“If you’re at a party and snort a gram of cocaine, look at how many people died (for it), how many lives were destroyed. ” That’s what Narcos executive producer Jose Padilha wants audiences to be conscious of when they watch his 10-hour Netflix series Narcos, which follows the 1980 drug war between the U.S. and Colombia’s kingpin Pablo Escobar.
“The drug policy that we have in the U.S. hasn’t worked in the last 30 years,” said Padilha, “The Nancy Reagan ‘Just Say No’ approach doesn’t work.”
“So many people have died and there were so many dead bodies,” said Padilha about the aftermath of the ’80s drug wars.
“It shouldn’t be treated as a drug war, rather a health problem,” said the EP about the U.S. attitude toward drugs “It has been treated as a war against those who are producing cocaine in Colombia and I don’t think that will ever work.” Actor Wagner Moura, who plays kingpin Pablo Escobar, distinguished how the drug war differs in Mexico vs. U.S.: Across the border, people are being kidnapped, whereas in the U.S., dogs sniff our luggage at the airport.
Narcos marks the reteam between Elite Squad director Padilha and star Moura. The EP also expounded on how the U.S. fought the drug war by fighting supply. Instead of taking to the streets in Miami, Florida, they took the battle to Colombia. “But the demand is always there, and the place that supplies cocaine changes,” said Padilha how the cocaine trade moved from South America to Mexico.
Originally, Narcos was conceived as a feature film, but as EP Eric Neman and Padilha were writing the story, which distinctly shows all sides of the 1980s drug war from the cops to the small-time criminals in the Medellin cartel –similar to the way that Steven Soderbergh presented characters in Traffic– they realized that they didn’t have enough time to pull off the complexities. Netflix provided the prime platform to tell the epic story. “We didn’t want to give the Americans too much credit for what they did (during the drug war), it was also about the Colombian effort. They did the dying and the suffering to bring Pablo Escobar down,” said Newman.
“Pablo made it (in the drug world) fast. The series follows how he became incredibly powerful, his political ambitions and bigger-than-life stories. Cocaine was very cheap to produce, highly addictive with incredible profit margins. No one knew what they had until cocaine hit America. All the money that went into Colombia corresponds to the cocaine in America. People died in Miami like they do today in Rio de Janeiro,” added Padilha.
Narcos streams on Friday, Aug. 28. Gaumont International Television is co-producing.