‘Better Call Saul’: Giancarlo Esposito on Why Gus Fring Fears Lalo Salamanca

Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring in Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 4
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) may have said “I don’t believe fear to be an effective motivator” in Breaking Bad, but when it comes to Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton), fear has taken the wheel. In the Better Call Saul Season 6 midseason finale, fans saw Gus Fring scared for the first time.

In “Plan and Execution,” Gus learns that Lalo is not only alive, but is also back in New Mexico. Lalo has been camping out in the sewers gathering intel on Gus’s laundry facility (as seen on Breaking Bad). Lalo calls his uncle, Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), in his nursing home, but realizes the phones could be bugged. They were, indeed, and the phone call prompts Gus’s men to rush out of the facility to find their boss and protect him.

Gus is in a school gym donating a check when the chaos begins. Mike (Jonathan Banks) approaches him and tells him to drive calmly to the safe house. And for the first time, we see Gus truly nervous. Esposito tells TV Insider he was thrilled to have a new layer of his character to portray, as the “loose cannon” that is Lalo has created a new threat for his best laid plans.

“I’ve had a long journey with Gustavo Fring,” he says. “I really appreciate that I had something else to play, considering that I really didn’t want to go back and play the same guy over and over again that you always feared and felt as if you totally knew what he was thinking and what he was doing. I love the fact that I got a formidable adversary in Lalo Salamanca.”

“I wanted to play a guy who’s more vulnerable, maybe a little more hotheaded in this prequel, because it does take place before Breaking Bad. I actually love working opposite and in tandem with — even though adversarially — Tony Dalton,” Esposito continues. “It’s been a great feeling. It’s changed the game, I’m not used to playing that. I’m a guy who controls the chaos, and I got a guy who’s controlling the chaos on his end. He’s making the chaos, and I’m nervous! Yes, Jesus! Not nervous for my life, but nervous for the fact that he’s gonna upset my plan, upset the whole apple cart.”

Indeed, Gus not maintaining control is not something we frequently see. And The Mandalorian star says Lalo poses the same threat to Gus that Gus has posed to others, making him Gus’s ultimate threat.

“I don’t like loose cannons. I don’t like loose cannons who can’t control themselves. Why don’t I like them? Because I’ve been a loose cannon, and I’ve been in situations where I can’t control myself. And I scare people,” he explains of Gus. “And so Lalo does it with such ease and menace, but his ease and menace, in regard to how he plays it, is actually fun. He’s a freaking psychopath! It’s just fun to play.”

Tony Dalton as Lalo Salamanca in Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 7

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

While viewers know what happens to Gus after Better Call Saul, there’s still no knowing how his rivalry with Lalo plays out. But naturally, that rivalry will have to come to an end in the final episodes of the series, which kick off Monday, July 11 on AMC and AMC+.

“For me, I love that I’m able to be playing in that space. And when I’m in Gus’s skin, it’s not comfortable anymore. I used to know I was gonna win, and now I don’t know if I’m gonna win. I don’t like it!” Esposito says with a laugh. “But it’s OK, because that to me is fun, too. The unpredictable nature of what our lives are reflect the unpredictable nature of what a script is gonna give me and how I’m gonna act with it in parameters that have changed. It’s changed a lot for Gus, and he ain’t happy. He wants to win, and we’ll see if he will or not.”

Better Call Saul, Season 6 Returns, Monday, July 11, 9/8c, AMC and AMC+