SINGAPORE—The latest season of Netflix hit Narcos might be its most compelling yet—it’s the show’s origin story this time, and it travels all the way to Guadalajara in the 1980s. This season details the rise and fall of Félix Gallardo, played by Diego Luna, who builds a drug empire by unifying kingpins of the drug trade in key spots in Mexico. Félix Gallardo was known as ‘’The Businessman,” who put together a true organized crime syndicate, and survived solely on smooth talk and street smarts as he dealt with the most dangerous men in Guadalajara. Surprisingly, he was able to sway even the hardest of them to his cause. Luna’s transformation from small town ex-cop to slick businessman shows his range, as well as his depth as an actor, and the Narcos story hits as close to home for Luna as Manila today might for a Filipino.
ANCX had the chance to talk with Luna about his character at the Netflix See What’s Next Asia event in Singapore. It’s been a long day for the actor—his smiling eyes are tired but his hair is perfect—equal parts muss and neatness. He’s wearing a navy blue blazer, a plain, round neck white shirt, blue jeans, and brown lace-ups—a little bit of hip Hollywood sitting before everyone at the event (won’t call it a junket, we’re not keen on being junkies). We tell him we’re from the Philippines, and how we can resonate with the show on a personal level. He says the drug war is a global phenomenon. “This is happening all over the world, and I can talk to you about the way I see things because I live in Mexico, and I think we have a high level of violence going on [that’s brought about by the drug war].”
Luna of course means drug war casualties during the administration of former president Felipe Calderón who launched Mexico’s war on drugs in 2006.
The actor points out that the people behind the war on drugs (in Mexico, chill) have employed the wrong strategy to deal with the drug problem. “What we have to talk about is the market,” he says, “because as long as there’s a market, there’s someone providing for the market.” For Luna, it’s important to deal with addiction as what it really is—a health issue. He notes that some countries have employed what he calls this “strategy,” and have been successful. Given the political climate today both in developing countries and the first world, he admits that the issue is thorny. “It’s a difficult issue,” he says, talking glancingly about the war on drugs in his own country. “For me, this violence has to stop, and I think we, as a country, should be reflecting on what to do, and we have to start working with other countries.”
People who live outside struggling countries may watch the show for the sheer excitement of the ride—there’s guns, there’s goons, and there’s rich girls being screwed beside the pool by a bunch of nasty-haired weed-growers. But the matter at hand makes Luna serious: “It’s a difficult issue,” he says again.
What’s not difficult, however, is being Diego Luna, who after a slew of rapid fire questions, has managed to keep both his patience and his hair in place. When the questions are done, he leaves the room, sighing a little to himself, and pushing a song out of his lungs for the same reason athletes listen to Eminem before swimming competitions. He’s psyching himself up for the next interview, like a star who’s been waiting all day to be asked the right question.