Beverly Hills, Calif. — The producers of Narcos, the upcoming Netflix series about Pablo Escobar and the cocaine kingpins of the late 1980s and their clashes with law enforcement, don’t have a solution for the War on Drugs, but what they do have is a depiction.
“We have no prescription, but by showing what happens and portraying how cocaine has been dealt with, certain things become kind of obvious,” said executive producer and director José Padilha Tuesday during the show’s TCA summer press tour panel at the Beverly Hilton. “You could question why there hasn’t been changes. One thing is for sure: The drug policy we have doesn’t work, and we’ve had it for 30 years.”
There are two themes running through the 10-episode series, which launches on Netflix Friday, Aug. 28. One is the formation of the Medellín Cartel in Colombia, telling the story of Escobar and other criminals obtaining cocaine, a drug, Padilha noted, that has incredible profit margins because it is cheap to produce and highly addictive. The other theme is America — the cocaine making its way into the country and wreaking havoc in Miami, and how the U.S. decided to fight back by fighting the supply in Colombia. “It’s important not only for the show but also for the history of drug policies,” Padilha said.
Narcos stars Wagner Moura (Elite Squad) as Escobar and Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) as DEA agent Javier Peña. Moura, a Brazilian actor, didn’t speak Spanish, so he flew out to Colombia before the rest of the cast to go to university to learn the language. He also gained 40 pounds to play Escobar in his older, fatter years (and still had to wear a fake belly).
“This is not a show about good American cops who go to third-world country to save poor people from a bad guy,” Moura said. “I like the fact this is not a regular cop-bad guy show.”
Executive producer Eric Newman said that unlike a two-hour movie, in which there isn’t always enough time to redeem characters, the 10-episode format on Netflix allows Narcos to “take characters down very dark roads and then bring them back.”
“It’s like cocaine,” Padilha added, “the audience is going to find out it’s too short.”