The cast and creators of new Netflix drama “Narcos” did not shy away from blasting the real world drug policies that led to the disastrous events on which their series were based.
“The drug policy that we have doesn’t work and it hasn’t worked in 30 years,” said executive producer and director Jose Padilha on stage during the show’s panel at the Television Critics’ Association summer press tour.
“Narcos” is a 10-episode drama following two parallel stories, the rise of Colombian drug kingpins, including Pablo Escobar (played by Wagner Moura), as cocaine arrived in Miami, and the American DEA agents sent down to the South American country to bring them down. The two central DEA figures are played by Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal.
“If you follow the money down the chain, once it gets to Colombia, you see what the money does,” Padilha said. “The money buys weapons, it goes to corrupt politicians, it finances all sorts of things. The demand is inherently — the people doing the cocaine don’t have a good idea of what’s going on in Colombia. There’s a lot of alienation, a lot of isolation. There’s very little idea of what his money is doing, buying in another country.”
Moura echoed his EP’s take on the issue, placing the blame firmly on policy rather than on drug addicts.
“It’s a completely wrong policy,” he said bluntly. “I don’t know if it’s because you’re in the U.S., that you have less of an idea of like what’s going on in Mexico. We are all affected by the way U.S. deals with it. The way you deal with it here is completely different than how you deal with it down there. I don’t think the show has a responsibility, but it would be really cool if people start to think about it.”
“It shouldn’t be treated as a war, it should be treated as a health problem,” Padilha added. “Treating it as a war against the producers in Colombia, that hasn’t worked.”
The show also treads on shades of grey, and no character is 100 percent good or evil, the panelists all agreed. The EP in particular wanted to nip the idea of America as a savior in the bud.
“This is not the show about good American cops who go to a third world country to save the poor people from a bad guy,” Padilha said. “Nobody’s good in this show. Everybody’s grey. Escobar — one of the things he did was, he put a bomb on a plane to kill on person — he brought the whole plane down. He’s obviously an evil person, a sociopath, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a soft side, for his family.”
Inevitably, Pascal was asked to compare “Narcos” to his previous show, “Game of Thrones,” on which he played doomed Dornish prince Oberyn Martell.
“I think they’re very comparable to one another,” he confirmed. “That’s the size of the way this story exists. ‘Game of Thrones’ would take a lot of inspiration on what went down in Columbia and the war that was fought. It has that size … We don’t need dragons, we’ve got cocaine!”