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Perspective-skewing, non-linear heist tale pulled Giancarlo Esposito into 'Kaleidoscope'

Giancarlo Esposito (L) and Tati Gabrielle star in the new heist dramedy, "Kaleidoscope." Photo courtesy of Netflix
1 of 5 | Giancarlo Esposito (L) and Tati Gabrielle star in the new heist dramedy, "Kaleidoscope." Photo courtesy of Netflix

NEW YORK, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Better Call Saul, The Mandalorian and The Boys alum Giancarlo Esposito says he loved the idea of starring in Kaleidoscope because the Netflix heist thriller has such a unique narrative structure.

Premiering Sunday, the eight-episode series spans 25 years and includes so many perspective-bending flashback scenes that viewers can start watching on any episode and still be able to follow the story, which is loosely based on real-life suspicions that $70 billion in bonds went missing in New York City during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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Esposito plays master lock picker and safecracker Ray/Leo, leader of a band of thieves and con artists determined to pull off the caper of their lives.

The show's cast also includes Tati Gabrielle, Paz Vega, Rufus Sewell, Peter Mark Kendall, Rosaline Elbay, Jai Courtney, Niousha Noor, Jordan Mendoza, Soojeong Son and Hemky Madera.

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Esposito told UPI in a recent Zoom interview that Kaleidoscope's storytelling device deeply impacted his performance.

"If you've done a show for years, which is normal in my experience, then you have all that other last year to pull from, but you can't really remember every beat, what that guided you to," he said.

Kaleidoscope, at various points, depicts Ray/Leo (his name changes depending on what episode you are watching) as a devoted, but financially strapped family man who loses his wife and young daughter Hannah when his accomplice betrays him.

Years later, the adult Hannah (Gabrielle) is working with Roger, head of the high-end security company connected to the bonds Ray/Leo and his crew are trying to swipe.

"With this, we had eight episodes right there! Bam! Your whole lifetime right there and that helped me because I could look at all of them and go, 'This happened, this happened, we're over here, there's a time difference,'" Esposito explained.

"The way the audience is going to watch it, OK, that's going to affect things I don't really need to be concerned with right now. I can hold all the history -- like you're making a film or doing a whole complete play -- a whole lifetime within the palm of our hands and that was really wonderful."

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Esposito also was drawn specifically to the character of Ray/Leo, whom he described as "an every-man who had lived a full life," as well as the outrageous true story that inspired the series.

"I love the historical connection of the story; that the story is based on a real heist that took place during Hurricane Sandy of $70 billion in unsecured bearer bonds. I feel like that was great fodder for a really wonderful story and [series creator] Eric Garcia really used the elements of that story to tell this one in a seamless fashion," he said.

"We have a drama about human beings, a ragtag group of people that comes together to try to have this heist happen and the connection to a family that really, really loved each other that was lost within it. Part of that family has to re-meet later and discover each other once again. All of these things piqued my interest."

"Ditto to all that Giancarlo was saying," agreed Gabrielle.

"The fact that it was this non-linear story that was like this big puzzle was very intriguing and exciting for me, because even as a viewer, I get very excited when pieces aren't just handed to you; that make you think a little harder and put the puzzle together in order to get the gratification," she said.

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"It is a heist -- and that is the exhilarating part of it -- the story itself is grounded in characters. You get to, not only learn about these characters, but ultimately learn about yourself or even just the human existence."

The You and Uncharted star said she wanted to play Hannah because she "wears a bunch of different hats."

"She has so much information and one goal, but has to go about that goal from three different angles, while learning the art of how to conceal," Gabrielle explained, careful not to divulge any juicy plot details.

"Knowing when to drop a hint and when to keep the secret was what really drew me to Hannah and this story."

Unlike Esposito, the actress didn't feel that the non-linear structure impacted how she did her job.

"We all had to look at it as one full story across eight episodes," she noted.

"You are walking through these characters for some of these characters [like Hannah] a whole lifetime, for some, half a lifetime. We all, as human beings, carry our past with us whether we know it or not and when building any character, their past is important and, having all that information, that life to work from, I think only just made it easier or richer as an actor to have so much to pull from, to be able to give to any particular moment at any particular point of the story."

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Divergent and Suicide Squad star Courtney calls his Kaleidoscope character Bob "somewhat of a challenging figure to be around," alluding to the fact he can be hot-tempered and competitive with other members of his crew, while romancing Judy (Elbay,) another member of the team.

"We're not sure where his value lies, but I think that is sort of the struggle for him and what has made him the character he is," Courtney said.

"As an actor, that makes for something really interesting to mess with. He's a lot of fun. I got to play someone who is quite rambunctious and unapologetic, which is always a good time, but there is still a lot of heart to him," the actor added.

"I relate to him on a lot of levels and I feel for Bob. I love that character. I think he's got it all figured out. Watching him struggle with trying to break the habits in his life is pretty interesting."

Ramy actress Elbay said Judy never felt boring or like she came out of a mold, noting she is intelligent "with a lot of potential," but also a woman who may be more lost than she realizes.

"It was wonderful to play someone who is very eccentric in her interests and unapologetic in that," Ebay said.

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The actress thinks viewers may be able to connect to the choices Judy makes and the relationships she finds herself in.

"We've all been in situations where we are totally in love with someone who might not be the correct choice for us in many ways and also be confronted with someone else who may feel like they should be the correct choice, but for whatever reason we might not feel worthy of that relationship yet," she said.

Courtney thinks the show's narrative style distinguishes it from other heist adventures.

"It could be argued that you could do this with any show and just jumble it up and watch it, but I don't think that's true," he emphasized.

"This required a really deft touch and a meticulous amount of attention paid to the details within it. It's not just a story told out of order. It's designed to be digested this way. To achieve that successfully, you need an incredible amount of detail woven in. None of this is clumsy."

Viewers might feel like they are ahead of or behind the story, depending on what chapter they drop in on.

"That will create something really immersive and it will demand that people drop their distractions and focus on and invest in a way that is perhaps less common in today's culture of digesting content," he noted.

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Elbay said the show doesn't underestimate the audience's intelligence.

"At no point did it feel like we needed to spoon-feed the audience information or that we were frightened that an audience member starting with this episode would need to know ALL of the things," she said.

"People watch TV in different ways and are very good at following complex story lines and it is fun to lead them on that chase and have them trust that we will answer all of their questions at the end of it."

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