1706075910 Griselda Sofia Vergaras series about the most bloodthirsty drug trafficker

“Griselda”, Sofía Vergara’s series about the most bloodthirsty drug trafficker: “It was important to humanize the character; Glamorizing is something different.”

Griselda Blanco is credited with more than 250 murders (including her two husbands). She was known as “The Cocaine Queen” and “The Godmother.” Between the 1970s and 1980s, he amassed an enormous fortune trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the United States. She was shot dead by two hitmen while shopping at a butcher shop in Medellín in 2012, after spending nearly 30 years in prison in the United States. His life is part of the black history of world crime and now also a six-part series that premieres on Netflix on Thursday, January 25th. Part of the team responsible for Narcos signs Griselda, where the Colombian Sofía Vergara plays her bloodthirsty compatriot.

The director, also Colombian Andrés Baiz, describes Griselda as “a story of female empowerment.” “In the six years we have been making Narcos, I have never found another woman who has achieved the same level of success, respect and terror as Griselda. It was very appealing for me as a narrator to tell this anomaly,” continues Eric Newman, co-creator and producer of the series, during a recent visit to Madrid, together with Sofía Vergara, protagonist and also executive producer. “In all the years of Narcos, we hadn't established Griselda Blanco as a character, and I think that's because she needed more than just a line in the Narcos universe, she needed her own universe,” Newman adds.

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Both want to highlight the distance that separates narcos, which initially focused on Pablo Escobar and continued to focus on the drug trade in Mexico. “Both Griselda and June Hawkins, the police, a real character that almost no one knows, had to work and fight ten times harder to earn respect,” says Baiz. The director also highlights differences in tone and certain aspects: “Narcos had voiceover and archival footage, it is more documentary, political, it had an end credits sequence that became symbolic… We didn't want any of that in Griselda.” “We wanted it to be much more intimate and more focused on the figure,” explains the Colombian.

Sofía Vergara in the first episode of “Griselda”, a series in which she stars and produces.Sofía Vergara, in the first episode of “Griselda”, a series in which she stars and produces. ELIZABETH MORRIS/NETFLIX

The series condenses Blanco's life into less than six hours of narrative time, a challenge that forced the creators to make decisions such as where to begin the story. The plot begins at the moment when she flees Colombia with her three children (she would later have another). It is not known what happened, only that he is escaping an abusive relationship. “You can identify with the woman who runs away. He has three children, no money and a kilo of cocaine. You don't need to know how she got there, that she was part of the drug trafficking organization in New York, or that she was a prostitute. All we know is that she is a woman in trouble and the story begins,” says Newman. “If we had started with her childhood, the tone would be a bit wrong because it would be like saying that's why she's a certain way. We preferred to stay in the subtext,” adds Baiz.

One of the debates that comes up every time a story about a real criminal is published is the extent to which these productions glorify crime and these characters. Narcos and Griselda officials assure that they have been keeping an eye on this. “It is important for us to humanize the character as these anti-heroes are very complex and exploring their complexity is essential. But glorifying their lives is something else. I say a sentence from Orson Welles: Whether you have a happy ending or not depends on where you end the story. We have to see where we end Griselda’s story,” defends Baiz. Newman agrees: “For anyone who thinks we are glamorizing or romanticizing the story, my answer is to watch the series finale. For Griselda, it ends in the worst way it could end.”

Sofía Vergara and Christian Tappan as Griselda and Arturo in the second episode of the series.Sofía Vergara and Christian Tappan as Griselda and Arturo in the second episode of the series. COURTESY OF NETFLIX

The director and producer highlight the dedication and commitment of Sofía Vergara, not only in the role of the drug trafficker, but also as a producer. “There are many types of producers. “There were 13 executive producers on Narcos, and some of them I’ve never met,” says Eric Newman. “Sofía was very involved, she wanted to know what was happening at every level of production, to be a real partner,” he adds. For the producer, the protagonist's physical and emotional well-being was his greatest concern. “In Narcos, Wagner Moura was a spectacular Pablo Escobar, but he could work for three days and rest for a week or more. In this case, since it was a narrative that focused more on his character, he worked with very emotional scenes almost every day… I was worried about the stress he was under. But he did it with admirable courage and resilience.”

For Vergara to embody Blanco, a physical transformation was necessary that required three hours of makeup and even adopting a posture different from her own. “More than just trying to imitate Griselda, she wanted to get away from the Sofia we know. “This was done through trial and error to find the ideal makeup,” explains Baiz. “With the makeup and the prosthetics, it was very important that Sofia was still behind it, that it wasn't a nose or a chin like we've sometimes seen in movies where I think they go too far “adds Newman. “She had to eliminate Gloria Pritchett [el personaje de Vergara en la serie Modern Family]. We did a lot of testing, we sat in my office with the makeup team. If Sofia said she couldn't feel her face or that she looked like the witch from The Wizard of Oz, we changed everything and so on until we got to a good point.

Juliana Aidén Martínez plays police officer June Hawkins in “Griselda.”Juliana Aidén Martínez plays police officer June Hawkins in “Griselda”.ELIZABETH MORRIS/NETFLIX

Drug trafficking and drugs are a topic that is constantly present in her professional career. In addition to directing 22 episodes between Narcos and Narcos: México, Andrés Baiz also worked on Metastasis, the Colombian version of Breaking Bad. Eric Newman addressed the opioid crisis in the United States in the series Lethal Medicine. “I have always been fascinated by the drug business and the role of the United States as the largest drug market in the world,” says Newman. “With Narcos we wanted to show that you can never address a public health crisis like drugs by just attacking suppliers, you also have to focus on demand. But that requires a level of self-reflection that I don’t think we Americans are capable of,” the producer reflects. “Drugs are still a huge problem around the world, whether it's oxycodone, methamphetamines, cocaine, fentanyl or whatever. It continues to resonate with people,” he concludes.

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