Giancarlo Esposito, famously known for his roles as Gus Fring in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” and Moff Gideon in “The Mandalorian,” visited Binghamton University on Thursday to give an insightful presentation in the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater.
With tickets having sold out rapidly, nearly 1,200 Binghamton students packed into the theater to listen to what Esposito had to share. With attendees ranging from die-hard “Breaking Bad” fans to students hoping to pursue a career in acting, Esposito’s stage presence was consistently met with a large round of applause throughout the event.
Presented by BU’s Student Association Programming Board (SAPB), SAPB Insights Committee members co-hosted Esposito on stage. Structuring the hour-long event Q&A style and allowing for audience questions at the end, the SAPB team ensured that Esposito would have ample time to talk about his experience in Hollywood, give advice to aspiring students and reenact some of his most famous lines.
Telling the story of his rise to fame, Esposito described how his desire to start acting began with watching his mom perform Opera growing up, and how it later led to his Broadway debut.
“What you feel is an exchange of energy,” Esposito said during the event. “I could feel the magic in the room.”
Concluding the story with a heartfelt description of a young Esposito singing “Happy Birthday” as part of his audition, Esposito shared with the audience the story of how he came into the limelight as a child.
Being brought up at a time in which African American actors were limited to musical comedy or stereotyped roles of crooks and robbers, Esposito described the importance of figuring out who he was outside of those bounds.
Going on to describe some of the inner workings of his most accredited performances, Esposito talked about special effects, actor-director relationships and the necessity of finding spaces where people can inspire one another.
“You need to be able to see yourself in each other,” Esposito said.
When prompted to discuss the development of his five-time Emmy-nominated performance as Gus, Esposito shared the process of coming into such a complex character with BU students. Wanting to create a unique villain, Esposito unveiled how he drew inspiration from thinking about all the people he knew but didn’t really know.
Describing all of the efforts that went into the famous explosion scene in “Breaking Bad,” Esposito revealed that his makeup took four and a half hours and that he remembers the scene propelling him into an iconic place.
Beyond acting in television, Esposito has directed a variety of productions, voice-acted in films such as “The Jungle Book” where he plays the infamous Akela and is now working on writing a book. He accredits his multifaceted success to a firm belief in his own abilities.
“You have to invest in yourself,” Esposito said. “What you do today, determines tomorrow.”
Esposito elaborated on the difficulties faced by Black men and women in the television and film industry and touched on the importance of staying true to who you are.
“I had to shut out the world,” Esposito said. “Learn to take the best and leave the rest.”
Rachel Todd, a junior majoring in computer science, highlighted how listening to Esposito’s talk made her feel.
“His struggle and subsequent success inspires me to continue in my degree despite struggles I’ve had,” Todd said. “I loved the way he created such meaningful stories for each question.”
Esposito’s stories invoked lively responses from the audience, and his jokes were met with shared laughter. Students were intent on hearing what he had to say.
Nathan Alleyne, a junior majoring in computer science, commented on the way Esposito’s advice resonated with him.
“His message that he wanted us to go home with about doing what you really love was a great thing to hear and take in,” Alleyne said. “I was really moved because it felt as though he really wanted to give the best advice and full-hearted answers to the questions that were asked.”
Michael Lulaj, SAPB marketing director and a junior majoring in psychology, shared his thoughts on why events like this one are so important.
“I think it’s so great to get celebrities and such motivational people like [Esposito] because they have so much to tell and share with college students who are just about to take their next steps in life,” Lulaj said. “I think it’s so vital to hear from people’s experiences firsthand.”
At the end of the hour-long Q&A session, Esposito left Binghamton students cheering from one of his most notable lines.
“Last chance to look at me, Hector,” Esposito said.