Giancarlo Esposito on His Surprise Cameo: ‘I Couldn’t Say No.’

By Olivia Armstrong


Giancarlo Esposito, known to Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans as calm and collected meth distributor Gustavo “Gus” Fring — made a surprise appearance in the second episode of Westworld Season 2, “Reunion.” In his suspenseful scene in the outlaw land of Pariah, he embodied El Lazo, an earlier narrative of the host now known as Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), the Man in Black’s dutiful partner-in-crime. El Lazo (Spanish for “The Loop”) had a few words of wisdom to offer the Man in Black (Ed Harris), who’s on a new mission from Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). Here, he discusses how the role came to be and why we humans are “all slaves” to our own programming.

HBO: How did this secret casting come together?

Giancarlo Esposito: It’s been a fun secret to keep. I really loved Westworld as a concept when I saw the original movie. It’s definitely a show I’ve kept my eye on. So, when Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan started thinking about this character, they coordinated with the production companies at Breaking Bad and now, Better Call Saul, and floated the idea through them. It’s certainly nice to be thought of as someone who’s irresistible for this particular character.

HBO: What was your first reaction when you read your scene?

Giancarlo Esposito: I’ve been a longtime fan of Ed Harris so I very excited to finally work with him. When I first read the scene, I thought, Wow, what an interesting way to introduce a character who has been another character — someone who has a multi-tiered personality who can create dissention in this world of robots and humans. The unexpected nature of the scene was so exciting to me, that I couldn’t say no. It was such a duel in many ways: an intellectual and moral duel, even more than a physical duel.

Rapid Fire

With Giancarlo Esposito

Host or human?

White Hat or Black Hat?
Black Hat

Favorite Character?
Dr. Robert Ford

HBO: What’s your interpretation of El Lazo’s analogy about elephants tied to stakes?

Giancarlo Esposito: I think he tells the Man in Black this because of the nature of human beings. Most of the hosts’ traits in Westworld are taken from humans. Being tied to a stake is like being a slave to what you know — to how you grew up. So, it’s about taking chances. You could be a slave in this world, or in any world, depending on what you choose to seek.

The Man in Black needs to hear this because everyone in Westworld, no matter who they think they’re serving, are all slaves to the predicament they’re in. El Lazo has the courage to say he doesn’t want to play this game anymore. The Man in Black is taken aback by that. And El Lazo isn’t just courageous in saying that but willing to carry it out. El Lazo is such a juxtaposition to the Man in Black so who knows, if he were to make another appearance, it would be an interesting chess game.

HBO: What does El Lazo think about the host uprising?

Giancarlo Esposito: He could support the uprising, as it’s another way of saying, “I don’t want to play.” But he’s also a leader, so he has to do things that empower people to stand on their own and turn their back on what everyone has deemed acceptable in this world that is a very much a play of consciousness. I think there’s something inside of him that has woken up, just as the other hosts in this world are experiencing remnants of their lives as different characters.

HBO: What do you think this season says about our world?

Giancarlo Esposito: Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have a very concise view of how we live our lives. Westworld teaches us a strange, moral lesson about what’s happening today. We’re creating robotics that can sort of encompass a level of consciousness and we have to be very careful. Stephen Hawking was — and others are — worried robotic consciousness could take over our human feelings for each other.

The other day, I was thinking about the do-it-yourself movement. When you’re at the supermarket and there are self-checkouts with no cashiers, for example. We’re in a do-it-yourself society, but are we going to outdo ourselves? Will we lose our spirits to beings who have no soul but mirror the souls we’ve given them? We’ve got to be careful what we do with our power.