‘Parish’ Star Giancarlo Esposito on Learning to Manage His Inner Gus Fring While Repairing Relationships With His Daughters

Hands down, Giancarlo Esposito remains the busiest man in show business. Over the past year he’s starred in AMC’s “Parish” (which he also executive produces), Netflix’s “The Gentlemen,” Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” MGM+’s “Godfather of Harlem,” Netflix’s “Kaleidoscope” and voiced Max’s “Harley Quinn.”

And on the film side, his recent gigs include “Abigail” and the upcoming “MaXXXine” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Megalopolis.”

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“I wrote in my notes last week, ‘I’m the busiest motherfucker,’” Esposito laughs. “I know. It was a very weird note, just to remind myself that all my dreams are coming true… When you start to make more movies and television and do a bunch of things all at once, you realize, ‘I’m doing what I love to do every day.’ It makes it more of a meditation. I sort of step out of the way, and allow the writing to come through and my instinct to take over.”

Esposito always has a lot to say, and his role on “Parish” has given him reason to dig deep into his past and have an honest conversation about his struggles — and how that drive to succeed for his family has led him to the career he has now. On this episode of Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast, Esposito gets brutally honest about the personal work he’s done to be a better father, and how he’s still managing those past demons. Listen below!

In “Parish,” Esposito stars as Gracian “Gray” Parish, a family man and the owner of a luxury car service in New Orleans. As he mourns the murder of his son, Gray finds himself in dire straits after his business collapses. When an old friend, played by Skeet Ulrich, resurfaces with an offer for quick money to do one deal with a violent criminal syndicate, things unravel even more from there.

“Parish” is based on the BBC One series “The Driver,” from Danny Brocklehurst. In adapting it for AMC, Esposito reached into his own personal history.

“I recognized that situation, it rang true for me,” he said of his days before he landed the role of Gus Fring on “Breaking Bad” and his career took off. “I was trying to figure out how I was going to make money and to pay the bills. I was faring with foreclosure against me. I was faring with divorce.”

In recent interviews, Esposito has been open about how he even contemplated taking his own life during those darkest moments. But this honesty has also been part of a journey of doing the work to come to terms with his troubled past.

“I grew up in violence,” he says. “I was hit by my mother, my father screamed at me. It was a turbulent, traumatic home life. And then I went to military school, where the corporal punishment was allowed in that period of time. And so, I had to come to grips with, ‘Oh, that’s my background. That’s why I act out. That’s what I do.’

“That led me then to really talking to my children about who I was, who I am now and who I want to be. And that’s difficult sometimes because you have to be definitive and think about, where am I going?”

Esposito says he’s continuing to work on his relationship with his four daughters — many of whom are now also entering the entertainment business (one even worked on “Parish”).

“It was a one-on-one experience, when they were going through traumatic points in their life dealing with who they are and how they’re going to navigate it,” he says. “They came to me and listed all the checkmarks against me as a father… I had to first realize that there were things I was withholding about my own emotional state, even from myself, with my girls. And then to sit them down and have the conversation, to say these things happened without making it an excuse for my bad behavior when I snapped at them, when I was tense, when I didn’t help them with their homework. I had to phrase things the proper way and take responsibility for my own actions.”

When it comes to “Parish,” Esposito was drawn to the character’s “deeply rooted pain. He is able to say, what I think might become his iconic line, that ‘I’m tired of being a passenger in my own life.’ I think about that, because I’m having great success lately. Thinking about what I want, and then putting it into action.”

As part of his evolution, Esposito says he is aiming to listen more and be more honest with his daughters.

“I’m sharing an apartment here with one of my daughters, who came to Los Angeles about three months ago. She was my most distant daughter, because we had some disagreements, and then those wounds weren’t being healed. But the last four months has been bliss. We’ve started to really understand each other. Now, in sharing a place together, we’ve been more transparent. I’ve said things to her, and she goes, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that about you.’ It’s been a great healing for our relationship. When my children want to be around me more. That means I must be less of an asshole.”

Later in the episode, Esposito talks about his time shooting “Parish” in New Orleans, and also upcoming projects like “Megalopolis.”

“I really enjoy working with Francis, although sometimes it feels like it’s a very different way of working that I normally work,’ he says. “We had beautiful reception at Cannes and by the end of the movie had tears in my eyes. I realized it was much bigger than me as an actor. It’s not a subtle movie at all. He doesn’t want it to be. I realize now after seeing the film, it needed to be as large and vast as it is. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”

In the case of working with Guy Ritchie on “The Gentlemen,” Esposito calls it “truly an honor. I just feel like it’s a dream come true. I know that the public and the viewers in the audience are really hoping for more and I believe there will be more. It has a very quintessential balance between comedy and drama. And I love that it’s about family. The family that you choose, the family that you have origin, the family that you created for yourself and the family you’re trying to escape from.”

And besides “MaXXXine,” Esposito is also excited to talk about “Electric State,” a film from the Russo brothers that he stars in with Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt.

“I think it’s going to be one of the quintessential pieces of our time, because it speaks to our AI robotic journey and human journey in tandem with each other,” he says.

Also on this episode, Variety’s Alison Herman chats with “A Murder at the End of the World” executive producer, co-creator, co-director and star Brit Marling about her FX limited series.

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