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José María Yazpik had his own opinion about Amado Carillo Fuentes’ fate going into Narcos: Mexico.
The actor, who grew up in Tijuana, was familiar with the real-life narco known as “Lord of the Skies” before playing him for four seasons on the Netflix drug cartel series. First introduced on the final season of the Colombia-set Narcos, Yazpik’s Amado became a major character on Narcos: Mexico, which reset the franchise in Mexico with a three-season story.
The third and final season of Narcos: Mexico, which released on Nov. 5, tracked the rising bosses of the Juárez, Tijuana and Sinaloa cartels, with Juárez drug smuggler Amado emerging as Mexico’s biggest cocaine trafficker in the 1990s. Amado, who had a top Mexican general on his payroll, ran a fleet of cargo planes that flew cocaine from Colombia to the Mexico-U.S. border.
The end of Narcos: Mexico dramatizes Amado planning his exit from the drug game amid a changing landscape in the mid-to-late ’90s, something that Yazpik says would create a “domino effect” in giving rise to the modern drug war. As is told in voiceover in the finale, Amado died in 1997 when his heart gave out on the operating table while undergoing plastic surgery to change his appearance and remain on the run. The fuzzy circumstances around his death, however, have prompted lingering questions about whether or not he actually died.
“The body disappeared; the doctors were killed. So, nobody really knew what happened,” Yazpik tells The Hollywood Reporter about the investigation into the real Fuentes’ death, referencing a lack of witnesses and documentation. “So, officially, Amado was dead. I don’t believe he died. I believe that he got away with it.”
In the finale, DEA characters Walt (Scoot McNairy) and Kuykendall (Matt Letscher) discuss how the corpse that was identified by the Mexican federales vanished and two of the surgeons who operated on Fuentes at the Mexico City hospital later showed up dead. Then, the final scene in the series shows Amado’s girlfriend, Marta (Yessica Borroto Perryman) at the house he secured for her in Chile along with two glasses of wine and the toy plane that Amado always carried around sitting on the piano.
Narcos: Mexico showrunner Carlo Bernard had told THR that the implications made in the final scene were intended to speak to the “lack of clarity and the lack of black-and-white answers in the drug trade,” with research about Fuentes possibly having a woman and maybe an entire family in Cuba inspiring the storyline.
Yazpik also did his own research. “I met with these guys from the army and special forces who were there that day; they saw the body and kept on with the investigation,” he says, adding that there are “a couple” stories they told him that he cannot share. “I truly believe that Amado got away with it. He left. I’m not saying he went to Chile or Cuba; the latest intel is that he was somewhere around Germany, many years ago. But I think he got away. He’s one of the few guys who said, ‘That’s enough.’ And he planned everything and he left. But I could be wrong.”
The DEA confirmed Fuentes’ death in 1997 and, when questions circulated about if he could be alive, the agency responded with a statement: “The rumor has as much credibility as the millions of sightings of the late Elvis Presley.”
But Yazpik cites corruption on both sides of the border — a running theme in the Narcos franchise — as reason to speculate. “The dynamic of it is that they will manipulate the truth and say whatever they need to say depending on their needs and the situation they’re living on both sides,” he says of the government agencies. “If at that time it was a good choice to say, ‘He’s dead, let’s worry about something else,’ then he was dead.”
Due to his Tijuana roots, Yazpik also had proximity to the Fuentes family and others portrayed on the season, like some of the “Narco Juniors” — the gang under Ramón Arellano Félix (played by Manuel Masalva) of the Tijuana reigning family — some of whom he says he carpooled with to school when he was younger. Now, Yazpik resides in Mexico City.
“Amado lived many years here in Mexico City and one of his kids, the eldest, went to school with a couple of good friends of mine,” he shares. “I got to speak to them and hear a whole bunch of stories. I don’t know if they were true or not, but they knew I was doing the research so I hope they weren’t embellishing everything. Then I also met with several people who used to work in the army and special forces here in Mexico — a couple of them that went to the hospital that night that Amado got his reconstructive surgery. So I got a lot of first-hand very amazing information.”
Another bit of research that informed Amado this season was Bernard and the writers coming upon information that referenced a daughter who had passed away. That storyline was written into the season as something that fueled Amado’s desire to reach his peak of success and then get out of the game.
“Amado was a very charismatic, funny person that really was a family guy. That was a big part of him, to take care of his kids and to be with them as much as possible. So he was this family guy — a sensitive, funny, caring, protective criminal,” Yatzpik says. “It’s very hard to talk about these people because you sort of get to know them. You’re talking about people who hurt this country very badly and in a very profound way. We’re still living all those things that people did 20 years ago, but I can’t help but feel close to the human side. We all feel fear and love and loss. Those are the values and emotions that I use to get into the character to make them feel closer.”
When playing Amado, Yazpik only wore black, despite the real narco “always wearing suits.” The costume decision was made by the show’s wardrobe designer, Yazpik says, in a bid to differentiate Amado from the many suit-wearing characters in his Colombia season. When asked if he has given thought to how Fuentes would feel about his overall performance, the actor replies: “I imagine him drinking some tequila somewhere in Europe and just going, ‘I never wore black, c’mon guys.'”
Still, Yazpik is proud that the show didn’t glorify the lives of any of the characters.
“The show is not saying, ‘Look at the fantastic life these narcos have for so many years.’ Or, ‘Look how clean and wonderful the American cops are.’ Everything is gray,” he says. “If you do bad stuff, you’re probably not going to get away with it. You’re going to end up betrayed with a bullet or in jail for the rest of your life.”
He continues, “That’s the interesting part about this series and what I hope all the people who see it take away: it’s an ongoing war, it’s a war that’s never going to be won.”
The third and final season of Narcos: Mexico is streaming on Netflix.
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