(Partial Interview - the entire story will be in the premier issue of Renaissance Man Magazine)
You may not recognize Giancarlo Esposito by name, but chances are
you know his face. Since his breakout role as the loudmouth troublemaker
Buggin Out in Spike Lee’s seminal 1989 film Do the Right Thing
Esposito has become one of the leading and hardest working African-American
character actors on the scene today--He can’t be stopped. “I
love acting,” he says simply. “To me, it’s a job that’s
full of pleasure, passion and excitement.” After almost thirty years
in the business, Esposito still hasn't lost his love for acting. He filmed
six movies in 2004, including the crime thriller A Killer Within
and Shall Not Want, an independent drama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal.
He’s currently in the middle of shooting Carlito’s Way:
The Beginning, a prequel to Brian DePalma’s 1993 film that
also stars Jai Hernandez and Sean Combs. After that, he’s off to
London to wrap production on Derailed, a big-budget thriller
with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston that’s due out in the fall
and then he immediately starts work on the Queen Latifah comedy Last
Holiday, which reunites Esposito with Wayne Wang, who directed him
in 1995’s Smoke. If that’s not enough, he also had
a recent guest spot appearance on the new Law & Order series
Trial By Jury that aired in February.
In other words, Esposito is a very busy man. Right now though, the 46-year-old father of two is happily sipping coffee in a New York café. As usual, he's got a lot on his mind and Renaissance Man is there to hear what he has to say.
Renaissance Man: This isn’t the first time you’ve guest starred on a Law & Order series. Do you enjoy being part of the franchise?
Giancarlo Esposito: Yes, it’s always good to come back. Doing a Law & Order show is like being part of a New York theater ensemble—you can die one week and come back the next as a different character. It also means a regular gig in New York, which is great for me.
RM: You’ve made it a point to remain a New Yorker. What is it about this city that keeps you rooted here?
GE: There’s a certain energy in New York and I like being connected to that energy. I still get ideas when I watch guys on the street begging for change or the man on the corner who is having a whole conversation by himself. That to me is what character is built on. Like this character I play on Trial By Jury—he’s so completely different from me and when I get in front of the camera to play a character like that, I always think, “Wow, I’m so happy to live here and do this kind of work.” It reminds me of why I really do it and I don’t want to ever forget that.
RM: But surely you’ve been encouraged to move out to Los Angeles and join the Hollywood crowd?
GE: Well, I did move to Los Angeles for five years. I enjoyed it and I will never talk down about L.A. again. It’s a great place, but there is a different energy there. You spend a lot of your time making the deal instead of working on the script. It’s a good experience for a New York actor to close a deal, but then the energy goes out of the balloon because you show up on the set in L.A. and there’s not as much expected of you. So while I enjoyed it, I ultimately decided to move back to New York for a number of reasons. I have a family now and I wanted my children to have a real life, not my life.