Gustavo Fring is a fictional character in the television series Breaking Bad and its prequel Better Call Saul, played by Giancarlo Esposito. A Chilean-American, Fring is a prominent methamphetamine distributor in the Southwestern United States who uses several legitimate businesses, including a chain of successful fast food fried chicken restaurants called Los Pollos Hermanos (The Chicken Brothers) and an industrial laundry facility called Lavanderia Brillante as fronts for a vast drug operation. Gus maintains a positive exterior; he takes an active role in managing his front businesses and is a booster for the DEA, befriending the special agent in charge and making large donations to the Albuquerque office's civic and charitable events. However, Gus is ruthless and Machiavellian in managing his vast drug empire. He employs a number of enforcers and has personally killed rivals and associates.
|Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul character|
Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring
|Created by||Vince Gilligan|
|Portrayed by||Giancarlo Esposito|
Gustavo has a mysterious background, but is supposedly a native of Chile; he is sometimes referred to by cartel members as "The Chilean". He immigrated to Mexico in the 1980s during the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Gus and his longtime friend and crime partner, Maximino "Max" Arciniega started a chain of fast-food chicken restaurants called Los Pollos Hermanos (The Chicken Brothers) in Mexico as a front for distributing the crystal meth they synthesized. Seeking to expand their drug trade, they met with the Mexican cartel leader Don Eladio Vuente. Don Eladio rejected their offer, preferring to continue to distribute cocaine, and accused them of disrespect for producing meth in his territory without his permission. Hector then shot Max in the head, while Don Eladio forced Gus to watch as Max bled to death. Don Eladio spared Gus because of his unknown but apparently powerful connection to Chile, but forced him to cooperate with the cartel under his terms. Gus then moved to Albuquerque and began operating Los Pollos Hermanos restaurants throughout the southwestern United States. While he remains outwardly loyal, he spends the next 20 years nursing a grudge against Don Eladio and Hector and waiting for his chance for revenge.
Gustavo Fring is established as an alias, as neither the DEA nor Mike can find any records about him prior to his arrival in Mexico. In a flashback scene, Hector Salamanca mockingly refers to him as "Grand Generalissimo", implying that Gus may have had connections to the Pinochet regime. In the Better Call Saul episode "Sabrosito", Hector suggests that Gus and Max, "The Chicken Brothers" might be better referred to as "The Butt Brothers", intimating that they are homosexuals. Gilligan has stated that he purposely left Gus' origin ambiguous, comparing it to the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
When Walter White seeks a buyer for his high-quality meth, Saul Goodman arranges a meeting with the unknown buyer. Walter and his partner, Jesse Pinkman, arrive at a Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant in the South Valley, but the buyer seemingly never shows up, with Jesse and Walt unaware that Gus, the restaurant manager, had been silently watching them. Walter realizes this later, and arranges a second meeting with only himself and Gus. Gus tells him that he is not interested in conducting business since Jesse was late and high for the first meeting, and is thus potentially unreliable. Walter persuades Gus to reconsider his decision, promising that he will never have to deal with Jesse and that their product will earn him enormous returns.
Gus eventually buys 38 pounds of Walter's meth for $1.2 million; the timing of the transaction forces Walter to miss the birth of his daughter, Holly. Shortly afterward, Gus is given a tour of the DEA's Albuquerque field office, along with other local boosters. While there, he discovers that Walter has lung cancer and that his brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, is a DEA agent.
Gus is pleased with the quality of Walt's blue meth, and offers him $3 million for three months of his time to cook more in a high-tech "superlab" hidden under an industrial laundry that Gus owns. Walt initially refuses, but when Gus alerts him to an attempt on his life by the Juárez Cartel for betraying Tuco Salamanca, Walt accepts. Gus provides him Gale Boetticher, the talented chemist who set up the superlab, to help cook, but Walt needs to placate Jesse after Hank assaults him, so he convinces Gus to bring Jesse back as his assistant. Gus informs the cartel that once Walter is done with his three months, they will be free to kill him. Leonel and Marco Salamanca are impatient and travel from Mexico to the US to carry out the murder, but Gus intervenes and points them to Hank, who actually killed Tuco. Gus anonymously warns Hank about the pending attack, enabling Hank to kill Marco and critically injure Leonel, despite becoming nearly paralyzed from the waist down. Gus uses his influence with the police to distract them at the hospital so Mike can fatally inject Leonel.
The attempt on Hank's life leads to a large-scale crackdown on the cartel, and Juan Bolsa is killed. Realizing his own life was at stake, Walt agrees to continue cooking in the superlab for an extended period for $15 million with Jesse aiding him, but Gus is still concerned about Jesse's loyalties. Jesse learns that drug dealers who work for Gus were responsible for the death of Tomás, the young brother of Jesse's girlfriend Andrea. Before Jesse can kill them himself, Walt runs them over with his car and tells Jesse to flee. Walt explains to Gus that this was just a "hiccup" in their agreement. Gus agrees to overlook the matter but reinstates Gale as Walt's assistant, and privately tells Gale to learn all of Walt's methods so that he can take over from Walt. Walt realizes that Gus is trying to groom Gale as his replacement, meaning his life is at risk, so he secretly meets with Jesse and asks him to find out where Gale lives. Once Jesse finds Gale's apartment, Walt sets out to kill him, but Victor stops him and brings him to the lab, where Mike is waiting. Walt asks Mike to let him call Jesse and convince him to come to the lab, but instead Walt tells Jesse to kill Gale. Victor rushes to Gale's apartment, but Jesse arrives first and fatally shoots Gale.
While waiting for Gus to arrive at the lab following Jesse's murder of Gale, Victor fears for his life because he was recognized at Gale's apartment. He tries to demonstrate his continued usefulness to Gus' organization by starting a meth cook on his own, having learned the process while standing guard over Walt and Jesse. Gus appears and Walt pleads for his life and Jesse's, arguing that even if Victor can make meth, he doesn't have the chemistry background Walt does, which will be necessary for solving unexpected problems. Gus suddenly slashes Victor's throat with a box cutter and lets him bleed to death in front of Walt and Jesse, after which he tells them to get back to work. With Mike overseeing, they destroy Victor's body in barrels of hydrofluoric acid. Walt and Jess continue to cook in the following weeks, with Mike watching them. Mike suggests that Gus and he may be able to drive a wedge between Walt and Jesse, so Gus has Jesse work with Mike on cash pickups and other tasks. They stage a robbery for Jesse to foil, which has the effect of boosting his confidence and increasing his loyalty to them. After Jesse helps recover a stolen meth shipment, Mike finds him to be competent, and Gus is impressed with his mettle, so they deem Jesse ready to take on a greater role in the operation.
The cartel continues to interfere with Gus' operation, so he arranges a meeting with Don Eladio and the other bosses. Jesse and Mike travel with him to Mexico, and Jesse cooks a superior batch of blue meth in a cartel lab. As a peace offering, Gus offers to have Jesse remain with Eladio to continue production, and Eladio accepts. Jesse is apprehensive, but the rapprochement turns out to be a ploy, and Gus uses the subsequent celebration to kill Eladio and the other cartel leaders with a poisoned bottle of tequila after lowering suspicion by drinking the first toast himself. Gus built up a tolerance to the poison in anticipation of the meeting and becomes ill, but does not die. After their escape following a gunfight with Eladio's guards, Jesse drives a wounded Mike and sick Gus to safety. Jesse pledges loyalty to Gus and indicates that he will no longer serve as Walt's protector. Walt knows his life is in danger and makes the first move by planting a bomb under Gus' car. Gus senses something is amiss, and walks away before Walt can trigger the device. Walt tries unsuccessfully to meet with Jesse and arrange Gus' death, then secretly poisons Brock and causes him to be hospitalized. Jesse blames Walt, but Walt convinces Jesse that Gus poisoned Brock in order to force Jesse to continue working for Gus. Jesse believes Walt and while he's being interrogated by the police, he informs Saul about Gus' nursing home visits to Hector. Saul relays this information to Walt, and Walt convinces Hector to help kill Gus by promising final revenge. Hector pretends to be a DEA informant, which lures Gus and Tyrus to the nursing home. Gus prepares to kill Hector, gloating that he has finally won their years-long feud. Before Gus can act, Hector detonates a pipe bomb that Walt had secured to his wheelchair. The blast kills Hector and Tyrus instantly, and blows off half of Gus' face. In a state of shock, Gus takes a few steps out of the room, reflexively straightens his tie, and falls to the floor, dead.
Better Call SaulEdit
Better Call Saul, a prequel and spinoff to Breaking Bad, features Gus as a series regular and follows the beginnings of his working relationship with Mike.
When Mike attempts to assassinate Hector Salamanca, he hears a faint car horn. Upon realizing that it's his own, he walks back to his car and finds a branch wedged against the horn and a note on the windshield with a single word: "Don't."
Gus was aware of Mike's moves against Hector, including his robbery of a truck carrying cash hidden in a tire. He placed a tracking device on the car that Mike had acquired for use in his attempt to kill Hector. Mike finds the device inside the gas cap, then locates a similar tracker on his personal car. He acquires one through Dr. Caldera, then tricks the person who changes trackers on Mike's car when the batteries are dead into taking one with fresh batteries, which he passes off to a courier. Mike tracks the courier to Los Pollos Hermanos. Rather than stick out himself by going inside, Mike hires Jimmy McGill to infiltrate the restaurant and monitor the courier. Realizing that Jimmy is working for Mike, Gus arranges a meeting with Mike on a remote desert road. He states that he won't allow Mike to kill Hector, but does want Hector weakened, since they're in competition. At Gus's suggestion, Mike attacks another Salamanca truck, this time arranging for two of Hector's men to be arrested while crossing the border.
Angry that his drug smuggling routes have been compromised, Hector responds by taking Gus's restaurant and his employees hostage. When Gus is summoned to defuse the situation, Hector demands that Gus carry both Gus' drug supply and Hector's on Gus' trucks, not realizing that this is what Gus wants to happen. Gus sends Victor to pay Mike for attacking Hector's truck, but Mike rejects the money. This leads Gus to personally visit Mike and offer him a job. He also explains that he stopped Mike from killing Hector because "a bullet to the head would have been far too humane."
Under the new arrangement with Hector, drugs are offloaded from Gus's trucks at the Los Pollos Hermanos distribution center and handed over to Nacho and Arturo. On one occasion, Nacho attempts to take six kilos of cocaine instead of the agreed-upon five. Tyrus calls Gus for guidance, and Gus orders Tyrus to give Nacho the extra kilo. At the same time, Gus is working with Lydia Rodarte-Quayle to identify a location for a meth "superlab", which turns out to be Lavenderia Brilliante. As a favor to Gus, Lydia agrees to have Madrigal Electromotive hire Mike as a contracted security consultant so that he can launder the money he stole when he robbed Hector's truck.
Unbeknownst to Gus, Nacho has been secretly plotting to kill Hector to keep Hector from taking over Nacho's father Manuel's upholstery business for use as a drug front. Knowing Hector suffers from angina, Nacho procures empty capsules from a contact at a pharmaceutical company, fills them with ibuprofen, and switches them with Hector's nitroglycerin, hoping to cause a fatal heart attack. Mike warns Nacho that if Hector dies, Nacho should immediately switch out the fake medication for the real, so that foul play won't be obvious. During a meeting between Hector, Gus, and Juan Bolsa, Hector becomes enraged after being informed that the transport of Salamanca drugs by Gus's trucks will be a permanent arrangement. He suffers a stroke and Gus performs CPR, which saves Hector's life, though he is comatose. As Hector is taken away in an ambulance, Nacho follows Mike's advice and replaces the placebo capsules with Hector's real medication. Gus eyes Nacho suspiciously, but says nothing.
Gus suspects Nacho had a part in Hector's stroke and has Victor follow him. Victor observes Nacho dumping the placebo capsules from a nearby bridge. To ensure Hector's prolonged survival, Gus arranges for a specialist, Dr. Maureen Bruckner from Johns Hopkins, to handle Hector's care, using a "generous grant" to the hospital and promised funding for her clinic as incentives. Upon learning from hospital reports that Hector had no traces of nitroglycerin in his body, Gus realizes that Nacho attempted to kill Hector. On Nacho and Arturo's next pickup, Gus kills Arturo by suffocating him with a plastic bag, then blackmails Nacho into working for him. The following day, Gus has Victor and Tyrus fake an attack on Nacho and Arturo. They riddle Nacho's car and Arturo's body with bullets and shoot Nacho twice to make the attack look like the work of a rival gang, the Espinosas, which also frames the Espinosas for Mike's truck robbery. Victor and Diego sell the drugs taken from Arturo's car to the Espinosas. Nacho then falsely identifies members of the Espinosa gang to the Cousins as the ones who shot him. The Cousins and Nacho attack the Espinosa compound, kill everyone present, and take back the drugs.
Gus confronts Mike about not informing him of Nacho's intent to kill Hector, but Mike points out that he promised only not to kill Hector himself. Mike recognizes an ulterior motive for the meeting, which turns out to be hiring him to escort foreign structural engineers through the industrial laundry Gus has purchased to determine whether the area below is suitable for the meth "superlab" Gus envisions. Gus swiftly rejects the first, as he demonstrates that he would likely cut corners and cannot be trusted to keep the work secret. The second, Werner Ziegler, impresses Gus with his forthright and meticulous descriptions of the time, risk and cost involved, causing Gus to offer him the job of planning and overseeing construction of the facility.
Gus arranges for Werner to bring in a crew of German construction workers and houses them in a warehouse with living facilities. When the project falls behind schedule and tempers flare, Gus allows Mike to arrange a night out. Werner gets drunk and talks to some bar patrons about underground concrete construction and Mike warns that even though he didn't talk about the meth lab people might still remember him later and look into what he worked on. Mike implies that another such mistake is likely to result in Gus ordering his death and Werner acknowledges the message.
Hector emerges from his coma and Dr. Bruckner engages him in physical and mental therapy designed to restore his faculties. When Gus realizes Hector's mind is sound, but he cannot speak, and is immobile except for the index finger of his right hand, Gus has Dr. Bruckner end her treatment, effectively trapping Hector's sound mind inside his unhealed body. Hector is moved to a nursing home, where he is visited by his nephew Lalo, who arrives to help run the Salamanca family business. Lalo then visits Los Pollos Hermanos to thank Gus for aiding Hector after his stroke and assisting with Hector's medical care, but afterwards he begins surveilling Gus's operations.
With the lab project still behind schedule, Werner begins to grow homesick, and escapes the warehouse to rendezvous with his wife. Mike is able to track him to a spa, but so does Lalo, who calls Werner while pretending to be an associate of Gus's and tricks him into divulging information about the lab. Mike convinces Werner to send his wife home from the airport for her own safety. He then calls Gus, who tells him Werner must be killed, and that he will send men to do it. Mike does it himself and with Werner dead, construction of the lab is stalled.
Initially, Giancarlo Esposito was offered a character that was described to him as "very admirable, very polite", and he decided to play that character as if he had "some kind of a secret". Without knowing what that secret was, Esposito understood the potential Gus had as a growing character, therefore rejecting offers for guest appearances and insisting on becoming a series regular. To achieve Gus's trademark calmness, Esposito used yoga techniques, which allowed him to convey the character as "being a good listener".
The humanity of Gus's personality played an integral role in his development,  The loss of Max contributed to Gus's evolution into a ruthless criminal; he stops at nothing to avenge Max's death, including the gradual killing of Hector's entire family. The loss of Max also cultivated Gus's desire to create a new "family" by empowering his meth empire, as well as the chicken restaurants.  Moments before dying, Gus manages to calmly adjust his tie even after having half his face blown off. Esposito saw it as an important gesture of "when a person goes to what they've always done ... to be complete in his leaving this world".
Gus' popularity, as well as his importance to the series' development, made room for possible "flashback" type appearances in future episodes, but that idea never came to fruition until 2017 when Gus was brought back for season 3 of Better Call Saul.
For his portrayal of Gus, Esposito won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series at the 3rd Critics' Choice Television Awards and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards. Paste ranked Fring number 3 in its list of the 20 Best Characters of 2011. TV Guide named him No. 3 in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time, and in 2016, Rolling Stone ranked him No. 7 of their "40 Greatest TV Villains of All Time".
Although the character of Gus Fring and Esposito's performance have generally been well-received by critics, some native Spanish speakers have criticized the actor's stilted and unnatural accent when speaking Spanish. A 2014 NPR article focusing on representations of Spanish and Spanglish in American television singled out the character of Fring, with one fan saying he was "so painful to listen to" and that it made them angry that "such a pivotal and fantastic character would have such a giant, noticeable, nails-on-a-chalkboard flaw."
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