10:15am PT by Jackie Strause
'Narcos: Mexico' Star Diego Luna on What Comes Next After Finale Reveal
[This story contains major spoilers from the full season of Netflix's Narcos: Mexico.]
Narcos: Mexico imagines how the final confrontation went between Felix Gallardo (Diego Luna), the boss of the Guadalajara Cartel, and the DEA agent who had been hunting him, Kiki Camarena (Michael Pena). The scene comes as a flashback in the final episode of the reset season, after it's been revealed that Camarena was brutally tortured and killed by the narco kingpin and his men, who had abducted the Mexican-American agent off the street in broad daylight.
"You have no idea what's coming at you. What you started. Everything you've worked for, whatever dream you had, it's over. You fucked up, man," Kiki tells Felix after days of abuse in the scene. Felix made the decision to kill Kiki, despite the potential consequences, but — at least in Narcos: Mexico's version of the true story — the moment still haunts Felix when he reassumes control of the Guadalajara cartel as the most powerful trafficker in Mexico. Narcos: Mexico ends with Felix manipulating his way to staying very much in charge of his network, leaving the door open for Felix's story to continue should Narcos: Mexico get renewed.
"The assassination of Kiki Camarena changed everything for this organization, for Felix, and for the whole relationship between Mexico and the states forever," Luna, who grew up in 1980s Mexico, tells The Hollywood Reporter of the impact that the real Camarena's death would have on the war on drugs for years to come. "It’s a dramatic point in the story of our countries. I do think that after that moment, Felix’s life changes, as does the life of everyone around him."
Narcos: Mexico showrunner Eric Newman told THR he plans to continue expanding the Narcos universe for "as long as they’ll let me do it," and Luna agrees that Narcos: Mexico could run for "another five seasons" before catching up to today's Mexican drug war. The release of the season coincided with the criminal trial for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who is played by Alejandro Edda in a minor role on Narcos: Mexico. The finale also introduced the next starring DEA agent in the final moments as the season's narrator, played by Scoot McNairy, who arrives in Guadalajara to seek out justice for Camarena.
Mexico is the fourth season overall and it featured a primarily new cast — with some exciting crossovers — when it traveled back to 1980s Mexico to show the origins of Felix and his Guadalajara cartel. If Netflix hands down a renewal, a second season would likely show how Felix falls and other cartels rise when Guadalajara unravels. "There is so much that happens after this season ends," says Luna as he looks ahead. Read the star's full chat with THR, below.
This season opens with the narrator saying Narcos' Mexico chapter does not have a happy ending. In fact, it has no ending at all because this drug war is very much alive today. What do you hope this season exposes and sparks conversation about — especially with President Donald Trump’s border policy and the relationship between the two countries?
I think the conversation has gotten to a very, very unhealthy point where everything is seen as just black and white. The rhetoric of today is: good and bad. The good against the bad. And that is very dangerous because it doesn’t leave any room for different layers for the gray areas to exist, and I think that’s exactly where we are. We cannot talk about this issue [the drug war] as if it is bad people doing bad stuff. It’s a corrupted system that has reached every level of power. For these markets to be fed, you need a system that involves politicians, police, the military, the banks. And you need to work from both sides of the border. There has to be a collaborative effort from both sides of the border in order for this to cease to exist.
This series talks about the layers. Yes, my character is one of the bad guys. But what about all the other bad guys? What about all those other bad guys that are wearing suits and who are still out there making decisions? And then it talks about a world full of victims of a system of poverty. The disparity between those who have and those who don’t have anything, that gap gets bigger and bigger. It reminds me that the problem isn’t the quantity, the problem isn’t the addiction and the market, the problem is that this corruption has reached everyone and it’s a business they don’t want to let go of. I think Narcos: Mexico enriches the conversation on all of that. Because we are talking about a very complex model that is killing so many people. We need to be ready to accept that the violence happening in Mexico is not just the violence of Mexico; it’s everyone's violence. It’s the violence of this gigantic system that we all participate in somehow. And I think that one thing this series is able to do is to possibly transmit that message.
In order to understand the drug war today, why do you need to go back and get to know a man like your character, Felix Gallardo?
Because it was back then when they set up a perfect system. And Felix was very smart. He would always be one step ahead of everyone. What they designed back then was a whole system where [they divided the country] and started all working together. Instead of different organizations fighting each other to see who could control what, they basically said, “No, let’s make sure we create a perfect machine where we can move more than anyone and we become the only option.” They monopolized the way that cocaine got from South America to the big market in the states. These guys made people sit at a table who wanted to kill each other. They had to work together and protect each other. And he sat at that same table with politicians and police. Everything was coordinated. The system fell when [the Institutional Revolutionary Party], or PRI, lost in Mexico [in 2000]. And since then, there’s been a mess that no one seems to understand how to fix. But it’s important to understand the structure that was working there in order to understand and have a handle on why things got to be the way they are now.
Eric Newman spoke about the authenticity both you and Michael Pena bring to your roles. You grew up in 1980s Mexico. What did you know about the story of Kiki Camarena and what was required for you to step into Felix's shoes?
I do remember that time of Mexico with a lot of nostalgia. The story that we are telling was, I guess, a little hidden from me by my dad. But I do remember when the violence started to get a little out of control and suddenly the news was not about the violence in the fields or little towns. The violence started to get to the cities and to Guadalajara and to Mexico City. That was towards the end of the '80s and beginning of the '90s, to the point where they killed a candidate [Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta] in Tijuana in '94. Candidates back then were not candidates, they were the future president. If you were the candidate of the PRI, that meant you were going to win. So they basically killed the next president. Growing up in that Mexico got me very active and politicized really fast, probably sooner than what my father would have hoped, and it was because we were getting fed all of this information and seeing the violence.
And then to get into Felix's shoes was sometimes fun but mostly painful, I have to say. And when I say “fun,” I mean because as an actor, there are many layers you can play with when you have a character like this. But my struggle was in humanizing the character. You cannot judge a character when you’re playing him. You cannot come into it saying, “Well, I’m the bad guy.” Because then you’re missing the point. Even a bad guy, they have an explanation. If you ask why they do it, they have an explanation that, in their mind, makes complete sense. So the process of humanizing a character like this and finding the motive that drives him is a tough turn.
Newman described this season as the “collision” between Felix and Kiki. How do you view their final scene together? Do you think Kiki had an impact on Felix in real life?
I think he had an impact. Obviously, we are fictionalizing that scene between the two of them. I don’t know if it happened that way and we will never know, in fact. But what I can tell you is that I do believe the case and the assassination of Kiki Camarena changed everything for this organization, for Felix, and for the whole relationship between Mexico and the states forever. It’s a dramatic point in the story of our countries. I do think that after that moment, Felix’s life changes, as does the life of everyone around him. And then there are so many things we still don’t know. But the case of Kiki Camarena brought to our attention the amount of involvement the DEA was having in Mexico and the way the United States was working in our country, and in many other countries in Latin America, manipulating politics. It’s an important piece of history that we should know, if we are talking about the relation between our countries and the most difficult border in the world. This is a case that has, if not many answers, many questions that deserve to be asked. That’s the beauty of the show. It is entertainment, it is something you can watch and just comment from the perspective of an audience that has been told a story. But inevitably, this season starts to connect to your life. And if it generates enough curiosity in audiences to go and seek out a little information, I’ll be very happy.
This season ends by setting up a new kind of power for Felix as the Guadalajara cartel continues to expand. It seems clear that Felix’s story is not over; after the rise comes the fall. Have you had talks about another season or this being a two-season role?
It’s not renewed yet. I think it clearly depends on the series going well. One step at a time. We have to wait until the season releases and then we’ll see what happens from there.
You also just booked a starring role in the Star Wars' Rogue One prequel series for Disney's forthcoming streaming service. Would you still hope to continue to tell more of Felix’s story if Narcos: Mexico returns?
Right now, the only thing I hope is that the story we told gets seen by people and opens up a debate. I’m just thinking about that. It’s difficult to talk about the future, because I want to see the reaction before I even think of keep going.
What comes next in Felix’s story, and is there something you would be interested in exploring in terms of where the Guadalajarala cartel goes from here?
There is a lot that happens after this. In terms of material, Narcos has a chance to deliver another five seasons to try to get to today, because there is so much that happens after this season ends. This is the angle of Mexico, but you can see the same issues from the angle of Europe and, really, the complicated part of this is is that it’s a global issue. But if we’re specific about Narcos: Mexico, this is the beginning of the fall for [political party] PRI, which is the party that was in power in Mexico for 70 years. There were elections, but those elections were a joke. Everyone knew that every six years, the PRI would change the president, but he would always be from the same party and therefore, it would be the same people and structure. In '88, which is right after Camarena is killed, there’s an election and PRI loses. Everyone comes out and votes against them. And Carlos Salinas de Gortari comes in after the most criticized election ever. I remember that day. I remember that as my awakening. I was 9 years old and I was like, “Holy shit.” People are rising and there is this feeling of people doing something they can control. A social awakening. That’s when the PRI starts to fall. So much happens.
You filmed with Wagner Moura’s Pablo Escobar when the Medellin and Cali bosses crossed over in episode five. What was it like to go toe-to-toe with Moura as Escobar, and how long did you have to film your scene?
We shot it in a day. Well, in a night. It was a whole night. I really like Wagner. We worked together in [the 2013 film] Elysium. We have a few friends in common, and I love his work. For me, it was a pleasure. There were a lot of people in the crew who were there the first two seasons and it was nice to see and to feel all of the story behind the project that I was doing. To feel all that love and all that Wagner represented — and also to see the character! He does amazing work on bringing this guy to life. As an actor, technically, the physical approach he had with the character, the voice and everything, was cool to witness. Even though we always said Narcos: Mexico is not season four and that Narcos: Mexico is another and a different story, [the seasons] complement each other pretty well. That moment was fun for me as a friend and as an actor to share with him and with the other guys from season three.
Many of the narcos on Mexico are alive, including Felix and El Chapo. Do you imagine they will have reactions to the season?
I don’t know. I try not to think a lot about that. I’m sure they’ll have a chance to see it and they will have an opinion. But I’m not curious to find out what that is.
Narcos: Mexico is currently streaming all 10 episodes on Netflix. Keep up with THR's show coverage here.