On “Breaking Bad,” What is Gustavo Fring’s Background?

Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), the fried chicken restaurateur and methamphetamine kingpin who served as Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) employer and adversary for the middle of Breaking Bad’s (2008) run has a complicated history. While the background of Gus Fring was never fully revealed, there are certain things we are told and can infer from the information presented in the show.

When Gus is brought into the DEA for interrogation about Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), we see flashbacks to the late 1980s, where Gus and his then-partner Maximino (James Martinez) (and fellow pollos hermanos, or “chicken brother” for which his restaurant chain is named) are in Mexico attempting to secure a drug-dealing relationship with a cartel boss. The cartel finds their tactics impertinent and they kill Maximino. Gus is spared by the cartel boss, who deems it “because I know who you are. But understand. You are not in Chile any more.” This implies Gus was a man of some repute in Chile - but in exactly what capacity, the show never tells.

In the DEA interview, Hank (Dean Norris) mentions that even though Gus is registered as a Chilean national, there’s no records of his life prior to 1986. Gus plays this off by saying the Chilean government is notoriously bad at many things, record keeping being chief among them. Information about Gus’s Chilean life can’t even be acquired by Mike (Jonathan Banks), Gus’s own fixer, who claims that if he can’t find information, the DEA can’t find information.

That’s all the show ever tells. Gus had some evident connections and status in Chile. That authority was respected but not recognized by Mexican cartels, and that shunning from the Mexicans forced a move to the United States to start his drug (and chicken) empires.