'We're all kind of nervous,' the actor who plays Agent Peña says
On the third season of Netflix’s cartel drama Narcos, Pedro Pascal’s character Agent Peña, finds himself back in Colombia but without his partner.
Turns out, he was able to hold his own even without Agent Murphy (played by Boyd Holbrook), but how much longer will that continue? After all, in real life, Agent Peña didn’t actually go back to Colombia to take down the Cali Cartel — that was a bit of an invention on the part of the producers. So will Pascal’s Peña be back in the saddle for season 4? And what would season 4 be about? The season 3 finale points towards Mexico, but at this point, it’s anyone’s guess.
We spoke to Pascal to get a better sense of where the series is going, as well his thoughts on season 3, working in Colombia, and befriending the real Agent Peña.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Even without Pablo Escobar, this season, which was based on real events, was as addictive and suspenseful as ever.
PEDRO PASCAL: That was really what was fascinating to me. Despite us telling the story of actual events, there’s no way to predict what’s going to happen. Did you think we’d get Gilberto by episode four, you know? That’s my favorite experience in viewing something, not knowing what’s going to happen next — which is sort of rare, and especially if you’re dealing with a historical drama, essentially is what Narcos is.
This season brought the action to the United States, with the Cali Cartel having a foothold in New York. What was that experience like, taking the show to America?
I loved that. There that scene with Chepe where it felt and sounded like any primary cocaine lab in Colombia, but then he steps out the door and it’s the middle of winter in New York City. I was like, “Wow, what a great way to understand the global reach of this industry.” That’s how you know these guys weren’t the kings of Cali — owning New York City and Miami after Pablo. I mean, these guys were the richest cocaine drug lords in the world. I don’t mean just in the world, I mean in history.
You shoot the majority of the show on location in Colombia. What is that experience like? What do the locals think of the show?
A lot of people are like, “You’ve been here for three years. You know that Colombia is not about cocaine.” I’m like, yeah — it’s really not. It’s really about incredible people, incredible family, amazing beaches. It’s funny because the experience of being there is an alternate reality to the story. I have to say this, because there couldn’t be anything more normal and safe and pleasant about me having a couple of days off and doing my own thing on my own in Bolivar, or going out to Cartagena or Santa Marta or hanging out with my crew or whatever.
A lot of people are like, “Is it safe? Do you feel safe? You shoot the whole thing down there?” And I’m like, yeah, man, definitely.
The way the season ends leaves your character’s role going forward a little up in the air. Do you know your future with the show, or what season 4 might look like?
You know, they were very clear with me about seasons 1 and 2, but then it got a little bigger, and you get nervous. You don’t know. It’s in their hands. I have no control over it, so I don’t ask questions. I got the script for the end of season 2 and I saw that the board was not firing me but actually asking me about Cali, and I was like, “Holy s–t. What’s this mean? Am I coming back?” And they’re like, “Yeah, nobody talked to you?”
I think that they’re not keeping me out of it [the decision-making process], but I think that they’re just really trying to understand the best way into the other worlds that have been suggested to us. So they’re being really, really smart about how to go into Mexico — if they do indeed go into Mexico. Because, really, they could just go to Afghanistan, or we could go all the way back in time to the opium wars if they wanted to.
I mean, we’re all kind of nervous because Wagner [Moura, who played Pablo Escobar before being killed off] was such an incredible character. But the truth is, the show is called Narcos, and it’s about the history of these drug wars. It’s centuries-long. So that’s what this show is about. They can go wherever the hell they want, I guess.
They’ve already taken liberties with your character because we know that in real life, Peña didn’t actually go down to Colombia to take down Cali — so you could still be involved.
Yeah, and he wasn’t there. Peña left Columbia six months after Escobar died. He stayed DEA and he consulted a ton on Cali, but he wasn’t physically there.
Have you and Peña gotten close over the years, especially the past couple of seasons?
It’s whenever. We always check in with each other after very long gaps, and it’s just super pleasant in that his character has kind of become something of our own invention in a way, where he gives me a pass to do whatever I want. I base what I want on the time that I’ve spent with him and basically the vibe that I get off of him. It’s just been this kind of unspoken kind of collaboration between the two of us and where we just, when we check in, we talk about other s–t. We never talk about Narcos.
That’s good. You guys have a healthy relationship then. Does he ever have notes about your performance, or does he ever…?
There literally is no notes. He has no notes. He only tells me that a really cute girl was like, “Hey, you’re Agent Peña!” He’ll let me know how an attractive girl at the Apple Store recognized him, and that’s as much as we’ve talked about the show. And otherwise, we talk about our own lives.
So you’re helping him get girls.
I hope so, yeah.
MORE NARCOS COVERAGE
Narcos: The real Jorge Salcedo talks about what the show gets right
Narcos actor Matias Varela on his huge role as Jorge Salcedo
Narcos: Pedro Pascal on working without Boyd Holbrook