Captain America 4 Set Photos Trigger Theories About Giancarlo Esposito’s Surprise Character

Set photos from Captain America: Brave New World has fans wondering which Marvel character Giancarlo Esposito will bring to the screen.

Anthony Mackie as Captain America
Photo: Marvel / Disney

This article might contain potential spoilers for Captain America: Brave New World.

Who is Giancarlo Esposito? Okay, we know who Giancarlo Esposito is. He’s best known as Gus Fring from Breaking Bad and Moff Gideon from The Mandalorian. Meanwhile to some of us old people, he will forever be Buggin’ Out from Do the Right Thing.

But who is he in the MCU? Esposito has long been rumored to join the gargantuan franchise, something made more real when the actor shared to social media some of his recent talks with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige. However, we now have more information… sort of.

As part of the reshoots done for Captain America: Brave New World, the first with Anthony Mackie‘s Sam Wilson as the Sentinel of Liberty, Esposito has been added to the cast. Initial reports identified him as a new mystery villain who would act as an “agent of chaos.” At the time of those whispers, we really only had a rudimentary sketch of the character which was based on an insider’s alleged description. However, the reshoots have brought new set photo leaks, and with them more questions have been raised about Esposito’s Marvel close-up.

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The first takeaway, of course, is confirmation that Esposito’s not playing Professor Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men. Esposito as Professor X has been a favorite fan cast for some time, even after the actor told viewers that his role would be unexpected. With the boost of X-Men ’97 and Deadpool & Wolverine, and the many misdirections that MCU actors have done in the past, some folks ignored his statements and held out hope.

Leaving aside that Esposito’s not in a wheelchair (to be fair, Professor X often regains his ability to walk in the comics), he has a far more aggressive look than anything Xavier’s sported. Professor Xavier may be a jerk, but he’s rarely been so upfront about it.

The other guesses floating around Twitter include General Reginald Fortean, a colleague of Thunderbolt Ross, who will be played by Harrison Ford, replacing the late William Hurt in the role. While it might sound dull to cast Esposito as a random military guy, Fortean in the comics does become some sort body horror monster. So that could be fun.

Given the connections between Brave New World and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it makes sense that Esposito would play a member of the LAF. Introduced in that show, the LAF was a criminal group that took advantage of the post-Blip chaos to boost their profits. The leader of the LAF was Batroc, the leaping baddie played by Georges St-Pierre, so it would follow that another villain would take the place of Batroc.

Another theory posits Esposito as the Bushmaster, a name used by two different characters in the Marvel Universe. The first Bushmaster was a fairly generic baddy who fought Luke Cage and Iron Fist. In fact, Mustafa Shakir portrayed a gangster version of the first Bushmaster on the Luke Cage Netflix series.

The more likely choice is the second Bushmaster, who wears a green costume outfitted with long blades. That Bushmaster joined the Serpent Society, a team of snake-based assassins. We already know that the Serpent Society will be major baddies in Brave New World, which both supports and undermines the Bushmaster theory. On one hand, it makes sense that Bushmaster would be part of the movie alongside other Serpent Society members. On the other, why wouldn’t he already be cast? Why add him later, especially with an actor like Esposito in the part?

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One of the more unlikely but fun theories floating around suggests that Esposito will play Henry Peter Gyrich, a character recently seen on X-Men ’97. Gyrich works in the U.S. government as a liaison to the superheroes, most often the Avengers and the X-Men. Gyrich tends to be the type of malicious and suspicious figure that Esposito specializes in post-Breaking Bad. However, while Gyrich does do some openly evil stuff now and again, he’s not often a knife-wielding field agent as seen in the pictures.

Although it’s getting less traction online, a far more plausible theory points to Jacob Fury. As the younger brother of Nick Fury, Jacob possesses a lot of the same skills as his older sibling. However, Jacob turns toward evil, leading a secret terrorist network under the names Scorpio and later Leviathan. Given the secret society focus of Brave New World, and the need to make Fury cool again after Secret Invasion, Jake Fury might be an excellent role for Esposito.

Then there’s the Paladin, a C-level Daredevil antagonist. Introduced in a 1977 issue of Daredevil, Paladin is a mercenary who specializes in hunting criminals. Sometimes those criminals are bad guys such as the Purple Man, and sometimes they’re vigilantes like Daredevil and even Captain America. In a 1991 Captain America storyline, Paladin gets hired to disrupt the Serpent Society, which would make him a great choice for Brave New World.

Of course Paladin is a fairly minor character for an actor of Esposito’s stature. He’s definitely a favorite among Marvel Zombies, but he doesn’t have the depth of, say, Professor X. However, Paladin does tend to be an energetic character, which would be a lot of fun for Esposito to play, reminding viewers that he can do so much more than Gus Fring. Whatever character he’s playing, he’ll have to steal attention from Mackie’s Captain America, Ford’s Ross/Red Hulk, and a variation of the Israeli superhero Sabra.

Captain America: Brave New World comes to theaters February 14, 2025.