NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16:  Florencia Lozano attends the Entertainment Weekly & People Upfronts party 2016 at Cedar Lake on May 16, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly & People )

Narcos’ Florencia Lozano on the DEA, Pablo Escobar & The Sociopolitical Impact of Drugs

What kind of research did you do for your role as DEA Chief, Claudia Messina?

When I got this DEA job on Narcos, I called Irma, who was a very experienced New York City cop, and asked her if she knew any DEA agents. [Editor’s Note: Lozano had an existing relationship with the cop, who she shadowed for a previous role]. She hooked me up with a DEA agent in New York, who told me about his friend who works in Bogota. When I got to Bogota, I called this DEA agent and I met a bunch of the agents. I really wanted to talk to the guy that my character was based on, loosely based on, Joe Toft. The fact is there were very few women DEA Chiefs in foreign posts at that time. In fact, there was a lawsuit in 1991 from a woman saying that there’s a culture of sexism; the lawsuit was settled last year. It took 25 years to settle it. Basically they ruled in her favor and there was a lot of testimony from DEA agents saying, “Look if we send a woman overseas, they’re either going to get pregnant or a woman’s place is at home.”

And, even though, the focus has shifted to Mexico, Colombia is still a prime target for the DEA, correct?

Bogota in 1991, and still today is the choice gig fro DEA agents because so much action and activity happens there. DEA agents are thrill seekers. I finally did talk to the guy my character is based on. He lives in Arizona now and he told me there was a bounty of $50,000 on his head at the time. He slept with a gun by his bed, and two reinforced doors. He said it was super dangerous and he misses it. He said he never felt more alive than during that time. So my character had to be very no nonsense and she was also having the time of her life.

How familiar were you with the Pablo Escobar story and what did you learn by doing Narcos?

I really was not really that familiar with the Escobar story. The story is really deep and fascinating. It’s super painful to the people who live there and have lived there through it. I felt humbled by being a part of telling a story that was personally really painful to a lot of people. Poverty plays such a huge role in what people are, I don’t want to say forced to do, although some are, the choices given to some people are so limited. I think to judge from the outside, here, we don’t have to look any further than our own country and our own city, there are kids living in such poverty and such dyer circumstances, or even a safe living space that selling drugs is a way out. I’m not that one should do that but I think I understand why you would when your other option is to work at McDonalds for a penny. It’s a matter of survival on so many levels for a lot of people. And to understand the way some people live, especially outside the U.S. we are so privileged here, we have so little clue what some people have to suffer. Colombia is a wealthy country in terms of resources–it is ridiculously beautiful place. The land is very fertile. It’s on 3 mountain ranges so it has mineral wells, drugs grow there but all kinds of different things grow out of the land. For people to take advantage of that and be able to feed their families, I get that.

Escobar crossed a line. I was thinking a lot about greed when I was in Colombia. How human beings we want more and more and how we really need to be aware when we’re crossing that line into the dark side. Where it’s not just about feeding your family, he became this egomaniac where he lost sense of reality because he was so successful and wealthy. That was also that the U.S. couldn’t care to see. The U.S. was like no we get to be wealthy, someone else from another country we police that because we’re looking out for our economic, corporate, financial, and personal interests. The collision of U.S. interests in Latin America is a complicated and ugly story. The drug world has been a big part of that.

What would you say is the lasting impact of drugs in the Latino community?

What I understood when I was there telling the story was the thing was that we here in the U.S. were snorting coke. Colombians weren’t that into cocaine, they weren’t in love with it the way we were. We were supplying the U.S. there was something about that economically speaking that the U.S. really had problems with. Miami was a war zone. But again it was gringos that for the most part, also poor people of color also were suffering a lot in this country because of the drugs. Again, it’ like why do people use drugs for the most part and drugs of that nature, there was recreational use among white people in discos but people use drugs for the most part when their lives are hopeless. The drug world needs to be recalibrated to have more passion and understanding for look lets make people’s lives better and give them more options so their easiest option isn’t to obliterate themselves with drugs. That seems to make sense to me. As opposed to criminalizing it the way we do. I feel it’s a lack of resources and war we aren’t or ever win.

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