Jan 23, 2024 - World

Netflix show starring Sofía Vergara as drug lord Griselda sparks debate

Sofia Vergara as drug lord Griselda Blanco in the Netflix limited series "Griselda." Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Sofía Vergara as drug lord Griselda Blanco in the Netflix limited series, "Griselda." Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

A fictionalized miniseries about the Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco is coming to Netflix, but not without controversy over Sofía Vergara's portrayal of the ruthless killer.

The big picture: The six-part series "Griselda" is scheduled to debut Thursday and is facing a lawsuit from Blanco's surviving son, along with public criticism for casting a much thinner person in the role of Blanco, who was known as "The Godmother," or "la madrina."

Details: "Griselda" follows the rise and fall of Blanco through the male-dominated drug trade of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

  • It covers Blanco's ascendency in Miami as she perfects the smuggling of cocaine through women's bras and builds an empire with the help of other immigrant women.
  • Blanco continues to elude federal authorities while overseeing the murders of dozens, if not hundreds, of people.
  • Blanco was arrested in 1985 and served nearly 20 years for cocaine trafficking. She was assassinated in Colombia in 2012.

What they're saying: It's no surprise that the series would cast Vergara as Blanco and transform her rather than cast an unknown who looked like Blanco, William Nericcio, author of "Talking #Browntv: Latinas and Latinos on the Screen," tells Axios.

  • Vergara draws an audience, and Hollywood is not known for historical accuracy anyway. "This is show business, not show ethnography."

Colombian Italian actor Aurora Cossio, who plays Estela, one of Blanco's helpers, tells Axios "Griselda" was a fun project because the series sought to use an almost all-Latino cast.

  • "I just felt like I was in the right moment with the right people in the right project."
  • Vergara, who is the series executive producer, told the Spain-based show El Hormiguero the lack of opportunities for Latino actors is what inspired her to pursue the project on Blanco.

The intrigue: Vergara has said in interviews that she wanted to play Blanco because she was so complicated as an anti-hero, businesswoman, mother, and cold-blooded killer during the cocaine wars.

  • "I grew up during that time. I know that business. My brother was part of that business. He was killed in the 90s," she said on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
  • Makeup artists used fake teeth, multiple wings, a prosthetic nose, and eyebrow covers to transform Vergara into Blanco. Vergara also said she has to wear uncomfortable bras to hide her "curves."
Sofia Vergara watching fireworks as drug lord Griselda Blanco in the Netflix limited series, "Griselda."
Sofia Vergara as drug lord Griselda Blanco in the Netflix limited series, "Griselda." Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Michael Corleone Blanco, the late drug lord's surviving son, is suing Vergara and Netflix to block the release of "Griselda" on grounds the show's creators used his "private artistic literary work" without permission or credit.

  • A representative for Netflix declined to comment.

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