'There’s a lot of story left to be told in Colombia,' says Eric Newman
Warning: The following post contains spoilers about season 2 of Narcos, available now on Netflix.
After two tense seasons of playing cat and mouse, Narcos finally did it: The Colombian cartel drama killed off Pablo Escobar in the season 2 finale.
So where does Narcos go from here? It’s hard to imagine the series without Wagner Moura’s captivating portrayal of Escobar at the center of it, but the last episode does end with a nod in the Cali Cartel’s direction, hinting that Hélmer “Pacho” Herrera could be the next season’s big baddie (provided that Netflix green lights a season 3, of course).
We spoke to Narcos executive producer Eric Newman about depicting Pablo Escobar’s death, saying goodbye to Moura, and the potential future of the show and its characters.
ENETERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about Pablo’s death. Tell me about filming that scene — both the mood on set and the effort to nail down this historical event just right.
ERIC NEWMAN: You know, there were a lot of people present for his death and yet there’s still a lot of speculation as to what really happened. We believe, based on our data and the people that we’ve talked to — obviously, Steve Murphy (played by Boyd Holbrook) among them — that we got it right. We shot in the same location where he was killed, which was slightly haunting, certainly, but the thing that really struck me more than anything was how far Medellin has come in the last 20-some odd years. Medellin was the murder capital of the world in 1993, 1994. The death of Escobar changed that, began to change it, and what they’ve done since then is pretty remarkable. It’s really a spectacular city. Being on that roof where Escobar died, it felt very removed from the Medellin that we depict in our show, and so that’s one great success, and it’s a Colombian success.
So you guys filmed on the actual roof that he died on?
Well, there was a…we were adjacent. The actual roof, they’d built over it, but we were in the same building, on the same building.
At which point in making the series did you decide that you were going to put Pablo’s death in season 2?
I would say many, many, many years ago. I had started developing this as a movie in maybe the late 90s. Development is a very slow-moving process. I had worked with a team of writers, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard, and I got them involved. We talked about it for another, I would say, two years. The struggle of making a movie about Pablo Escobar, I think we’ve seen it with not just the ones that they have made, but the ones that they’ve tried to make and have been unable to get made, like, for example, Killing Pablo.
In two hours, it’s very difficult to render Pablo Escobar as anything but a really bad guy, and that’s not what’s interesting about him. What’s interesting about him and about all bad people through history is there is a human being there, and I think to deny that is a mistake. It’s to believe in the existence of evil spirits. The reality is that the wrong societal circumstances can form everyone, from Hitler to Pol Pot to Pablo Escobar, and you have to look inward at a culture that is responsible for allowing someone like Escobar and his successors to exist.
Once we shifted to television, it was like: Let’s do the story of Pablo Escobar in two seasons — a rise and fall kind of story. So we’d always intended to kill Escobar at the end of season 2, but I will be honest — I’ve really regretted not building it into four seasons or five seasons, and not just because Wagner is so good as Pablo Escobar. And he is brilliant. It’s also because I just love the guy and I really enjoy going to work with him every day for the last two-odd years.
What was that like, saying goodbye to Wagner as an actor? What was the mood on set?
First off, he is very different from Pablo Escobar as you can imagine, but I think playing a guy with that kind of darkness is hard. I think part of the reason why he’s so good is that he really sort of embraced Pablo’s love of his family, which was legitimate, you know. It doesn’t let him off the hook, but it humanizes him as you have to for a great portrayal. I think filming his death was very hard for Wagner because it was the last thing we shot, and so there was certainly a grieving. I think he went through Catherine Kübler-Ross, her stages of grief: [denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance]. I think we all went through a version of that.
Now that the series is in a post-Escobar landscape, the finale makes it look like season 3 will shift its focus to the Cali Cartel. Is that the plan?
They’re certainly teed up for that, that’s for sure. This show has always been about cocaine. We purposely did not call the show Pablo Escobar or Medellin. In the same way that Osama Bin Laden begets ISIS, Medellin begets Cali begets the Mexican Cartels. Though they existed at the same time, Cali really got the Mexicans into cocaine, which proved to be a much better business than heroin.
Are you considering making Mexico the next primary setting? Will it be less Colombia-oriented in the future?
You know, it certainly could be. I think that there’s a lot of story left to be told in Colombia, so I think we probably have to. If somebody wants another season of the show, we would sit down and draw from the pretty massive amount of real estate and research that we’ve done and do something kind of cool.
The season also ends with Peña (Pedro Pascal) back in the U.S. and getting recruited by the DEA for a new operation. How do you envision his role on the show in the future?
We try to be as bound to what actually happened as we can — within reason, obviously. We do take some liberties for dramatic purposes, but I’d probably have to look at what Peña’s role would be in the Cali, in taking down Cali. I love working with Pedro Pascal, so nothing would make me happier than to be back in business with him in some way.