From executive producers José Padilha (Elite Squad, RoboCop) and Eric Newman (Children of Men), the Netflix drama series Narcos chronicles the gripping, intense and almost unbelievable real-life stories of the infamous drug kingpins of the late 1980s and the corroborative efforts of law enforcement to meet them head-on in brutal and bloody conflict. The effort to control cocaine, one of the world’s most valuable commodities, led to legal, political, military and civilian clashes that are still unresolved, to this day.
While at the TCA Press Tour as part of the Netflix presentation, executive producers Padilha and Newman were joined by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura (Elite Squad, Elysium), who plays Pablo Escobar, and Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), who plays real-life DEA agent Javier Peña, to talk about the evolution of this series, how they approached the production, learning about these real life men, and the grey areas of everyone involved in this story. We’ve put together a list of 14 things that you should know about Narcos, which debuts at Netflix on August 28th.
This project was originally intended to be a movie, and then realized that when you get into the complexities of the drug world and the characters, with both the bad guys and the good guys, you need a lot of time to tell that story. Said executive producer Eric Newman, “Fortunately, we got into business with Netflix, and they gave us what we needed to get it done properly.”
- The structural approach to the series was to have two parallel narratives, with the DEA and the narcos. According to Newman, they had originally designed the show not just as the story of Pablo Escobar, but as a story of the efforts of the people who brought Pablo Escobar down. There’s an American aspect to the show, and also a large Colombian aspect to the law enforcement element. The design of it always was to tell both stories, as much as we can, without giving the Americans too much credit for what we did. It was important to establish that this was a Colombian effort. They did the dying. They did the real suffering to bring down Escobar.
- On one side of the story is the Medellín cartel and the story of small-time criminals, with the most important and famous one being Pablo Escobar, but also others who stumbled by chance upon a product that you can call the perfect product, which is cocaine because it’s very cheap to produce and highly addictive with incredible profit margins. Said executive producer José Padilha, “Those guys didn’t really know what they had until cocaine hit Miami. It’s almost like, if you were a fisherman, you go out in a lake and there are so many gigantic fish in the lake, but you don’t have a clue, and you throw your bait and start getting incredibly big fish. You’re just amazed at how many fish you get. That’s what happened with Pablo and money. He made money so quickly. I don’t think that’s ever happened, in the history of mankind. It’s a bigger than life story of a character.”
- On the other side of all of that wealth and power was the havoc it created in Miami. Said Padilha, “People were dying in Miami, like they die today in Rio de Janeiro. They were shooting each other. The story of how cocaine hit America and how it brought violence to America can only be narrated from the American perspective. Ronald Reagan decided to fight cocaine by fighting supply, not demand. We waged a war against drugs in Colombia, not in Miami. That’s really important, not only for the show, but for the history of drugs, drug policies and, unfortunately, for the history of failed drug policies, which is basically what we have in the U.S., Brazil and everywhere.”