The upcoming Creepshow series boasts a proverbial “who’s who” of acting talent which includes the likes of Jeffrey Combs, Tobin Bell, David Arquette, Dana Gould, DJ Qualls, Bruce Davison, and original Creepshow star Adrienne Barbeau, to name a few. But one of the cast members recently announced gave this writer quite a thrill: the one and only Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Do The Right Thing, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Maximum Overdrive, in which he played an overzealous video gamer who tries to steal some smokes and quarters once things go haywire at the Dixie Boy truck stop).
Esposito was in attendance for the 2019 Comic-Con festivities this past weekend, and while in San Diego, Daily Dead caught up with the longtime actor to discuss his involvement in Creepshow. During the roundtable interview, Esposito chatted about how it was the appeal of reteaming with Greg Nicotero that attracted him to coming aboard the new Creepshow series, and he gave us some insight into his episode’s story and more.
Look for Creepshow to debut on Shudder on September 26th!
Greg mentioned that you guys had a relationship because of Breaking Bad. Was that the initial appeal coming into this then? If Greg hadn't been involved, would this have been something you still would have wanted to be a part of?
Giancarlo Esposito: Well, I think the draw for me was Greg. I've known him for a long time. But I'll never forget going to LA and having my bust made for the final episode of Breaking Bad. My two daughters were with me, and they're walking the floor. And my eldest was 14. She's now in grad school. Greg took her for a tour of his place. She came with me, held my hand while I got a whole cast on my body for an hour and a half. Almost two hours. It was really rough because you can't hear or see anything. That's when I met him. He went off to do his other show. I went off to do my other show. He became a star again in a whole new way. And I'm very happy for him and his talent. But I had never experienced him as a director. I could feel his energy over the phone. When we spoke, it was palpable.
As a director, he's always very clear. He's always very excited. And what he does is something that I think is pure art. But how will he translate that into being a director? He brings all his artistry and his eye and his sense to how things should look and how they should move and how it should be shot. So it was out of our initial relationship that got me involved.
But it also was two-fold. Who wrote this thing? Stephen King. And I had worked with Stephen King on Maximum Overdrive, his directorial debut—great film. I haven't seen Stephen in many years, but I wanted to honor him in this. And he honored me with his comments about my character Gustavo Fring on Breaking Bad. He's a big, huge fan. I've been a big, huge fan of his for years and years and years. When I went back and researched and did the research on the relationship between Stephen and George Romero, my mouth dropped open, because I'm thinking that Stephen is this incredible novelist and many novelists don't translate to making film and television. They just can't do it. Stephen King has in the hugest way. I'm such a big fan of his work. So when Greg mentioned Stephen had written the original novella ["Gray Matter"], I was completely in. I went off to Atlanta, and once I got there, I was like, "What did I do?" Everything was moving very quickly. It’s an anthology series. You've got one shot at it. You've got four or five days to do this. You've got to really fill in the blanks of your character.
I was paired with Tobin Bell, who plays the sheriff in my piece, and we immediately connected. He's a real actor. We started to write dialogue that wasn't there that we could create our relationship in 24 hours, make it look like we'd known each other for 50 years. And that's how it starts to feel. And everything felt like guerrilla filmmaking, like you do when you're on set making your college thesis film. And what I mean by that, there was urgency, spontaneity, a feeling like we could go anywhere. And it allows you a freedom in a way, even though you're stressed out, because you're on the spot, and then couple all that together, and you get Creepshow.
Can you tell us about the story itself? What's it about?
Giancarlo Esposito: It scared the crap out of me. It’s a small town. There’s a hurricane storm. Kid comes in acting weird. His father is at home. "My father needs some help." What do we do? Do we go out in the hurricane? Do we go try to save this guy? Do we leave him to die? Right? We make the biggest mistake in history. We should've left his ass. Biggest mistake in history. But that's human nature, right? I want to save people, help people, jump in when I can.
And as I get older, I become a little more mature to be able to assess the situation a little bit. And that sometimes is very wise. But this piece, "Gray Matter," it's the creepiest, weirdest thing I've ever done. I was very, very frightened by the monster in the end. But this thing is well done. This thing is well done and I'm excited. And I don't want to tell you too much of the story because I don't want to have any spoiler alerts. But more than anything, I don't want to be slapped on the hand by my publicist [laughs].
You’ve had a great career—what types of projects are you looking for at this point? What keeps you motivated?
Giancarlo Esposito: This one. Look, I have been blessed with having a choice in my career. I really have. You know? Having a choice to only do things that make me happy, that inspire me, that raise my energy, and I've only done a few gigs that haven't been in my wheelhouse. I don't ever want to have to make a decision based on money or economy. It's about the material, because I've given my life to this thing called acting. And I feel like if I have the ability through a character or a role to inspire people—that's what I was put here for. So in many ways, there are no accidents or mistakes. It's your attitude with which you meet the challenge that is in front of you.
When I went to do this, there were all these Walking Dead crew members. And I could see how they roll. So I had to figure out, are you going to roll with them, or are you going to resist? Whatever you feel is weak and you need to fill in the gaps for yourself, fill it in. If you have good acting partners to help you with that, work with them, and go along for the ride. That's what I did for this, and it was a surprise. It was freeing. It was different. It wasn't so calibrated and calculated. Greg knew what he was doing, but there are a lot of pieces that he had delegated because he's one man to direct. The building of the room, the set direction—everything is a star, so you've got to honor that. You can't walk in there and go, "I'm the star.” Everyone really outdid themselves on this, and this project was inspiring to me. And what do we do this for? We do it to inspire each other, to see things that are different than we've ever seen before, to move people from one space and consciousness to another. And this show does it. I think you're going to love it.
In case you missed it, visit our online hub to catch up on all of our San Diego Comic-Con coverage, including our roundtable interview with Greg Nicotero!
[Photo Credit: Above Giancarlo Esposito photo by Heather Wixson / Daily Dead.]