Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Giancarlo Esposito, Baby Yoda
Screenshot: Conan

In a long and varied acting career spanning some four decades, Giancarlo Esposito’s tallied any number of iconic roles. On Wednesday’s Conan, the actor told Conan O’Brien about how future President Barack Obama alarmingly quoted Buggin’ Out from Do The Right Thing to him at the 2004 Democratic National Convention by shouting an authoritative “Yo!” across the convention hall floor. (Spike Lee’s seminal 1989 drama was apparently where young Barack took Michelle on their first date.) But, as Esposito said, his present-day fans are much more likely to ask him for an in-character selfie as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul criminal mastermind Gus Fring, which can lead to some intimidating-looking photos, thanks to the outwardly genial actor’s ability to turn on the bone-chilling, malign gravitas at the click of an iPhone. Even when, as O’Brien showed in one picture of Esposito giving a young woman exactly what she asked for, Fring is holding her at banana-point. “I told her I would peel her,” said Esposito, slipping into Gus’ clipped, sonorous purr of an accent, and damned if he didn’t make that sound improbably menacing.

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Teasing out his next, soon-to-be-iconic role, Esposito obliged Conan and Andy Richter with some Disney-vetted mini-spoilers about his upcoming role in The Mandalorian, where, he revealed, he’s playing an Imperial officer of some sort named Moff Gideon. Esposito tried to play it coy as to whether his official of the splintered and defeated post-Return Of The Jedi Empire will be a good guy or a bad guy, but, c’mon. The picture of Esposito staring down the camera in his Imperial garb and somehow unnerving mustache makes it clear his Gideon is clearly unimpressed by someone just off camera, and the last Moff (Sector Governor of the First Galactic Empire, duh) we had to deal with was Grand Moff Tarkin, and he blew up a damned planet. (Also, hands up anyone who wishes we could have Giancarlo Esposito and Peter Cushing staring prim daggers at each other in a Moff-off.)

Still, as Esposito elaborated (no doubt courting a Disney-brand stun blast from the wings), in the years after the Rebellion blew up yet another Death Star, someone has to keep the peace, so his canny Moff Gideon has some room to keep viewers guessing. Not in doubt, however, is how goddamned precious that Baby Yoda is, as Esposito summed up the mix of childlike wonder and ageless wisdom the Star Wars creature shop managed to imbue that eminently marketable little puppet with. Telling the eager O’Brien that he can’t say much more than there’s no telling whether his stern-looking Gideon’s heart will be melted by the fuzzy little green guy, he did respond positively to O’Brien’s photoshopped picture of a Gideon-Baby Yoda buddy episode, so there’s hope for all those ’shippers. You know you’re out there.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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