Giancarlo Giuseppi Alessandro Esposito was born on April 26, 1958 in Copenhagen, Denmark to African-American mother Elizabeth Foster and Italian father Giovanni Esposito. He has one brother, Vincent. Giancarlo's mother was an opera singer and his father was a stage hand and set builder from Napoli. Following the needs of his parents' work schedules, he traveled with them between Rome and Hamburg, Germany for most of his early years until the family moved to Manhattan when he was six.
Having grown up with a family background in theater, Giancarlo--who attended New York City's Professional Children's School--made his Broadway debut at age eight opposite Shirley Jones in the musical Maggie Flynn in 1966. Thrilled by the experience, he later went on to appear in other New York City stage productions, including a 1977 mounting of Miss Moffatt, starring Bette Davis. The twenty-one year old Giancarlo landed his feature film debut in the Michael Douglas 1979 sports drama Running prior to grabbing more screen time as a young cadet in 1981 military academy drama Taps.
Quickly establishing himself a promising young stage talent, he also won an Obie Award for his performance as the title character of Zooman and the Sign. Amongst a growing list of small film and television credits, he worked with Steppenwolf Theater alumni Laurie Metcalf in the award-winning 1984 production of Balm of Gilead. Late in the decade, the actor began an immensely influential professional relationship with writer-director Spike Lee, who cast him as charismatic fraternity leader Dean Big Brother Almighty in the 1988 collegiate comedy musical School Daze. It was a breakout role for Giancarlo, who worked again with the director for the 1989 urban drama Do the Right Thing. A decade later, the film, which chronicled rising racial tensions over the course of a hot summer day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, was added to a list of "culturally significant" films in the U.S. Library of Congress.
He immediately signed back on for a supporting role in Spike Lee's next project, Mo' Better Blues, a jazz-infused drama starring Denzel Washington as a womanizing trumpet player. Giancarlo went on to make appearances in other independent films; gangster drama King of New York and taxicab vignettes movie Night on Earth. He rejoined Spike Lee and Denzel Washington for the acclaimed biopic on controversial African-American equal rights leader Malcolm X, in addition to playing Bugs Raglin, an alternative press reporter in Bob Roberts. Further along in the year, Giancarlo returned to the off-Broadway stage for the drama Distant Fires, which won him a second Obie Award.
Television gave Giancarlo a rare opportunity to play a character who shared his dual ethnicity as Sergeant Paul Gigante on the short-lived cop comedy, Bakersfield P.D.. After turning in a performance as Esteban, the slick drug dealer in urban drama Fresh, he continued his efforts to play against type when he landed the role of an FBI agent in Byzantine thriller The Usual Suspects. He continued the career transformation with his 1998-1999 stint on the acclaimed police procedural Homicide: Life on the Street. In back-to-back biopics, he played Cassius Clay, Sr. in Ali, in addition to portraying revered Puerto Rican writer Miguel Algarín in Piñero.
Giancarlo continually showed his range by working in projects on the opposite sides of the thematic scale as a determined cop in erotic-thriller Derailed, immediately followed by a hilarious turn as a pandering United States senator in comedy Last Holiday. Despite many minor film roles and television guest spots, he found time to produce, direct and appear in the 2008 racially-charged drama Gospel Hill.
The following year, Giancarlo took on what would become one of the most memorable roles of his acclaimed career. Late in the second season of the AMC's crime drama Breaking Bad, he first appeared as Gus Fring, the seemingly innocuous and good-natured proprietor of a local chain of fast food restaurants, who also happened to be one of the biggest distributors of methamphetamines in the southwestern United States. Not only did his performance revive interest in his career, but it also earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. In 2015, Giancarlo will voice Akela, the leader of the wolf pack, in the Disney live-action film The Jungle Book.
- Hosted and narrated the special "Once Upon a Time: Magic is Coming".
- Practices yoga, likes riding motorcycles and playing the saxophone.
|Once Upon a Time: Season One|
|"Pilot":||"The Thing You Love Most":||"Snow Falls":||"The Price of Gold":||"That Still Small Voice":||"The Shepherd":||"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter":||"Desperate Souls":||"True North":||"7:15 A.M.":||"Fruit of the Poisonous Tree":|
|"Skin Deep":||"What Happened to Frederick":||"Dreamy":||"Red-Handed":||"Heart of Darkness":||"Hat Trick":||"The Stable Boy":||"The Return":||"The Stranger":||"An Apple Red as Blood":||"A Land Without Magic":|
|Once Upon a Time: Season Three|
|"The Heart of the Truest Believer":||"Lost Girl":||"Quite a Common Fairy":||"Nasty Habits":||"Good Form":||"Ariel":||"Dark Hollow":||"Think Lovely Thoughts":||"Save Henry":||"The New Neverland":||"Going Home":|
|"New York City Serenade":||"Witch Hunt":||"The Tower":||"Quiet Minds":||"It's Not Easy Being Green":||"The Jolly Roger":||"Bleeding Through":||"A Curious Thing":||"Kansas":||"Snow Drifts":||"There's No Place Like Home":|
|Once Upon a Time: Season Four|
on the Edge
|"Unforgiven":||"Enter the Dragon":||"Poor
|"Best Laid Plans":||"Heart of Gold":||"Sympathy
|Once Upon a Time: Specials|
|"Magic is Coming":
||"The Price of Magic":||"Journey to Neverland":||"Wicked is Coming":||"Storybrooke Has Frozen Over":|
|"Secrets of Storybrooke":||"Dark Swan Rises":||"Evil Reigns Once More":||"The Final Battle Begins":|