From the moment Narcos: Mexico’s first season ended, you kind of knew what was going to happen to Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna). Even if you didn’t do a quick Google to figure out why his name isn’t as well known as drug lords like Pablo Escobar and El Chapo, the series laid it on pretty thick: Félix is doomed. But now that we’ve seen the end of Narcos: Mexico season 2 on Netflix, during which Félix is caught, arrested, and sent to prison in Mexico, that doom doesn’t quite look the way we thought it would. Sure, Félix is behind bars, but is he really out of the picture?
Refinery29 sat down with Luna to get a little more clarity on his season 2 journey from a corrupt leader running his empire with an iron fist to a man brought down by his own mistakes and hubris. The actor, who grew up in Mexico during the time period Narcos: Mexico depicts, has a deep stake in Félix’s journey and the fallout of his reign. But as the series’ voiceover, provided by actor Scoot McNairy, asserts: What happened in Mexico is only part of the problem. The drug trade is a multi-sided story, one that includes the United States in a much larger way than many Americans may know.
The finale, in particular, drives this point home, when the jailing of Félix doesn’t actually cease the drug war. In fact, the final scene shows McNairy’s Walt Breslin realizing that this coup actually just opened the floodgates. The men Félix left behind will become much more fearsome than he was in his rise to power. See: El Chapo, for one.
Before you go pulling out the tissues and missing Luna on the series, just know he hasn’t ruled out Félix’s Narcos: Mexico season 3 possibilities. For his part, showrunner Eric Newman says there is a lot of ground left to cover. “Season 2 ends in ‘89, and there's about 31 years of drug war, should we choose to continue,” he told Refinery29.
So, while we know the real Gallardo is still serving his prison sentence without a miraculous escape or any documented control over his former cartel, the stars and creator of Narcos have repeated time and again that the series isn’t a documentary. The possibilities may not be as finite as they may appear.
Refinery29: You grew up in Mexico when Félix’s story is taking place. That makes this season and this story personal for you.
Diego Luna: “It's definitely a Mexico I remember, just from another perspective. It was the first 10 years of my life basically; I remember the earthquake, the election. It's interesting to revisit these moments from a different perspective. I'm thinking about what was happening in front of me that I wasn’t looking at or that my father was hiding from me. But it’s interesting to portray a role like this and to represent this moment in time, because it tells you a lot about the world we live in today, what happened needed to happen for things to get the bad they are these days. You understand that the problem is not putting one person in jail; the problem is a system that works in every layer, where corruption has reached everywhere in the government. It is a very interesting journey, one that confronts you with what needs to be done in a way, and how much we have to tell the story out of Mexico, because this is a global issue, an issue that deserves the attention of everyone in order to find a solution. Because clearly what we've been doing til today hasn't worked.”
How do you think the show does as far as handling Mexico’s image?
“It's a huge country, and it's impossible to say that a show is capable of telling you what Mexico is. There are so many Mexicos, but this issue is something we have to talk about and understand in its own complexity. I don't think we should be hiding stuff we don't want people to see. It's the opposite. We should all be talking about this because we are getting that the problem is global, but we happen to be what's in between where cocaine gets produced and where the biggest market is. So obviously we're getting into the violence of an issue that belongs to all of us. It's not until we let the world know what needs to happen for a line of cocaine to get to your table, or to your wedding, or to the club or to the party. We need to remind people what's behind it.”
That’s sort of the purpose of your final scene with Scoot McNairy — how the DEA’s focus on taking down Felix has actually opened up a lot of possibilities.
“Definitely — how much they all ended up being victims of the system. I think that that's what I like about that last scene. It's about two people looking at each other, saying we're victims of this. We are the ones blamed, right? But the system needs us, because it's the system that’s fucked up. As long as there’s a market, there's going to be someone providing. So why don't we talk about this issue as a health issue with a different approach? Because this war we're living, we already lost.”
Felix is an anti-hero, but I don’t think he’s in danger of some people reading him as more of a hero, like some people did when Walter White had his downfall on Breaking Bad. Why do you think Felix doesn’t have that effect?
“Because the consequences matter. You get to see the consequences here. I don't think you watched this and you were like, Hey, I wish I was there. I wish I was in these shoes. I don't ever wish I was in his shoes. I always go, Holy crap, that must be a hardcore position to be in. That doesn't mean we're judging the character; I have to humanize the character. I have to understand what makes him real, what I can connect with, how I can find the motivations that drive a character like him. But yes, this show would try to talk about the complexity in a case like this, instead of simplifying everything for you to get it. It's a show that celebrates the intelligence of audiences, that challenges audiences.”
A lot of your coworkers have composite characters, but your character once had a higher profile. People can easily find out who he is and what he did. What challenges arise as you’re trying to make this real person your own character?
“It's not like Pablo Escobar, for example, where everyone knows even more than what this series has told you because there are documentaries, books — this man played it under the radar for a long time. We know a lot from when they got him and when he went to jail. But the early years, you have to read books, you have to find it in journalistic investigation and stuff like that. It's not something popular that we all know. He’s a guy that understood the power of being discreet in that system. Everyone knows what he created, what his organization meant, what he tried to change in the way things were happening, and how much he took advantage of the moment where the Colombians had to find another way to get the cocaine into the States. Suddenly Mexico was needed, and he was there to capitalize on that. That we know. But the specifics, we don't, so that's why I had so much freedom in portraying the role and making the choices.
“There's no documentary that can tell me I'm wrong. That's why we are always really clear that this is fictionalized. We are basing these in reality, but we're taking a lot of liberties. In designing the character, I allowed myself to be free and creative. I constructed a character around what people say about him, which is interesting because it's about the impression he left. Probably, if you knew him, you’d go, Well, no, he wouldn't be like that. I'm inspired by what people said about him. When you talk about yourself, you're probably not going to be honest to me… I looked for all those moments where people were talking about him or describing how he would interact. Back then, there was no social media, so these characters were everywhere. They were the restaurants walking in the streets free. They felt untouchable.”
It seems like season 2 was a wrap on your character. He seems pretty done, and a quick Google will tell you that’s the end of the story.
“He's in jail and, I mean, there's jails in Mexico that are actually offices, where you can still operate. You just have to open the news, every once in a while there is news about a jail where they were making phone calls from jail, getting people in and out. There was an escape, and I mean, El Chapo has the most flashy ones. But there was one recently, like weeks ago or a week ago, that people who got out of jail escaped from jail pretty easily through the front door. So ‘in jail’ does not necessarily mean you're out of the business.”
[Editor’s note: Luna was referring to the three members of the Sinaloa Cartel, who escaped from a Mexican jail while awaiting extradition to the U.S. on Jan. 29, 2020.]
So there’s a possibility we could see more of you on the show.
To be honest… I don’t know.
Yeah, well you’re kind of busy with that high profile thing, your upcoming Star Wars series, on the horizon.
“To be honest, I'm doing all this stuff I want to do. I'm working on projects I care about and these new platforms are becoming places where we can explore and take risks and do cool stuff. So, I'm happy for what I've done in that, of course, but about the future I can’t talk because the season has to be out and they do care about fans’ reaction. What I can tell you, which is interesting, and I think very positive, is that today audiences have a lot of say in what gets done and doesn’t. The audience's reaction really matters. And that's kind of cool. I think that's a good thing.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.