From “Breaking Bad” to “Once Upon a Time” to “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus, Giancarlo Esposito has played key roles in a host of movies and films in a career that remains on the rise.
But the veteran actor does not play video games, and hasn’t since the early days of everyone’s favorite pipe-jumping plumber. “I used to play 'Super Mario,'” Esposito says. “And that’s where I left video games long ago.”
In early October, all of that will change. Esposito, who’s 63 years old, will play a starring role in one of 2021′s most anticipated video games, "Far Cry 6," and it’s a role unlike anything Esposito has played before. Ubisoft’s "Far Cry" franchise has spent the last decade establishing itself as an intriguing sandbox that explores slices of political intrigue. And Esposito, who plays villain Anton Castillo (and is featured on the "Far Cry" 6 box art), has a massive role in the latest game’s political saga.
Esposito plays a dictator ruling the imaginary island of Yara (which is loosely modeled after Cuba) in a narrative that has him pushing his son, Diego, to follow in his footsteps. It’s from this perch that he’ll torment gamers, who play as rebel Dani Rojas. And it’s from this vantage point, Esposito says, that he’s come to believe in the unique storytelling future that today’s video games provide. It’s a future that actors are increasingly diving into (see: Shawn Ashmore in "Quantum Break" and Norman Reedus and many others in "Death Stranding"), and Esposito gets why. Here, he explains:
DAILY NEWS: After years carving a niche in traditional film and television, where you skeptical of starring . . . In a video game?
ESPOSITO: I had skepticism about this game. And I was worried about the violence. You have these games, "Mortal Kombat." They’re very very violent. Very male-oriented. But when we had a character (Dani) that can be man or woman, I thought “wow”. When we had a complicated political country that was in strife and in trouble and a vulnerable leader of that country who wanted to connect with his son ... No villain I’ve ever played has been a father. When I saw some of what they did, I was so very pleased with how they handled all this material.. It is explosive material. It’s a culmination of everything we’ve lived and felt in dictatorships.
To me my mind is blown at a futuristic game that can give a template of a world that we have lived in. It’s a great example of something new, different, and technologically ahead of his time.
DN: You’ve been in films and television roles, and you’ve also voiced over characters in several animated shows, so you’ve been on the mic too. How did this compare to those experiences, and how did you adjust?
ESPOSITO: When I’m on the mic I feel a little anonymous. The mic has a quality that I could be tricking someone into displaying the emotion that I am. For "Far Cry 6," this is completely using every part of my acting ability with equipment on and in a specific suit, where you’re actually filmed facially and physically. It felt more like theater, like playing in a playground that is truthful and real but having to get beyond the technological filming part of it to allow myself to shine and soar. It made me very nervous in many many ways. I realized by the end of the first day I was there that if I just forgot everything I was carrying and just went back to my theater training and related to who I was talking to, that it would all come through.
DN: How does your mental process as an actor change when you’re connected to a bunch of motion-capture devices and have less of a “set” before you?
ESPOSITO: The mental process was to do my homework, was to know about the story. Was to create the depth of the character. It was really focusing on the great story that Navid (writer Navid Khavari) wrote, and the great minds that figured out how to tell that story from all those different angles. For me, it was ultimately being a part of this creation. It was creating a character that was not on stage.
DN: Where there any distinct challenges that pushed you to rethink your craft a bit?
ESPOSITO: I didn’t have any clothes! For me, costume’s everything. I always straighten my jacket and tie. Anton didn’t have any of that. I had to give him that. My eyes became the mirror to the soul. My eye’s became the mirror to Diego’s soul. And my eyes became the mirror for the audience to see reflected in my eyes my whole world. I’ve gotta believe it and I’ve gotta show you that.
DN: How was the collaboration between you and Navid, and how did it compare to what you’ve experienced in TV and film?
ESPOSITO: Film, you do a page a day or two pages at most. TV you’re trying to do six pages a day. You have to come in prepared and ready. With this process, I did my prep as if I was preparing for a film.
And then there was playtime. Because Navid adjusted the story as we talked about it. I was able to be looser; not improvise, but decide what it was gonna be. When I did improvise, I felt more a part of the process. I felt more a part of them allowing me to know what the eventuality was going to be. A good director figures it out: “I’m gonna be over here if I say those lines”. It’s a collaborative process in a different way than film is.
DN: What’s it like being the “star” of the video game even though you’re not the true star? As awesome as you may be, the real star is the gamer in the role of Dani, right?
ESPOSITO: That was what fascinated me when I started to see part of the game. I was really interested in the audience member that was gonna take steps to overthrow Anton. To me, that’s the futuristic nature of this game is that you can guide it and move it. When I started to really look at the rebels, the mission for Anton and Dani and the rebels is similar. It’s very fascinating. They kind of moved in the same line with a different energy. To be a part of this game opened my whole consciousness up to how there’s also another way to make film. There’s also another way to tell a story. This is inclusive of the person who might be you, or might be one of my daughters.
DN: You said earlier that you haven’t gamed since the "Super Mario" days. Have we made a gamer of you now? Are you going to play this?
ESPOSITO: You kidding me? Of course I am.
©#YR# Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.