Even though she only shows up in a handful of episodes, it’s almost impossible to finish Narcos: Mexico season 2 without Sosie Bacon’s Mimi Webb Miller on your mind. When she first arrives on screen, she’s on horseback with her rifle aimed at the head of a future notorious cartel leader, Amado Carrillo Fuentes (José María Yazpik); she’s minutes from kicking him off her land permanently. In the same few minutes, we’re informed that she’s the niece of a Texas senator and a former debutante. She’s also one of two central figures in this season’s strongest, most emotional story: Mimi Webb Miller’s real romance with drug lord Pablo Acosta.
Bacon was a massive Narcos fan before landing the role — a fact she stated multiple times during her February call with Refinery29 — and felt the weight of portraying a real person, her love story, and how it affected the life and death of the real Acosta. So despite only being in a few episodes of Narcos: Mexico season 2, Bacon made friends with the real Mimi, who now runs a hotel in Terulinga, Texas, where she still takes tourists over the border into Ojinaga, Mexico. Miller also has a second career, working as a successful casting director in Venice, California, according to The New York Times, and yes, her real uncle was former Texas senator, the late John G. Tower.
The series, however, offers an unrealistically sympathetic rendering of the notorious drug lord she loved, who was referred to as “a vicious and extremely dangerous person who has little regard for human life if it stands in the way of his operation” by Terrence Poppa, who wrote a biography of Acosta called Drug Lord. The details of Mimi and Pablo’s relationship on Narcos largely ignore that history in order to establish their romance and to include the meddling of Scoot McNairy’s composite character Walt Breslin.
Mimi and Pablo’s tragic love story, nestled within the context of Narcos’ story, adds another layer to the role for Bacon. On Narcos: Mexico, Pablo is gunned down by the Mexican Federal Police right as Mimi is about to get him out of the cartel game altogether. In the fictionalized retelling, her plan is disrupted by American FBI agents who come in on helicopters and mow down Pablo’s small Mexican town with machine guns before the Federales take him out. Mimi leaves the bloody scene, shaken by the brute force of the Americans and left to strike out on her own without Pablo. That last part doesn’t stray all that far from the truth, as the real Acosta was also gunned down in a small Mexican village by Mexican Federal Agents in helicopters, escorted by the American FBI, just across the Rio Grande from Texas. And just like her Narcos counterpart, the real Miller then left that world behind.
Now that viewers have had a chance to see how the story plays out in season 2, Bacon walks us through her process, mixing fiction with reality, and her nascent friendship with the real Miller.
Refinery29: The Mexico seasons of Narcos, in general, seem to have a lot more female characters — and ones who participate way more than as wives or domestic partners. Mimi kind of plays on both sides, in the domestic sphere and in the cartel social circles, right?
Sosie Bacon: “Their relationship was really a well written part of the story and I think it adds a lot of heart to the season, because it kind of shows that these two people who are so different fell in love. And basically, in trying to keep him alive, she wants to get him out. It shows that two people from completely different worlds can fall in love. And then also, how unfortunately, this drug war that we started can rip people apart in so many different ways. I think it serves a really good purpose in the season as a whole to show their love story.”
Mimi's a real person, but I'd love to know what you wanted to bring to her just as a character. Who do you think she is in this Narcos version of the story?
“I got to develop a relationship with her, so that just made it that much more important for me to make the character grounded and real. It seems like such a crazy story that's almost unbelievable. And then once you actually get into the nuts and bolts of it, it's not that unbelievable. It's a love story and a story of a woman who's incredibly independent. [Mimi] wanted to be free and go out on her own and figure out her own life coming from a very sort of structured, sheltered background. That's something that I can definitely relate to and I think a lot of people can relate to. You get to this stage in your life where you kind of want to find your own way. And she did that and that was important for me, that she was making these choices all on her own. She ended up in Mexico living on a ranch, teaching horseback riding lessons, [and] developing beautiful relationships with people in a completely different world. That's something that I so admired about the character.”
I saw you described as a guest star, but that story feels so big.
“It's really, it's really lucky that it ended up that way. It was like, I've got an audition for Narcos and that's my favorite show. Well, there's no way I'm going to get this. This is a Texas girl who speaks Spanish and shoots guns and rides horse rides and I was like, This is so not like me. I’m from New York City — how am I gonna pull this off? But really, when you get down to it, people are all similar. And there was an essence about her that I think the casting picked up on in me. And then when we actually got to spend time together and we met, it made so much sense. We connected.”
But now, the real Mimi is actually more Hollywood. Your showrunner, Eric Newman, told me she lives in Venice Beach and works as a casting director. How did you and Mimi connect? Did you talk on the phone or meet in person?
“When I actually ended up getting the part, I found out about her place, this hotel that she runs in far West Texas. I called up Eric and I was like, Listen, I know that this is a two episode guest star role, but do you mind if I go down there and meet her, hang out with her, and see if she's okay with it? I just wanted to spend time with her. The other thing was that this is a touchy subject and a touchy time in her life, so I wanted her to feel comfortable with the person who was portraying it. I ended up spending like three or four days with her just hanging out and talking. We drove around and I met her friends, and our dogs were together. We had an amazing time and I got to know her so well. We talked on the phone yesterday and we [still] text. I would text her during the shooting days, be like, Hey, can you send me a voice note of using this line so I can get your accent right?
“The amazing thing about Mimi is that she reinvented herself so many times and has had so many parts of her life and so many careers. She's a brilliant business woman who owns her own hotel and she's a casting director. She was heavily in the art world before she ended up going to Mexico. She's this woman who was born in a time where having your own career and going out on your own was not typical. And she did all of those things over and over and over again in spite of the trauma of the experiences that she had. She just kept going and now she has a completely different life and it's amazing to see.”
Has she seen the scenes now that they’re out?
“When I talked to her yesterday, she hadn't seen anything. I'm just hoping that she's happy. Once I met her and spent time with her — she's the sweetest person ever — I was just like, I just want to make you happy and feel like you are being portrayed in a way that you like. And I love the way that they wrote her character, even though obviously there's so many differences from what actually happened. It's a dramatization; it's not a documentary about anyone's life, but I hope she's happy. I'm sure I'll talk to her in a couple of days.”
She comes off pretty cool. I almost feel like she could have her own spinoff.
“Oh my god. 100%. There is more than enough there.”
Her life goes on and has a lot of permutations, but the love story does have a beginning and a devastating end point. What do you think Narcos is saying by including Mimi and Pablo’s full story arc?
“The really incredible thing about Pablo Acosta as a character is he is a man of honor; he's kind and generous and charitable and was a part of the old regime. He was kind of disillusioned with the way that it was all panning out, with Félix Gallardo’s influence and that sort of greed ... It shows that there are good people and bad people on both sides of this.
“The season does a really good job of showing that he wanted to die in an honorable way. I think part of the reason why he was starting to do the drugs and started to decline healthwise is because he was just so sad with the way things had panned out. And you see how she loved him because he was an incredible person. He was helping people in his town and had a whole lot of pride for his family and his community. Particularly, in the end, you're so on his side and so fucking pissed with the way that those Americans are handling it and just sort of steamrolling this whole community. It shows that there's awful things going on down there that are between the cartels, but our influence is undeniable. And that is heartbreaking on a larger scale than just Mimi losing her though the love of her life at that time.”
You mentioned that you were a fan of the show before you got this job. What did you like about it before you worked on it?
“I told everyone, There is no way I’m getting this, this is my favorite show. Like I was saying before, it’s about America's influence, that they're getting into more and more. It's such an in depth look at a really pertinent problem that persists.
Also the fact that it's a show that's mostly in Spanish, and that everybody got on board with reading those subtitles. Mexico is right there and we're so unaware; it borders us and there's so many horrible things going on with it now. You can see the way that our relationship now with immigrants and everything mirrors it and how it's been going on for such a long time. I love the way that the show shows the issues on both sides. It really shows that it's kind of America's fault that this all went down.
And the fact that every character has so many layers that you sort of get into the minds of these people that we would just call like Narcos or drug dealers before. It's like, no, they have their own lives and their own families and their own passions and you get to see all of their layers.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.