The following contains spoilers for Westworld Season 2
Prestige drama television is becoming a small world. Jon Hamm is guest-narrating on this season of FX’s Legion; Ann Down departed from The Leftovers to The Handmaid’s Tale; the entire cast of The Wire has filled out the IMDb pages of many other critically-acclaimed shows; and now on Sunday’s episode of Westworld, “Reunion,” television got one of its biggest crossovers yet.
Gus Fring is a robot! Giancarlo Esposito, the actor who (brilliantly) has portrayed the Vince Gilligan-iverse big bad on both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul popped up to play another heavy, El Lazo, on Westworld.
Esposito spoke to The Hollywood Reporter this week to explain how this all came about.
“I got a call (from the Westworld team) asking me if I liked the show. I said that I loved the concept, I loved the original movie, and then I got a call of support from my people over at Better Call Saul. They told me: ‘They’re such great writers. They have envisioned something very different, and they can’t get you out of their heads for it. We wanted to give you our support if you like them after you talk with them.’ So I got on the phone with Lisa Joy and her lovely husband (Jonathan Nolan), and I liked the way it sounded. And then I did it! I love Ed Harris, so sharing the screen with him is always such a treat. He’s a guy who really plays. And that’s when they asked it: ‘Can you keep all of this a secret?” And I said, “Well, I can! I don’t know you’re going to do that!’ (Big laugh.) ‘I can do my best!’ I think we did a pretty good job.”
As it turns out, most TV showrunners are fans of the same shows that TV watchers are.
The character Esposito portrays, El Lazo, is one of Westworld’s oldest hosts. He seems to come from a simpler time in the park, when an over-the-top Western-themed villain with a Spanish name was a big appeal to the visitors–this is before the rich folks realized they could just spend their whole time soliciting prostitutes, getting drunk, and killing innocent townsfolk in Sweetwater.
El Lazo was initially “played” by a host named Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), but with Lawrence now playing permanent lackey and sidekick to William on his many maze-related adventures, the park apparently decided they needed a new host to portray El Lazo. And good thing they did because now Giancarlo Esposito is even more firmly entrenched in TV history.
Sadly, Esposito’s appearance seems to be little more than a cameo, as shortly after William and Lawrence come across El Lazo, he and his whole cadre of bandits commit suicide. William needed an army to get out of Westworld and complete the next step of Robert Ford’s grand game. Robert, however, wasn’t going to make it that easy for him.
In that same THR interview, Esposito implies that this is likely the last we see of him in Westworld Season 2.
“I have my senses that it’s a possibility this character has great potential and I’ll be back,” he says. “We hope! But we don’t know. We’ll see what our creators think and what HBO thinks, but I certainly would love the opportunity. I think this is it for season two…but, again, you never know. [Laughs.] I’ll leave you there. You never know!”
That’s a shame but at least we finally got to see Gus Fring as an actual robot, harkening back to that amazing Breaking Bad moment in which it seemed he might be a Terminator model.
Also, there is an extra layer of irony for fans of Dan Harmon’s Community, as Esposito appeared as a “big bad” (for at leat an episode) in that as Chevy Chase’s half-brother, Gilbert Lawson. There he tried to steal Chase’s character’s inheritance via a VR video game simulation. But given how terrible Chase’s Pierce Hawthorne is as person in that show, we couldn’t help but root for him there too.