July 19th, 2012
03:18 PM ET
If there's one thing that critics and fans can agree on, it's that AMC's "Breaking Bad" is some of the best TV on the air, and that actor Giancarlo Esposito gave an incredible performance on the series as the chilling drug kingpin Gustavo "Gus" Fring.
The actor now has an individual Emmy nod to back it up. On Thursday, he was nominated along with "Breaking Bad's" Aaron Paul for best supporting actor in a drama series.
In that category, the two co-stars are going up against Jared Harris from "Mad Men," Peter Dinklage from "Game of Thrones" and Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle from "Downton Abbey."
"I’m, like, blown away," Esposito told CNN of the recognition. "A lot of the time, I just do the work and people talk about it - like I've lived up to my own standards, and if you like it that's icing on the cake."
Besides, his journey on "Breaking Bad" was already special in its own right, he continued. "After 47 years in the business, I just feel so honored to be among a group of stellar creators, people who think and write and actors who bring their whole experience and persona to channeling these characters - that was enough. But this was over the top."
Esposito's Gus met his end in the unforgettable season 4 finale, and there's been hope that he'll make a return appearance on the series in some form as it winds down with its fifth and final season, which started July 15. But, the actor said that's still wishful thinking.
"I wish there was truth to that. I think that’s a wish that people have. I’m hopeful that they would want me to come back, I couldn’t imagine that they wouldn’t be thinking about it, but so far, no," he said. "Everything is kept so close to the vest and held in secrecy. I would love to be able to have the opportunity to go back and get back into Gustavo Fring’s shoes."
The role has stayed with Esposito, and particularly the challenges he faced portraying Gus in the season 4 episode "Hermanos," because "I had to learn something about trusting myself," he said.
"I prepared for that episode extremely well and had to speak fluent Spanish for pages and pages and pages, with fluent Spanish speakers, and I’m not Spanish, I’m half-Italian and half-Black. I knew I’d have to be a younger Gus and a Gus we had never seen before, [and] I found myself in a really vulnerable position, playing opposite an actor I know and love, Steven Bauer," he recalled. "I was vulnerable. It was real. I felt cowed, I felt out of my element, I felt like a fish out of water. I realized I had really achieved my goal to channel Gus because I couldn’t rely on being the stronger, the powerful, the calm Gus."
Overall, "Breaking Bad" picked up nine nominations Thursday, and Esposito says it's because the show's "committed and in good hands."
With "all of the directors, and especially the creator Vince Gilligan, and all of the co-stars, especially Bryan Cranston, I feel like we’ve made great music together," Esposito said.
The 54-year-old still tunes in, and even has a few theories about how "Breaking Bad" might conclude with its series finale next year.
"The possibilities are endless, of course, but I think that Walter is going to go all the way to the dark side," he said. "I would hope that the spirit of Gus haunts him in dreams and helps him to know that would be worth what Gus uttered to him in season 2: that a man provides and does what he has to do."
And in the end, "I think there would be a weird comeuppance for Walter, that all the bad that he did would not come back to him in a violent way but maybe all the cancer would catch up with him. These writers are quite brilliant and you can never predict, but I have a feeling."
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