Netflix does not mess around. Less than a week after it's premiere on the streaming service, Narcos has gotten a season 2 order for renewal. This raw, gritty series chronicles the gripping real-life stories of the drug kingpins of the late 1980s and the corroborative efforts of law enforcement to meet them head on in brutal, bloody conflict. It details the many, often-conflicting forces - legal, political, police, military and civilian - that clash in the effort to control cocaine, one of the world's most valuable commodities.
Created by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro, Narcos tells the story of Columbian drug smuggler Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel in the 1980s. The series also focuses on the efforts to stop Escobar by the Columbian government, the U.S. government, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Executive produced by Brazilian director Jose Padilha, this Netflix original drama features an international cast and dialogue in both Spanish and English. Its gritty, explosive scenes, reminiscent of films like Padilha's own Elite Squad, help create a powerful and cinematic viewing experience.
"We wanted to have to have a series that would work in two different worlds: It would be very interesting for an American audience (and) a Latin American audience," Padilha says. "And the way to do it was to tell the DEA story."
Although Narcos' first season focuses on the rise of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (played by Wagner Moura), it's American DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) who provides much of the framework. Through Steve's narration, viewers learn about the roles law enforcement, politicians and civilians played in these events, and how the elements worked with or against each other.
"The intricacies of this story haven't been explored," says writer and executive producer Chris Brancato. "The co-responsibility of the United States and the problem hasn't been explored. We're giving the viewer a distance by putting this back in time, but we're reflecting on the absurdity of certain aspects of the war on drugs. We're (also) reflecting on some aspects of the success of the war on drugs, and we're making some allusions to the United States' war on terror."
Shot on location in Bogota, Medellin and other parts of Colombia, Narcos' creative team worked to ensure the series provided as much authenticity as possible. Crew members meticulously researched costumes, settings and details of events, while hundreds of local actors were employed as extras. Moura, a Brazilian actor, learned Spanish to play Escobar, while Holbrook and actor Pedro Pascal (who plays Javier Peña) met the real-life former drug-enforcement agents they were portraying.
"What was important to me is that it told the story honestly, that the stakes were apparent and clear and that it still relates to the world today," says Eric Newman, who also serves as an executive producer.
Along with the real locations, archival footage and photos add to the show's true-to-life feel. Costumes reflect the era - a time when Miami Vice set the standard for fashion - and, in some cases, were replicated to match the now-iconic photos of Escobar.