The Scheduling Snafu that Gave Rise to 'Breaking Bad's' Brilliant Gus Fring

Entertainment Features
05.14.12 7 Comments

It’s been a busy day with network scheduling and new shows, and it will continue to be busy with that most of the week, which we’ll cap off with three episodes of “Community.” In the meantime, I thought we’d take a break from it because this interview with “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan caught my attention.

Apparently, Aaron Paul’s character wasn’t meant to be a huge presence on the show initially, but Paul so impressed Gilligan that he eventually became the show’s co-star. Asked about other instances of that on “Breaking Bad,” Vince Gilligan revealed that Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring was actually the product of a scheduling problem with Raymond Cruz, who played Tuco and was supposed to be the Big Bad in Season Two.

The original intention was to have him be the main bad guy for that entire season, but unfortunately, he had prior commitments after the first episode on a TV show called The Closer – it was a real bummer for us, and I heard through the grapevine a real bummer for him too because he was enjoying his time with us. But, as an actor, he had to honor those contractual commitments.

“So he became unavailable to us and we thought, ‘Man, we’re never gonna have a character as good and interesting as he was’, but we then thought to ourselves, ‘Why don’t we go in the complete opposite direction?’ – why don’t we have a bad guy who doesn’t snort meth off the end of a bully knife? Who isn’t a screaming lunatic?

“[We wanted] a bit of a buttoned-down, cold-blooded, soft-spoken businessman, so we came up with the character of Gustavo Fring. Once we found Giancarlo Esposito, we were so very happy. We had this wonderful, unforgettable character because of this great actor and because of this happenstance that brought us to that place.

I thought it was kind of cool that one of television’s most compelling villains of all time was basically created in order to fill a void left by a scheduling conflict. If Raymond Cruz had not been contractually obligated to The Closer, “Breaking Bad” might be a completely different show. It also speaks to how amazing Vince Gilligan and the writing staff is on that show, to be able to switch gears like that and, not only replace a character, but make one as indelible as Gustavo Fring.

Oh, and the first part of the two-part next season of “Breaking Bad” kicks off in July.

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