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'Griselda': Why Sofía Vergara wanted to 'uncover the deeper story' behind the Colombian drug lord in new Netflix hit series

From "Modern Family" to queen of the cocaine underground, Sofía Vergara can do it all.

Sofía Vergara, left, and Griselda Blanco.
Sofía Vergara plays Griselda Blanco in Netflix’s Griselda. The real Blanco, right, died in 2012 after nearly three decades of working in Colombia’s cocaine drug cartel. (Netfilx; Miami-Dade Police Department via Reuters)

Sofía Vergara’s portrayal of notorious Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco in Griselda has quickly turned the mini series into one of Netflix’s most-talked about new shows.

The six-part limited series, which premiered on Jan. 25, reached No. 1 on the streaming service’s Top 10 television chart in the U.S. as well as its Global Top 10 chart for English-language shows, garnering more than 20 million views for the week of Jan. 22-28. It was also the most-watched English-language show in 89 countries — including Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia — during that same time period.

In addition to starring in it, Vergara is the executive producer on the project, which follows Blanco from when she moved to Miami in the late 1970s as a single mom to when she became one of the most prominent bosses in the cocaine drug trade. The real Blanco — who was known by a variety of nicknames, including the Black Widow and the Cocaine Godmother — was shot dead in 2012 in Colombia at age 69.

Sofia Vergara playing the role of Griselda Blanco.
Vergara as Blanco in Netflix’s six-part limited series Griselda. (Netflix)

It’s a role far removed from Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, the fun-loving, feisty mother Vergara played on the ABC sitcom Modern Family. Admittedly, that’s what attracted the Colombian-born actress to play Blanco in the first place.

“I wanted to challenge myself, because Griselda Blanco is such a complex character,” Vergara said about the role. “She’s not a hero, and many of the things she did were very terrible. But she was also very interesting. There were so many nuances to explore in terms of who she really was — as a cartel leader and a fearless business woman in Miami in the ’70s, and of course, as a woman, as a mother. That was not a very usual mix. She was someone who did whatever it took to protect her family.”

Sofía Vergara playing the role of Griselda Blanco, smoking a cigarette with a sleeping child on her lap.
Vergara as Blanco, who moved to Miami in the late 1970s as a single mother and eventually built a drug empire to support her four children. (Netflix)

Vergara said finding Blanco’s humanity was a part of her process.

“We were very careful not to glorify her in the series, but we also wanted to take time to uncover the deeper story of Griselda,” the actress explained in a Netflix press statement. “How beyond all odds, a poor, uneducated woman from Colombia managed to create a massive, multibillion-dollar empire in a male-dominated industry, in a country that was not her own, through tactics that she devised that were both ingenious and cruel.”

Finding Griselda

Blanco’s rise in the cocaine trafficking ring founded by fellow Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar has been dramatized before, most recently in the 2017 Lifetime movie Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys and the 2021 Netflix docuseries Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami. In 2019, Jennifer Lopez was reportedly in talks with STX to play the drug lord in an upcoming project.

Vergara told the New York Times that it wasn’t until 2015 that she was ready pitch the series to Narcos showrunner Eric Newman.

“It’s hard for me to find characters because of my accent, and because I’m known for comedy. So in a selfish way I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect for me,’” she told the outlet. “I was like, ‘What are the odds that this guy is going to think that Gloria Pritchett can play this [expletive] ruthless, crazy character?’”

It was a match made in heaven. Since the first image of Vergara as Blanco was released in January 2022, the actress’s physical transformation into the Cocaine Godmother has been an ongoing conversation.

Nailing the look perfectly was important to Vergara.

“I needed to disappear,” she said in the press statement. “I wanted no one to think of me or my last role as Gloria Pritchett. I wanted to get inside Griselda’s head and really understand her mentality, where she was coming from.”

On the Jan. 24 episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show, Clarkson praised the hair and makeup team for giving Vergara what appeared to be a “seamless” makeover — though the actress was quick to point out it was anything but.

“I feel like they only changed your nose or something,” Clarkson said.

“What? Are you crazy?” Vergara replied. “They did a lot to me! It was teeth, it was [a] wig, it was [a] nose. It was plastic from here to here.”

Clarkson clarified, “They did such a good job that it looked seamless.”

The role also proved more than physically transformative for Vergara.

“It was paralyzing to me to understand that this woman really existed while she was raising four kids, and I’m like, ‘Why did I never [hear] of her?’” she told Clarkson. “I lived in Colombia in that era — the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s. My brother was unfortunately part of that business. He got killed in Colombia. I knew that character so well. How did none of us know about her existence?”

Audiences can’t get enough

Griselda fans are growing more fascinated with Blanco’s life not just because of Vergara’s performance, but also because of a series of memorable marketing stunts.

In a now-deleted clip originally published on Netflix France’s Twitter account, a Griselda-themed bus is seen driving down a Paris street with a giant straw latched at the front. As seen in the video, the straw sweeps up the white lines on the street as if it were snorting cocaine.

In another stunt, the Netflix marketing team set up a display at an airport baggage claim that had suitcases with fake money sticking out of them. Placed beside are brown packages that seem to portray deliveries of cocaine.

“Okay but the griselda marketing team needs a raise,” one user wrote on TikTok alongside a clip of the airport display.

Griselda is now streaming on Netflix.