Actor Giancarlo Esposito sat down with The Torch News Editor J. Wolfgang Wool and reporter Taya Alami for an interview prior to his keynote address at Lane’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. He began by explaining the etymology of his name.
Esposito: It’s Esposito. In Naples, Italy, Esposito is like Smith. There was a priest who ran an orphanage, and he gave all the children who have been given up by their parents his own name of Esposito. And that’s how they became so prominent in southern Naples.
The Torch: What impact do you think globalization has had on civil rights?
Esposito: It has a huge impact, because now the world has become smaller and information travels faster. People in Iran, Iraq or Bahrain — all these far away countries that we would have to look in National Geographic to find — now they find us. They find our entertainment, they find our television, they see our films and they see that life looks a little better for us here then it looks for them in an oppressed society. And they want freedom. The walls start to crumble and things start to change. I think it has one the most profound impacts on our quickly changing world, without a doubt.
The Torch: Do you find it ironic that you got an NAACP Image Award nomination for your role as a drug kingpin?
Esposito: Uh, I think it is possibly a little ironic, yes. (laughs) I stopped playing any kind of street thug, drug dealer, in the hood, many years ago. I had to, because some of the other actors in Hollywood, they don’t feel they should be role models. But I do. I feel like visual impressions in our world are very strong. For me, they are, because I’m an artist and photographer, and I’m a painter and I’m a director. So when I see something visually, I remember it. I record it. I can see motion and movement in it. I can see spirit in it. I can see logic in it. I can see all of these different things and I feel as if someone sees me on television or in a film (and I’m) really happy with the trappings of what I’ve received because I’ve played this drug dealer — whether it is the car I’m driving or the rings I’m wearing or the gold — they relate to that on a subliminal, subconscious level and that might be the choice that they make. And what an awful choice that would be, because that is such a dark and horrible life.
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length. The full interview is available online at http://www.lcctorch.com.)