucky that [Fargo creator] Noah Hawley chose me for this crazy character, Gaetano. I'm really excited because the cast was amazing. With Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, Jessie Buckley, there are a lot of amazing actors. It was such an honor to work with them, and I grew as an actor because of them. I'm so very lucky to be part of this amazing show.

Any fun or memorable stories from the set with Chris Rock or Jason Schwartzman?

I can tell you a lot of stories about me and Jason because while filming the show, during our normal life, we hung out a lot. From October to March, before the COVID-19 situation, we went to the theater to watch movies. We have a relationship like real brothers.

And with Chris, it was amazing too, because when we are on set, we play a lot, he's so funny. All the cast is great actors and actresses and beautiful people, so it was an amazing experience.

Did either Chris or Jason give you any advice about maneuvering through Hollywood? Or did you learn anything just by watching them on set?

No. But I did grow up as an actor. I come from Italy, where we make movies and TV shows, but it's not like the U.S. In the U.S., it's such a big machine and you have to be good enough to run with these amazing actors. I hope I am ready now, and I hope that I play my cards well with this TV show, because this is my first experience in the U.S. I hope after this there will be a lot of new experiences.

Salvatore Esposito sees his Fargo character as a raging bull ready to explode

Your Fargo performance evokes a bit of the Corleone family in The Godfather. Were you a fan of the Godfather movies? Did you draw any inspiration from Marlon Brando and James Caan?

For me, The Godfather is like a religion. Who doesn't love The Godfather and its amazing cast? Growing up, I followed actors like Brando, Pacino — they are like gods to me. And with Gaetano I tried to do my way of gangsters in the '50s; a gangster that comes from Italy, but [lives] in the U.S. So he's a mix.

In Fargo, we wanted to do some Gaetano scenes in Italian and other scenes in English. I talked with Noah Hawley and the writers and said, "Look, I want to mix my lines — I want to say some lines in Italian and some in English." I wanted to mix my ways of acting, so I created with them the way Gaetano looked and acted. His eyes are always like a bull, a raging bull. I hope I did a good job.

Your character's eyes are definitely very expressive. How did you come up with that?

In my way of acting, I work a lot with animals because I think that with animals, you can explain something that maybe with a person you can't do. So I work a lot while thinking about a bull. For me Gaetano is like a bull, he can kill you at any moment. So with his eyes and his way of breathing, you see rage inside of him. And at the end of the season, you will understand why. He grew up this way. Still, I love the relationship between him and Josto, because there's this war, this cold war between them. And we will see at the end what this relationship becomes.

Your character is quite a force to reckon with on the show, and he takes things in a new direction when he calls for the hit on Loy Cannon's son. Can you tell me more about what you tried to bring to the character and show in episodes two and three?

Gaetano is a crazy bomb that can explode at any moment, and to Gaetano, Josto is not enough of a boss. Gaetano is ready to make moves to fight against the Cannon family and, in a certain way, to fight against his own brother. He wants to become the head of the family. Having grown up in Italy during the World War, he's ready to fight and ready to go to war. So he wants to make a move, because he feels Josto [is weak].

What do you think motivates Gaetano? What makes him tick?

He says something to Josto in episode two [that sums up his mindset]: "business, family, country." This is a state of mind for Gaetano. He wants to fight for his family, for the business, and he wants to take control. Like the bull I mentioned, he's always angry and thinking of power, of rage, of fighting. He's never empty of those things. He always wants to fight because of this enormous rage he has inside. By the end of the season you will understand why.

Salvatore Esposito hopes that Fargo is his big American break

With this and Gomorrah hitting the States around the same time, all of a sudden, everybody might know your name in America....

The year 2020 is so crazy. A lot of people might say, "I don't want to remember it," but I want to remember it because it has been such a great opportunity for my career and for my life. Everybody else might hate 2020, but for me, there's just a little piece of happiness about these two big projects.

Are you looking forward to working on more American shows and movies, and what path do you hope to take in America?

I have a lot of ideas. There are a lot of projects, but most are top secret. I can tell you nothing, but I can tell you that there's a lot of interest in me and I'm so happy because it's my dream. I want to start working with the biggest actors, the biggest directors. So, for me, it's like a dream come true, and I don't want to stop. I want to grow more as an actor.

When it comes to actors and directors, what's your dream collaboration? Who would you love to work with?

If we're talking about directors: Coppola, Scorsese, Tarantino. Todd Phillips is a friend of mine and I would love to work with him. And for actors, Pacino, De Niro, the biggest. Because if you work with the biggest, you can learn.

What actors or directors were a big influence on you when you were growing up?

I grew up with this amazing Italian actor, Marcello Mastroianni, who is one of the best. But then, I started to notice actors like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and I said, "Whoa, they're amazing." I also love actors like Russell Crowe, the way he can do both Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. I'm that kind of actor. I want to work with my face, my body, my voice, my eyes to become different kinds of characters.