Narcos’ José María Yazpik: “Destabilising Latin America is good for the US”

The actor who plays drug lord Amado Carrillo talks about the futility of the US-led ‘war on drugs’, reaction in Mexico and drops hints about season four of Narcos

What do you think Narcos has to say about the US war on drugs?

My own personal opinion is the US has to take responsibility for being the number one consumers in the world. All this traffic is due to that. A frontal war against drug trafficking hasn’t worked, ever. Instead of fighting and shooting people, we should start to think about opening a dialogue. It’s a complex thing but I think it should be legalised so there can be less deaths and more control about what’s going on. Plus you could tax drug dealers and put all that money into infrastructure and health and education. But the US needs to keep this war going on. It destabilises the whole of Latin America and that’s good for the US.

We cannot put the Mexican drug lord in a suit because nobody’s going to believe it

Your character is one of the most famous drug lords in Mexico but he does not have a prominent role in Narcos yet…

It’s a link between Colombia and Mexico, it will be bigger in season four.

How did you prepare for the role?

I had the fortune of talking to family and friends who were close to him and I spoke to some military people who were chasing him, so I got both sides of the story. He’s a fascinating character. He was not that close to what you’re seeing in [Narcos], he was a more down to earth, quiet, even melancholic person – but you know, we got to sell this. He always wore Armani suits but [the producers] said dude we have the CIA, the DEA, the government and the Cali Cartel dressed in suits, we cannot put the Mexican drug lord in a suit because nobody’s going to believe it.

Pedro Pascal as Agent Peña in Narcos

He was very family-oriented. That blows my mind, someone who can be so violent in the morning can be playing with kids all afternoon. That’s what I think is one of the positive things about the series. You show the context of the character and that makes it human and you can see both sides, not just the stereotypes, you see why he became what he became. It has historical value to it.

That’s one good thing about Christianity, you can just say, ‘Dude I’m sorry’ and the sins are forgiven

Characters like this, they pray but they also kill people.

It’s very common, this duality of these people. They believe in God but they’re motherfuckers. But that’s one good thing about Christianity, you can be a total assassin idiot and just say, ‘Dude I’m sorry’ and the sins are forgiven. That’s very convenient.

Is there a concern a programme featuring Mexican drug dealers will further reinforce Mexico’s association with drugs?

It’s because it’s true. Not all Mexicans are drug dealers and not all Mexicans are violent – but there are a lot of violent drug dealers in Mexico. As long as we keep the objectivity and not be apologetic this will create conversation about the subject to see what we can do.

What do you think the reaction to your character will be like in Mexico?

There’s a saturation of narco series right now, but this is the only one that gets closest to what really happened. This is fiction but based on true facts. I don’t know what the response is going to be. The narco culture is so big and in your face all the time that maybe people are just numb.

The third season of Narcos is available now on Netflix. Read more about the show in an upcoming edition of The Big Issue

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