Television is taking the risks cinema isn’t: Diego Luna
The actor who plays the ambitious Mexican drug lord, Felix Gallardo, in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico which started streaming last Friday, talks about the show
Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the Mexican drug lord Diego Luna plays in Narcos: Mexico, is quite unlike others of his kind. He’s not one for theatrics. He doesn’t believe in showmanship. He barely loses his temper even. He’s guided only by a desire for power, and realises that any noise he makes will only serve to put more distance between him and his goals. Diego Luna, who plays this seemingly timid, but ruthlessly manipulative drug lord with much understatement, talks more about the character, and his own return to television after many years.
It’s been quite a while since you did television.
I remember doing a lot of terrible television as a kid. I was 19 when I did my last show. I decided then that I’d never do TV again. But it’s become very different now. Television is taking the risks cinema isn’t. Newer voices are emerging here, and the medium is helping them reach audiences cinema isn’t able to get to. As for storytelling, it’s giving us an opportunity to tell a story in, say, ten hours. As an actor, it also allows you to bring to the performance many layers.
With a series like Narcos: Mexico, you also get to work with multiple directors.
Oh, yes! Andy Baiz (Colombian director) has been with Narcos from the very beginning. I’ve also got the chance to work with two other Mexican directors who I have produced films for, but never worked as an actor with. I find the collaborative nature of television quite rewarding. It’s not just one director’s point of view being realised. There’s the showrunner who gives everyone an overarching guideline. There’s the writer who knows the finer details of episodes. There’s the director who decides how this is all going to translate on screen. And then of course, you have the actors, who sometimes know more than the writer and director because we have been part of the series longer than them. It’s a conversation with six voices, with each one enriching the process.
You play Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the Mexican drug lord who formed the Guadalajara cartel. I found it quite fascinating that he’s a man not prone to flamboyance in expression.
He definitely doesn’t fit the clichés concerning the portrayal of Mexican drug dealers on screen. First of all, Felix is willing to leave everything behind in his pursuit of success. He’s keen to be seen as a businessman. He wants to be written about in newspapers, and wants to be the owner of top hotels. He’s after power. He’s not concerned about building a fancy house for himself or his family, let alone fulfilling a romantic ideal like returning to his hometown and fixing its problems. He got away in search of opportunities, and once he finds it, wants to be on top of powerful people like politicians. However, he realises it’s impossible in a system like Mexico’s, and ends up working for them.
What drew you to this story?
I like that the story has grey areas. It’s not about good versus bad. Drug trafficking wouldn’t work if business people weren’t involved, if banks, policemen and politicians refused to participate. On some level, everybody’s a victim of the system. The system’s a lot bigger than you and turns on you when necessary.
There seems to be very little material about Felix Gallardo and the person he actually was.
Yes. But once I understood one aspect about his character, that really helped set the foundation for how I’d portray him. Felix knew the value of being discreet. I decided that I’d let this aspect dictate my performance, and my choices as an actor. He feels that it’s best not really to be seen, as it gives you the freedom to do what you want. Towards the end of Narcos: Mexico, things really start to change. But I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.