Netflix’s new crime drama from director José Padilha has already been compared to Breaking Bad, is said to be as addictive as crystal meth and to make Walter White look more like a sniffer dog than a drugs kingpin.
Released next month, Narcos follows the rise of real-life 80s Colombian ‘King of Cocaine’, Pablo Escobar, whose $3 billion fortune made him one of the wealthiest criminals in history.
Born into poverty, the smooth-talking drug lord had a gift for PR and turned himself into a cult hero among the poor. But he is believed to have been behind thousands of deaths, including the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan in 1989.
This supposed Robin Hood turned Colombia into the murder capital of the world. So, yep, probably even worse than Walter White…
The key players
Actor: Wagner Moura (Elite Squad)
Character: Pablo Escobar
What’s his story? The Brazilian actor learnt Spanish and gained a few pounds to become the multi-faceted cocaine baron. The “natural born leader with lots of charisma”, was loved by the people for building churches and schools but unafraid to order assassinations or detonate bombs aboard passenger flights.
Actor: Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones)
Character: Javier Pena
What’s his story? The Mexican drug law enforcement agent is sent on a US mission to hunt and capture Escobar. But he’s faced with an almost impossible situation: fighting bribed police officers as well as an international web of crime.
Now retired, the real life Pena worked with producers to reveal details of his six year hunt and praised Pascal (best known to Game of Thrones fans as the ill-fated Red Viper) for his performance.
Actor: Boyd Holbrook (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Gone Girl)
Character: Steve Murphy
What’s his story? Holbrook plays the West Virginian police officer who started his career chasing down hippies in flip flops before becoming Pena’s partner in South America and helping to seize 60 kilos of cocaine a day from Colombian cartels with machine guns.
Also retired from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Murphy consulted the makers of Narcos along with Pena to preserve realism by telling “their side of the story”.
Actor: Stephanie Sigman (Spectre)
Character: Valeria Velez
What’s her story? The TV character is based on Virginia Vallejo, a journalist and Escobar’s tormented lover who is in fear for her life when she testifies against his associate in court. In 2007, Vallejo published ‘Loving Paulo, Hating Escobar’, detailing their four year relationship and the origins of his cocaine industry.
Mexican actress Sigman will be in cinemas soon, appearing alongside Daniel Craig in the highly-anticipated new James Bond movie, Spectre.
Actor: Joanna Christie
Character: Connie Murphy
What’s her story? An ER nurse who risks her life to follow her husband, Steve Murphy. While he is chasing down Escobar, she focuses on the safety of innocents by volunteering in Bogotá and adopting two Colombian children.
Joanna Christie plays Murphy and is best known for her stage role in Equus with Daniel Radcliffe and as the lead in musical Once.