Diego Luna and Michael Peña on Creating a 'New Beginning' on 'Narcos: Mexico' (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Narcos: Mexico is taking the hit Netflix series to a new frontier.
"I think this is the new beginning," star Diego Luna told ET's Hallie Stephens at the show's junket on Wednesday. "We're going with a completely new cast, new story, new country. It even looks different."
Luna portrays Mexican drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo aka El Padrino in the series, as he's chased down by undercover DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Michael Peña) in the 1980s. The season was originally developed as Narcos' fourth season, however, the creative team later decided that it could stand on its own, as Narcos: Mexico.
Narcos, which premiered on Netflix in 2015, spent its first two seasons following the story of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Season three showed the aftermath of Escobar's death and the rise of the Cali Cartel. While the cocaine trade exploded in Colombia, the modern drug war as we know it was getting started in Mexico, as Gallardo built a marijuana empire with the Guadalajara Cartel.
Luna grew up in Mexico, but was just a kid during the famous Camarena case, which he said started to change things in his country. "Around '88, I started to wake up... I started to be a little more political about it," Luna revealed. "So going back to those days, it's interesting. And telling this story matters because... to understand the present, we have to take a look at the past and see what went wrong -- and many things went wrong."
Gallardo is still living, and currently behind bars for his crimes, though Luna said it was important for him to bring his own interpretation to the character. "There is a lot of material to read about this guy, what he meant, what they built in the '80s... there was a lot of information for me, but I had to stop one day and say, 'OK, this is it.'"
For Peña, however, whose character died in 1985, information is what he craved. "I didn't know how to play him because, on paper, it said he was a very focused, very determined guy, but why? ... It's like, what makes him tick?" he told ET, explaining that he went to Camarena's wife, Mika, for advice.
"I wanted to be totally respectful because, obviously, she had to deal with a lot. It doesn't end well for Kiki Camarena," Peña said. "But she gave me the impression that she was a very strong woman and that she supported him all the way. And she’s the one that told me that he was the kind of guy that had to do something about it. If not, it would just keep him up at night."
"He kind of had resentment about injustices that were happening... and he really took that personally," he explained of Camarena. "What was happening was the formation of a cartel, [and] nobody would believe him, so it kind of fed his obsession with making people see what he sees."
Portraying some of the show's more tragic moments was "tough" for Peña, whose usually-cheerful personality lights up any room. "I wasn't able to put that much humor into it, because there was no time for it," he expressed. "When you're on a chase, or you're on a shootout, there's no time to be like, 'You know what this reminds me of? Funny story, I'll tell ya!' [because you can get shot]... then you're done."
Still, the story is an important one for people all over the world to see.
"This is the beginning of the war we’re living today. Today in Mexico, violence is crazy. And it’s not our violence. It’s not the violence of Mexico. This violence belongs to the whole world because this is a global issue we have," Luna said. "I think it’s important for people to see where their drugs come from."
"It’s important to tell those stories and to raise the question, how much are we all involved in this? That’s important," he added.