Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Photo: John P. Johnson (HBO)

Just as Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy seek to tirelessly obfuscate Westworld’s timeline, HBO did everything in its power to ensure Giancarlo Esposito’s guest spot on Sunday’s episode remained a secret. It makes sense; it’s always a joy to see Esposito, but to see him as a villain is to evoke his star-making turn as Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring, who’s gone down as one of TV’s most charismatic, complicated bad guys.

It was a fun moment, then, when Esposito popped up as nefarious black hat El Lazo, a role played by Clifton Collins, Jr. last season. And, considering it’s rare for such a big star to swing by a series for a one-off role (and this was one, it seems), Vulture reached out to Esposito to ask how he got involved. Turns out that Anthony Hopkins is as influential behind the scenes as his Robert Ford is in the scenes, because Esposito says it was Sir Tony who recruited him.


“You know, people know other people,” he says. “In terms of how public life affects all this, I’ve said some great things about Anthony, and he’s said some great things about me in regards to my work as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad, so I think it was all kind of synchronous in that way.”

Of his performance, he notes that even though he wasn’t directed to play his host differently than a human, his instinct wouldn’t have been to go all Small Wonder on it anyway. “It is interesting to think about having to play an object that is completely electrocuted in a certain sense, taken from some other projection of what animation should be,” he says. “My way, though, is always not to try, not to even think about it, not to be thinking about playing a robot, because at this point in time and technology, we’re able to mimic so closely and finely the human characteristics that you wouldn’t know the difference anyway.”

Esposito also calls human brains “computers” in the interview, and reveals he views the show’s robots as more “spiritual” than scientific, so one can only assume that he’s preemptively trying to get on the good side of our own impending robo-apocalypse.

If all of this has made you miss Esposito’s Fring (who, he confirms, is returning on the next season of Better Call Saul), check out the latest from ScreenPrism, who here explore the character as a corporation unto himself.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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