Narcos Showrunner Interview

The second season finale of Narcos told viewers what season three was going to be about. Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal) was recruited to pursue the Cali Cartel. Narcos season 3 picks up the Cali Cartel story, who celebrated the demise of their rival (and seasons 1 and 2 lead) Escobar.

Narcos show runner Eric Newman spoke with /Film by phone about the show’s third season. Newman is also producer of the upcoming Netflix original movie Bright starring Will Smith and directed by David Ayer. He’s also attached to some high profile movies with directors Jon Favreau and Matt Reeves.

Was the Cali Cartel always the plan when you knew that the Pablo Escobar story was only going to be two seasons?

Actually, I started with Cali. About 20 years ago, I had heard a drug war story. It was so captivating that I did more research into the story and it turned out it was a Cali cartel story. So the show began there. I was going to do it as a film and as soon as I got further into the research, I found that it’s hard to tell the Cali story properly without telling the story of their predecessor, Pablo Escobar. It all sort of came together from that entry point. I always planned on doing a couple years of Escobar and following the cocaine into the next iteration of super cartel and I feel like I can continue to do that now.

Is it true historically that Pena continued investigating the Cali?

No. That is not true. He left Colombia after Escobar and then returned a number of years later. So that character continuity was part of our dramatic license. He became a composite of a couple other characters, real people who were down in Colombia during this period. Chris Feistl and an agent named Dave Mitchell who we’ve renamed as Van Ness. Dave Mitchell is still active and there is another guy named Joe Toft who was the country attache at this time. We’ve built a composite and put it into Pena.

But Steve Murphy did not continue on the Cali investigation?

No, Steve Murphy left as seen in our show.

Is season three a good jumping in point if people have not seen the first two?

I think so, yes. It pays to know a little bit about Pablo Escobar but I think you could experience season three independent of one and two. It’s always better to just start at the beginning I think but I don’t think it’s impossible to understand and enjoy season three without watching seasons one and two.

Is the Cali a different kind of outfit than Escobar’s?

Very much so. The Cali Cartel had been Escobar’s competitors and were very comfortable being in second place because they realized that having someone like Escobar around was good for them. He drew a lot of attention to himself and it allowed them to operate in secrecy. When the effort to take Escobar down became a national imperative, the Cali Cartel actually aided collective efforts. They worked with the Americans and the Colombians to take Escobar down and in doing so, they protected themselves. They built an alliance that almost ensured their escaping justice. Of course, what season three is about is their inability to pull it off. They had planned to surrender. They were a much smarter organization. They were a business. Escobar styled himself as sort of an outlaw standing against the state. The Cali Cartel saw themselves as part of the system. They made an alliance with the state and that allowed them to almost surrender with virtual impunity. Of course, that didn’t happen.

Do the relationships within the Cali Cartel have a different dynamic than Escobar and his family?

Absolutely. Escobar was a much more emotional being in all the good and bad ways. He loved his family very much but he was also capable of atrocities when he was challenged or questioned or disrespected. These guys were just as cruel but they were much more measured about it and much more strategic about it. When Escobar killed you, he wanted everybody to know he’d done it. The Cali guys, you disappeared and they never found your body. The relationship they have with one another, and again there were four of them whereas Escobar was a very complicated sole practitioner. These guys were a much more complex organism. They were all very different and for the most part got along but as often happens, as good as your team is, when you start losing, you start pointing the finger at the other guy. I think we illustrate that dynamic very well this season.

Narcos s3 4

Was the shootout in the hair salon a true incident?

No, we created that, but it was true that they moved the Dominicans out of areas in New York to establish their own outposts, particularly in Queens.

Does the Cali have a clear historical endpoint too?

There is a very clear end point for them. Again, like seasons one and two, the bad guys don’t get away with it but the beat goes on. Cocaine continues. Our position on the show is you’re never going to stop the flow of cocaine by cutting off heads because new heads will always grow back. It ends up at a similar place of pyrrhic victory.

How many seasons do you see the Cali Cartel taking?

The Cali Cartel story is a one season story, but really it’s a two or even three season story. Pacho Herrera shows up in season one. Guilberto and Miguel Rodriguez show up in season two and then Chepe Santacruz shows up in season three so I kind of see them as part of the Colombian story.

Does the season finale set up what a fourth season could be like you introduced the Cali mission in the season two finale?

It hints at one, yes. I’ll leave it to the audience to make their best guess.

Would you want Narcos to ultimately catch up with modern times?

Yeah, I actually would. It would be kind of cool. I’m hoping by the time they catch up with modern times, the current players will be gone. It would be nice to be a step or two behind although a lot of these cartels are still active. Not in Colombia but in Mexico, it’s the same people. Chapo Guzman was, until very recently, he had a 30 year run. I do like the idea of going as far into the future, or rather the present, as we can.

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