This is the season we have been waiting for. Now that Pablo Escobar is dead, the dynamics have changed. The Cali Cartel takes the role of the villain in season three of Narcos and taking up the case is Javier Peña, a returning character played by Pedro Pascal, whom we met on set in Bogota, Colombia.
Hannah: So Steve Murphy’s gone, and so is Pablo Escobar?
Pedro Pascal: I know, no one’s going to watch any more. (laughs)
H: It’s your chance to be the new hero.
P: The interesting thing is I didn’t think of Murphy or Peña as heroes, nor that Pablo was the only villain. This season, the structure opens up for perspective. The story is different in life than in history. It’s less predictable because we know less about the Cali Cartel. They had such a lower profile, so what they were able to do was much more insidious. We are in trouble if we became too clear about our ideas of heroism and villainy. It’s not the kind of world we want to live in.
H: What happens after that strange cliffhanger at the end of season two?
P: Peña was so prepared to be forced into retirement, but not following the rules turned out to his advantage. He got promoted. I think there is this dissatisfaction of not having been there when Pablo Escobar was killed. To carry that ghost with him back to Colombia is perhaps a misguided attempt for redemption.
H: Redemption? How?
P: It’s all grey. Is he trying to redeem his part in the violence or trying to prove something because he didn’t get to stand over Escobar’s corpse? That’s something that isn’t clear to himself, so I don’t know how clear it is to an audience. He’d decided that morality will only hinder the goal, so that’s an interesting struggle this season. Maybe he’d change his stance and do the right thing. (whispers) Maybe.
H: Since season one, what has it been like for you, personally?
P: Being here and shooting Narcos has a huge contradiction to the story we are telling. My personal experience is not one of being in a drug-riddled land, but a joyous place full of the friendliest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met. There is so much more conflict and history that is beyond narco trafficking. In fact I think the drug problem is a world problem, and not necessarily because of its use, but rather the violence and power struggles that come with business and money.
H: Does the series paint a picture that make you want to become a narcotic?
P: I can’t answer that. I think there are people who have a very specific fascination for narco cultura, as we call it. I think it’d be easy to look past that and see for a second the very aesthetic of the show that sets it apart as a viewing experience. Because of our visual representation of the place and of Latin culture, you can build arguments around whether or not we are perfectly representing a specific Latin culture.
H: How else is this done?
P: What we are doing is introducing the world to people that may very well be known to Latin regions but are less renown to a wider audience. I’m talking about all the brilliant Latino actresses that we have from South and Central America. That colours so much of it and there’re people I talk to that aren’t just about “holy shit, look at all that cocaine, and all that violence and those hot chicks!”
H: I suppose it’s the texture of the world that we are in right now.
P: Yes, and that’s a stronger character than drug-dealing kings and morally ambiguous cops. It couldn’t be done anywhere else with so much of the story in the landscape. We walk a fine line between “ra ra” Americana and the stereotypes of Latin culture, so our attempt is to tell it as authentically and originally as possible.
Narcos Season 3 is out now on Netflix