Giancarlo Esposito Believes in Gaming's Future as Cinema
The ‘Breaking Bad’ star discusses his role in the upcoming ‘Far Cry 6.’
Although one of its biggest reveals leaked mere days ahead of its upcoming livestream event, Ubisoft has officially announced that Far Cry 6 will arrive for current and next-gen consoles on February 18, 2021. What’s more, the illustrious franchise, known for its sharp focus on villainous characters, has tapped Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, The Mandalorian) as the lead antagonist of the new installment.
The trailer above introduces us to the title’s main setting, which breaks away from the American backdrop of previous games and places players on the fictional Latin American island nation of Yara. The tropical paradise is in the midst of a modern-day guerrilla revolution. Dictator Antón Castillo (played by Esposito) vows to restore his nation to its former glory by any means necessary, with his son Diego (played by Anthony Gonzalez of Disney/Pixar’s Coco) following in his footsteps.
The footage showcases Antón giving his son a lesson in leadership, using an active grenade clasped in their hands as a cruel example. He then leads his son, now holding the live grenade alone, outside to the roof of his property, where violent protests are taking place in the streets below. The protests come in response to the dictator’s savage enforcement and ideals. Players will take control of a local Yaran amidst this revolution, perhaps as one of the protestors shown on the ground during the cinematics. As such, Far Cry 6 will follow this average citizen as they become a guerrilla fighter and spark a revolution to take down the tyrannical Antón.
HYPEBEAST caught up with Esposito prior to the announcement of Far Cry 6 about his experience working on the game, his approach to performing in a video game in comparison to television, and where he sees the gaming medium going in the future.
So in Far Cry 6, you are basically playing a tyrant. What made you want to play this role?
Everyone listens to you and does what you say. And bows down and respects me. I want to play this guy because he had a lot of different character traits that I liked. He has had a nationalistic feeling and really loves his country and wanted to empower people to use their resources to better and enrich the country.
And yet he rules with an iron hand because of what’s happening. We have a revolution happening, and people vying for the top spot to be the revolutionary leader. Hopefully, that person could also be you in our audience. But it’s a very complicated story. So I wanted to play him because I felt like he had some humanity. He’s a single father, his former Queen, wife, princess, dictator president’s wife, had passed away. And he’s raising a boy trying to wake him up to the fact that he will eventually lead the country.
Was it a situation where the development team had you in mind for the role? Who reached out first?
They did approach me and the writer allowed me to know that he was a huge fan of Breaking Bad, which would be more worrisome if he wasn’t because I didn’t want to play Gus Fring again. And when I heard of this particular character, in the beginning, I really thought, “Oh, a little island nation, a little African island nation that could be Latin America, that’d be a way to differentiate this character from anything I’ve played before.”
“I think [gaming] has been transformed completely and certainly it’s being moved forward as more progressively important, especially in the time we’re living in now.”
But after interacting with the team and really looking at what was written, I realized, okay, this should be. It’s absolutely perfect that it is [set in] a Latin nation. And I realized how complicated the character was. And so that’s what really lured me in and so they just asked to meet with me. I wasn’t like a big, huge, Far Cry fan. I’ve known about Far Cry, but I wasn’t a gamer. And so now this has allowed me to be part of a world that I didn’t know about, and in a world that I wasn’t so secure in regards to how to shoot it.
It’s a different technology, and a different motion capture suit, helmet, and all these things to act through. I realized that the major portions of each segment were to record certain physicalities that I had to lend to the character.
Is this your first time MoCap acting? How was the experience for Far Cry 6?
I consider this experience to be the one that’s really cut my teeth. I spent a couple of days in a MoCap suit with Wes Ball for Maze Runner and another movie that never came to fruition. It gave me the idea that this was a very difficult thing to do. I’ve been in the world of The Mandalorian, which is the “volume world” where you actually are wearing a costume.
And it makes it easier to have something tangible to hold on to because you have your badass look, and you can, you can live within that. Within this world, you’ve got to find all of that, all of that power and focus in a MoCap suit. You know, like, I can’t go by a mirror without laughing at myself. I have to laugh. So, it’s a great environment for me to learn, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I like it. I think it’s going to be the new way.
What are some of the key differences between acting in AAA games compared to a Hollywood blockbuster, where both have equally huge budgets?
Well, these games do have huge budgets but it takes a longer time to make them. For me personally, it’s to be more specific with less trappings, knowing all of the rest of everything will be put in, keeping the idea that I’m talking to the audience. You know, in Far Cry games, we have this intimate relationship between the villain and the player and allow that to be very specific and personal. So you can enter Antón’s world and the world of Esperanza [the capital of Yara] and also the world of a revolutionary who’s trying to fight for peace and justice, who sees things completely in the antithesis, completely the opposite way than Antón does.
So then you’re allowing these interactions that not only allow you visually to be satisfied but to also be stimulated intellectually. Because you’re thinking, “what decisions would I make?” Or “how would I end the relationship?” It’s why his son Diego is so important. What decisions would you make if you’re not a father? What if you intend on becoming a father? What kind of decisions would affect you that Antón makes in regards to his son? You know, some video games are more complete in that way. Because they now allow you to think and be part of the action. They also allow you to have a visceral and intellectual reaction and feelings about what’s happening
You have actors like Norman Reedus, Keanu Reeves, and Kit Harrington starring in all these games recently. Do you believe actor roles are legitimizing single-player games as cinema or a form of a motion picture?
I think [gaming] has been transformed completely and certainly it’s being moved forward as more progressively important, especially in the time we’re living in now. You know, it takes a smaller unit on a motion capture stage to shoot this Far Cry 6 than it does to shoot an episode of Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, or a film. So interaction is reduced by the [number] of people [involved] in this very weird time we’re in. Is that the reason things could change? No, I think the reason things could change is because it becomes a deeply more richer and vivid world.
So I’m a fan of film. Digital work to me has less depth to it. And when we moved from shooting film to shooting digital, I was less interested in that visually because I can see the difference. But with what we do in video games, these wonderful, talented folks at Ubisoft have done is to create the world more vividly. It’s almost like what 3D did to depth and dimension. And some of these games have that. And that, you know, changes everything. Because it can put you in that first-person spot. And everything becomes more vividly real. And with a dramatic interaction from good actors, it will become a new outlet, and it’s growing incrementally.
Originally being a theater actor that transitioned into independent film, television, blockbuster film, into now video games, is there something you bring to the table as a performer in one that you don’t bring into the other?
Yes, there’s the thought of the audience. There’s that piece of it, you know? Like when I’m doing a film, I don’t want to acknowledge the camera is there. I don’t have to have a relationship with the camera. But it’s not going to be from the viewpoint of the player. So that’s the one major thing because otherwise, everything’s the same. I have to be more of a real in-depth actor because I have less to play with. So I have to be more specific, more, just more connected to every emotion for you guys to feel it in a game. So my challenges are greater. And the reality of the challenge is that there is no reality other than the reality that I live in with the camera. And with the cameras behind me, the camera in front of my face, that’s the reality to register.
And once all that’s registered you have to have a thought-form. I have to create a space to know that someone is going to be moving me, transporting me, making a decision about who I am. They have that power of control, which allows me to give different takes, which is the other part of this that I haven’t talked about in as many interviews, but we’ll mention now because you’ve touched on it. But doing multiple takes for multiple different endgames, right? So the world is more complete now because you as a human being can make a decision in regard to what happens in regards to Antón Castillo. It’s a new world, and it’s a fabulous one to be in.