LOS ANGELES: Not all cops are good guys and not all drug suppliers are obvious villains in Netflix’s dark drug drama “Narcos,” a bilingual examination of the history of cocaine smuggling in America and its most menacing supplier.
“Narcos,” which premiered across all Netflix territories Friday, explores the origins of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the tense relationship between his Medellin cartel and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as cocaine use became widespread among Americans in the 1980s.
While Escobar, who was killed in 1993, was known as one of the drug world’s wealthiest and ruthless criminals, “Narcos” attempts to understand the man behind the myth and those who strived to bring him down.
Blurring the lines between good and bad was easy enough, said Brazilian director and producer Jose Padilha, because “all we had to do was not pretend that the lines were there.”
“We’re not doing a movie where ... the bad guy is the guy who produces drugs and the superhero is whomever represents the American government, and the victim is the guy consuming drugs,” Padilha said. “We didn’t do this at all for the simple fact that this is not even close to what the reality is.”
To play Escobar, Brazilian actor Wagner Moura had to learn Spanish in six months and prepared by reading as much as possible on the drug lord as well as modern Colombian history.
“I was searching for this guy,” Moura said. “I was trying to understand who he was.”
He also observed other actors playing Escobar, such as Andres Parra in Colombian TV show “Pablo Escobar, El Patron Del Mal,” and Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro in this year’s film “Escobar: Paradise Lost.”
“I recognize Pablo in all of those performances although they are completely different,” he said. “The way I see the character was in how much I know about him.”
The series also stars Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal as DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, based on the real-life agents leading the investigation on Escobar. Both Murphy and Pena consulted with “Narcos” producers.
As Escobar’s story is once again portrayed on screen, this time with intricate depth, Padilha said that the issue of drugs is something that unites much of the world. “Drugs are part of social life,” he said. “I don’t think people will ever get tired of drugs and shows about drugs.”