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How Giancarlo Esposito's Real-Life Story Inspired Gus From Breaking Bad

AMC scored a surefire hit with "Breaking Bad." The crime drama became a major success story for the network over its five-season run, balancing quirky comedy with high-stakes drama and brutal violence. Now AMC is finishing up its victory run with the prequel series "Better Call Saul," and the two shows share more than a few things in common. 

One fortunate element "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" shares been the sinister presence of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). The many-layered restauranteur and crime lord has become iconic over the years, veering between cordially polite and violently murderous at the mere drop of a hat. 

No doubt, much of the power of the character comes from Esposito's total command over Fring's mannerisms and personality. Everything from how he walks to how he stares menacingly at those who have displeased him is pure Fring. However, some of it is also Esposito himself, as the actor has admitted to incorporating some of his own trademarks into the character.

Giancarlo Esposito already had a lot of the mannerisms down

Giancarlo Esposito sat down with the "Back to One" podcast to discuss playing Gus Fring and the many other performances over his extensive career as an actor. Talking about Fring, Esposito said he found aspects of the character through his own history. "The clip-on tie, which was so special for me because I went to military school," Esposito said of the Los Pollos Hermanos outfit. "I used that clip-on tie, so here's my memory draw."

It's interesting to think that such a small element could be the key to a character early on for Esposito. The performer also spoke about keeping Gus' posture "ramrod straight" and always thinking of the character as "hiding in plain sight," two elements that are nearly always present in Gustavo Fring. However, Esposito found even more of who Gus is once he got out of his uniform.

"So for me, once Gus got out of that particular clothing, I realized all of my particular nature came out," the actor elaborated. "Now he's wearing a tie and a sport coat and when I'm wearing a tie and a sport coat, I feel differently; I feel good about myself." They say the clothes make the man, and this certainly seems to hold true with how Esposito connected with the character.

Those Gus mannerisms are very real for Esposito

"When I started to realize Gus' particular nature," Giancarlo Esposito explained in the "Back to One" podcast, "I realized that I am really particular about where my tie sits on my neck. I went to military school. When I get up, I button my jacket; when I sit down, I unbutton it." Anyone who has watched Fring in either "Better Call Saul" or "Breaking Bad" will definitely have noticed these mannerisms and how almost obsessively the character follows them, always smoothing his clothes out or adjusting himself in some way when he becomes flustered.

"He's very polite, he's very appropriate, he listens," Esposito went on. "I was a waiter for years; everything in my whole world came together." When he describes it that way, it really does sound like finding this character was sort of the perfect storm for the actor. It shows, too, as anyone who watches "Breaking Bad" or "Better Call Saul" is unlikely to forget the dangerous yet demure presence of Gustavo Fring.