With season 3 in full swing, Gambi (James Remar, Sex and the City) is another character (created by Tony Isabella with Trevor Von Eeden) whose life remains in the balance so to speak. With most of the world thinking and assuming Gambi is dead, he’s had to resort to the most creative of situations to still be of help to the Pierce family, while also anonymously infiltrating the ASA. Remar spoke to The Beat on the set of Black Lightning about Gambi’s backstory, his former wife and why the Pierce family is so important to him.
With Gambi’s death came a rebirth and “new” life above ground with the help of his new cloaking device. Of this nifty new tool that allows his enemies to think he’s still dead while enabling him to do some anonymous digging into the ASA, Remar said: “Well, I get to step in when I turn the cloaking device on. The majority of the scenes generally are me. The young man who plays the cloak version of Gambi is a very good observer and he watches me do everything in rehearsal once and then he mimics me very well. And then when they shut it off, I get to talk like myself.”
Even from the “dead,” Gambi remains the moral compass for the Pierce family. On Gambi’s complicated past that led to his redemption, he said: “Freeland is an allegorical place because it is not free. Gambi is the guy that helped make it unfree in his past life, much like most young soldiers, he didn’t know what he was doing. Fortunately, through the Pierce family, he develops a moral and emotional awakening. When it came time for him to care for someone besides himself, he realized what was actually going on. His moral awakening started with protecting Jefferson, and so thus began a lifetime of trying to even out the balance, the scales of justice.” He continued: “Gambi has had to put his life on the line, and take life to protect the innocent when necessary, to balance out his past. It’s an ongoing act of trying to clear away the wreckage of his past. Thankfully, he’s a guy that realized that he was doing wrong and he came to terms with it. He’s still haunted by it and not always happy, but it’s a lifetime process.”
Gambi remains a confidante to Jefferson, particularly when it comes to his relationship with Lynn, on if and when we will learn more about Gambi’s romantic past this season, Remar shared: “You know, all you can ever do is tell someone what didn’t serve you in your situation. In my opinion, You can’t advise people, I don’t think it works. You can only tell people what happened through your own experiences. So, if it becomes relevant, and the writers give me somebody to reference then, sure. But so far, my romantic personal relationship past remains cloaked in secrecy.” On his familial past, he continued: “We know that his childhood name is Esposito and Esposito is an Italian term for an orphan. He was found on the steps of a church, which is the backstory I have. Gambi is the name that he adopted in the ASA. So, basically the ASN and now the Pierces are the only family Gambi’s ever had.”
Gambi is not only a moral compass but the technological guru that the Pierce family runs to for all of their superhero tech needs. On the changing dynamic of working with the family, now that the ASA is also involved, Remar shared: “Well, it’s still very stimulating working with family. The thing about the ASA and their technology in Jefferson’s suit is it drives me nuts, but I’ve disabled it. I’ve taken out the tracking device they put in because I know the way these guys operate, as I was a part of them. Sure, Gambi would like to have their technology for good, but it doesn’t work that way.” He continued: “I think Gambi does a good job of keeping everybody on even keel on the way he relates to them. He doesn’t tell Anissa that she’s wrong or her dad’s right. He is sort of the guy that can be the sounding board and yet it’s harmless. You know, nobody’s going to get trouble for talking to or listening to him. So, while parents, spouses, and siblings can have battles, Gambi is lucky that he occupies a neutral spot, and his entryway is always technology.”
Lastly, when asked about the politics of the show, he told us: “Well isn’t that what TV is supposed to do? It makes you think and hopefully, we’re doing. Hopefully, our show echoes what’s going on so, people can think about what their lives look like, what the world at large looks like, and possibly how they could change it for the better. I’m grateful for the fact that I get to play this white guy in the middle of a black family, and it’s normal for us. For me, that’s the most important thing is that this is a normal relationship for us and not something we’re stretching to do. We love each other because of who we are. And if that message goes out on the airwaves and people see that, maybe somewhere it will get lodged and create a sense of normalcy. For me, that’s the big picture and this is why it’s an honor to play this role and be a part of this show.”
We have to see just how long Gambi’s cloaking device will work before the ASA or someone else notices he’s not actually dead. Check out Black Lightning only on the CW! And be sure to read last week’s interview with Jordan Calloway, the actor behind Painkiller.