Hollywood star Diego Luna hopes the Indian audience will embrace “Narcos: Mexico” as he believes both the countries share a lot of cultural similarities.
Luna, his co-star Michael Pena and showrunner Eric Newman joined Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt and director Shakun Batra to talk about the latest season of the Netflix drug drama, which starts streaming from November 16.
“I find so many similarities between the Indian culture and the Mexican culture… There is so much in common. The contrast you live when you go out and the richness in terms of cultural diversity is amazing. It feels like you are from here. I think this is why you would love ‘Narcos: Mexico’,” Luna said.
The actor, however, was hesitant to talk about his spiritual connection with India despite Batra’s prodding about a chat they had Sunday night.
“I told you this because I had four vodkas inside me… the spiritual connection is different… It is personal. I don’t see how it connects with ‘Narcos’,” he said when Batra shared with the audience that Luna’s grandmother was born in India and he had read parts of Bhagavad Gita.
While the earlier seasons dealt with Pablo Escobar, the man behind the rise of Medellin Cartel, and then the Cali Cartel in Colombia, the fourth season shifts to Mexico and revolves around the rise and fall of Guadalajara Cartel.
Luna, who grew up in Mexico at the time when the Cartel was at its peak, said the show was “personal” for him because it is the “foundation of the mess” that his country is in today.
He plays the role of Felix Gallardo, the man behind the rise of Guadalajara Cartel. Gallardo is currently serving a 37-year-sentence in Altiplano in Mexico.
“The case of Kiki Camarena determines the relationship between the States and Mexico… I was six when this happened but I did not know about it because my father was hiding this Mexico from me.
“But in the ’90s, I was reading about the violence erupting and understood how crucial 1980s were,” he added.
Wagner Moura and Pedro Pascal were the two popular faces of the previous seasons but Pena and Luna are not worried about comparisons.
“I don’t think about it like that. It was not like Pedro Pascal had enough and they brought the little me… It was not like he played Kiki Camarena (the DEA agent) and then I came. We were constantly working, travelling and had pages to memorise,” Pena said.
For Luna, it was a blessing to be a part of a show that is already well established.
“Obviously, when you see something, you compare it with the last thing you saw. Those guys made the show so popular that for the first time, I don’t have to worry about people watching my show,” Luna said.
“…The team they put together is amazing… I have to be very honest. It is very bold to say ‘Let’s start all over again’. It is a different project… there is a new director, place and cast… They complement each other very well but you won’t be thinking about the previous seasons.”
The actor said he read a lot of news stories and other people’s commentary about the notorious drug dealer to understand the inner world of character, whose personality was different from the usually flamboyant cartel bosses.
“There was a period of time when he (Gallardo) liked to be in the newspaper. He wanted to be seen as a businessman and wanted to be seen on the social part of it… But it is difficult to find images of his personal life… While many of these characters are very flamboyant, this guy knew the value of being discreet in this world… He was like a politician,” Luna said.
Pena said it took him a while to understand what motivated Camarena to put himself in the harm’s way and talking to Camarena’s wife helped shape his portrayal.
“I was not really getting the gist of what made him tick. What would motivate somebody to put himself in the harm’s way to accomplish what he thought was justice. I had more understanding when I talked to Mika Camarena, his wife.
“He is a person who is jut fed up with injustice… The local police, the federal police, the local government, everybody was turning a blind eye. This fuelled him to bring it upon himself to make some difference,” he said.
Newman believes the drug lords are not the real star of the show but cocaine, whose trail they have been following season after season.
“It would be a mistake to think that these characters are monsters. They are not… They are the product of their environment, economic disparity and the endless appetite for cocaine that America represents… The mistake that we make in America is that we are always looking for the monster and we ignore the monster taking shape behind us,” he added.