‘Breaking Bad’ actor tells tales of diversity

University students packed Gregory Hall on Wednesday night, some expecting to see Gustavo Fring, the character Giancarlo Esposito portrays in the hit television show, “Breaking Bad.”

Instead, they met the real Esposito, one who aimed to teach lessons of cultural understanding, perspective and self-growth.

“You’re not who you think you are,” Esposito said told the audience. “You’re bigger than that, you’re greater than that, you’re more powerful than that.”

As Esposito listed his various acting roles, the audience erupted in applause. But as he shared his experiences, the audience was introduced to the man beyond the actor.

He spoke of his struggles as an emigrant from Denmark who moved to America at age 5 and was forced to quickly realize that his life came with limitations.

Born to an Italian father and an African-American mother, he said he believed people didn’t expect him to have potential. It was for this reason that Esposito said he became an actor. Acting required him to develop a craft that put him above the rest.

“You want to cultivate and nurture your spirit, your talent and your relationships,” Esposito said. “You want to be a person who is about other people.”

Invited by the University’s Bruce D. Nesbitt African-American Cultural Center, Esposito gave a lecture offering many new perspectives on how to approach diversity in life.

When we are children, Esposito said, we are not “bruised” by the advertising that sets racial stereotypes. People are people to kids, and imagery has yet to change their perspectives on life.

Esposito stressed the importance of social connection and breaking out of comfort zones, encouraging the audience to open up and embrace the diverse cultures around them.

“Diversity to me means accepting all of you for who you are,” Esposito said.

Esposito didn’t ignore his acting career during his lecture, though. He chose, instead, to incorporate his lessons in discussion of his many roles in television and film.

One such role was his performance in “Summer Daze,” a film that screened on the Quad on Sept. 3 in preparation of his visit.

As he shared his own story, Esposito said that inspiring people was only half of the journey. The other half was to be inspired by people, like those in the audience.

He talked about how college students are instrumental for the changes they want to see in the world.

Taylor Rooks, audience member and senior in Media, said she was particularly interested in how Esposito described people as “jaded” and how the ability to change the world is within each and every person.

Even as Esposito opened the floor for questions from the audience, he continued to get his point across, sharing his own life’s ups and downs as a way to inspire.

“He was so open and vulnerable when he talked to us about his life and struggles,” said Dasha Patton, a senior in Business. “It touched me that he could share all of that.”

Esposito’s lecture may have inspired some audience members with the hope of going beyond what they already know and actually being the change he discussed.

“Expand your view, expand your vision and you will expand yourself,” Esposito said.

J.J. can be reached at [email protected] and @Wilsonable07.