4th season of Narcos evolves into a full show, Narcos:Mexico

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ORIGINALLY intended as the fourth season of Netflix’s Narcos, Narcos:Mexico instead grew so big that executive producer Eric Newman decided to make it a companion series to the original and, as the title states, it will focus on the origins of Mexico’s drug war and its biggest drug lord, Felix Gallardo.

Set in the 1980s, the series will chart the rise of the Guadalajara cartel created by Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo (a former federal police officer) and his cohorts in order to ship heroin and marijuana to the United States. It was among the first Mexican cartels to work with Colombian cocaine mafias.

“We’ve always designed the show as this sort of extended universe in drug traffickers and one of the things you’ll see when you watch the show this season you’ll see the Colombian story exists simultaneous to this,” Mr. Newman said at the Netflix Narcos:Mexico panel on Nov. 8 which was part of the streaming service’s See What’s Next Asia conference held in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

The series will also focus on the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent whose persistence in uncovering the ring and putting Gallardo in jail sparks Mexico’s drug war.

Narcos:Mexico, premiering on Nov. 16, will star Diego Luna as Felix Gallardo and Michael Peña as DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.

“[Gallardo] isn’t the stereotype of the drug dealer that we’ve seen before… [he’s] a guy that is much more of a businessman — this guy is one step ahead of everyone and he sees an opportunity and he takes it and before anyone takes a look, he already owns the system,” Mr. Luna told the media during the panel discussion.

“What I love about the series and writing of the series is the angle and perspective from which the story is told: we’re not telling the story about bad people, it’s not black and white,” he added.

Mr. Newman, on the same panel, recounted that in his original treatment of Narcos, he sought to present the people know the kingpins — Colombia’s Pablo Escobar and Mexico’s Gallardo — as the humans they were, with their motivations and their lives.

“You can’t have a character like Pablo Escobar and know him within two hours,” he said, noting that he first thought of the concept as a film before bringing it to Netflix which made a series out of it.

Mr. Luna said Narcos:Mexico will look at how Gallardo, in order to build an empire, got the support of the Mexican politicians, the police, and the military and on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

“I don’t like his business but what’s unique about this series is how different it is from the previous treatment,” he said, explaining that there are a lot of gray areas that have been explored in the series.

On the other side of the fence, Mr. Peña, who plays DEA Camarena, said his character “wanted justice more than anything and just [to] bring down the bad guys.”

“What works very well with the show is two people can watch it and have two very different experiences,” Mr. Newman said.

Mr. Luna reflected on the state of the drug war in his country and noted that “clearly the way we’re approaching decisions [regarding the drug war] is not the right way because it (drug cartels) keep growing — the market keeps growing, the violence keeps growing.”

“The system is bigger that these people (drug lords),” he added, before explaining that the world doesn’t get better if you put one drug lord behind bars and ensure he’s not going to get out because “a lot of criminals are wearing suits and are out there making decisions.”

Mr. Luna then said that he thinks the drug war could be won if the government realizes that, fundamentally, this is a health problem and hopes the series will encourage someone who “is in front a line of cocaine to think a little bit of what’s behind that line.”

Though Mr. Peña laughingly said that once “the line [of cocaine] is in front of you, it might be a little too late.”

Narcos:Mexico premieres on Nov. 16 on Netflix. — Zsarlene B. Chua