Technically, spoilers follow for the second season of the Netflix drama “Narcos” — that is, if you don’t know anything about the history of the drug war, or if you weren’t paying attention over the last year.
It’s been public knowledge for months that “Narcos” Season 2 would include (at some unspecified point) the death of the notorious Pablo Escobar, who was an unforgettable force in Season 1 in part due to the performance of Wagner Moura. Nominated for a Golden Globe, Moura has been an essential anchor for the series, but that didn’t stop executive producers Eric Newman and José Padilha from making the hard call to move the story forward without him.
Why? “We called the story ‘Narcos’ for a reason, not ‘Pablo Escobar,'” Newman said. The three men spoke with IndieWire at the TCA summer press tour to reveal exactly what that reason was, and how they plan to move forward without El Patron.
Taking the Time to Tell Pablo’s Story
Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix
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Wagner Moura: I knew Pablo was going to die at some point, right? In the first season, we cover 15 years of his life. It’s a very epic season in the sense that it tries to explain how the drug trade works and covers 15 years of all that. From the day Pablo escapes from La Catedral, to the day he dies, it’s less than 1 year.
Eric Newman: His life is a lot of story. We always envisioned it as we needed 2 seasons to tell that story properly. Other stories might be a season and then others might be 5 seasons, you never know.
Jose Padilha: It’s a cool thing about the media of cinema. Tarkovsky said it’s his culture in time — because you play with time. You can make time go real fast, you can make time go real slow and the audience doesn’t even notice it. You can watch the first season and never think that it’s 15 years. Watch the second season and never think it’s so short because you’re in it. You’re in the time frame that the show poses for you. Now, we have a lot of ground to cover with the history of narco trafficking.
Being Authentic Meant Pablo Had to Die
Newman: The thought behind it was, we are nothing if not bound to what actually happened. We pride ourselves at a very high level of authenticity and accuracy. We found that in the viewing experience in Season 1, people were Googling, “Did Pablo Escobar really blow up an airplane?” “Did he really do this, did he do that?”
Padilha: We’re not telling the Pablo Escobar story. We’re telling the story of the narcotics trade and the war on drugs which is a bigger story, more important story. That would be somewhat of a documentary kind of dimension of this.
Newman: It’s impossible to miss the fact that he died in 1993. Rather than make it this big sort of cliffhanger surprise thing at the end, we thought, and obviously Netflix thought, this is the best way to get people comfortable with the idea that he is going to die, it is going to end.
And Pablo’s Only the Beginning of the Story
juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix
Newman: Pablo Escobar is a small chapter in the many, many, many, many different players and situations in the last 30 years that have defined the cocaine business. You watch now, with the exception of Chapo Guzman, who’s hung in there a long time…
Padilha: …With the help of the media.
Newman: The succession in the drug business is “That guy’s gone. Great, yay, we got him. But now there are these guys.”
Padilha: What’s the story really? The story is America is a gigantic consumer of drugs, so there is a drug mob. There is the man for drugs. Period. Not only America- Brazil, Europe and so on, but chiefly America money-wise. That’s the biggest market. America makes the biggest call in what is the anti-drug policy. This has been, “Let’s kill the suppliers.” It has not been let’s do social work and education.
Obviously, you have a series. You have Wagner Moura and we knew who Wagner Moura was. We put him there and he is amazing as he was going to be, the audience falls in love with him. What’s the option? You got a better actor to put there? No, you go with that, you kill him and then you find another amazing actor to continue it on. You know?
Newman: From the very beginning, from our earliest days of talking about this, it was Medellin, into Cali, into Mexico. The band plays on. We certainly look at parallels in the world with terrorism, where we never deal with the source of terrorism. We deal with “let’s cut the head off this monster” — in the most recent case, Osama bin Laden. By the time he’s gone, he’s already out of the game and there are new guys who are even worse. That’s really what the show is about.
Padilha: Another way to put it is, I cannot possibly be scared of the success of Pablo. I would be scared of the failure of Pablo, but Pablo is a huge success. So let’s thrive on it.
Will Wagner Miss Playing Pablo?
Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix
Moura: I will, in a way, miss this, but in a silly way, because this is how things are. At the same time, I felt really relieved, because I was living for 2 years with a character who wasn’t exactly…
I had to change my body to do it. I gained 40 pounds. That wasn’t my body — that energy was not nice to deal with everyday. Actors, the thing that we deal with takes place in our bodies. And the second season is really claustrophobic, in terms of Pablo basically being hunted by everyone. The powerful Pablo that we met in the first season is gone. He’s now having to deal with feelings that we never knew a guy like him had to deal with. It was hard, emotionally. It’s a mixed feeling. It’s life.
But at the end of the day it felt good. I felt proud of what we did. It was the hardest thing I have ever done as an actor, but at the same time, it pushed me into his world.
But Will The Producers Miss Wagner?
Padilha: I don’t know. I was kind of …
Newman: Getting tired of him?
Padilha: [laughs] Every time he shows up, he has to steal the scene. He is so charismatic. It annoys me.
Newman: If we could have come up with some rationale to keep him alive — you know, he’s a ghost or he didn’t really die — we would have. But we just can’t.
Pablo Escobar’s long lost twin brother, Paco Escobar?
Padilha: Paco Escobar. That’s a good idea.
You’re free to use it.
Padilha: I don’t think we should be dealing with Escobar’s brothers. Let’s find him another role.
“Narcos” Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.