Wagner Moura on Playing Pablo Esobar in ‘Narcos’: “He was a mean, mean, awful human being, but he was a human being”

Actor Wagner Moura as Pablo Esobar in 'Narcos'

“I think I’ve read everything that was written about him, but I did that in order to forget all that and then to create my own version of him.” – Wagner Moura on Playing Pablo Escobar

The latest hit series on Netflix is Narcos, the crime series about the life (and death) of real-life Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, played by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura. After the second season of the series wrapped, Moura spoke to NPR about playing one of the most notorious criminals in history and how playing such a character impacted his real life.

Though Escobar was a hardened drug lord, Moura points out that every monster has a human side. He explains, “He wanted to be loved, accepted. … He was a human being, you know, he was a person. I’m sure Osama bin Laden was a human being, and his friends were laughing [at] his jokes, and his kids loved him. … And he was a mean, mean, awful human being, but he was a human being. He was not an alien. For Pablo Escobar, it’s the same. He was probably the worst thing that happened to Colombia, but he loved his kids, he had his wife, he ended up doing good things for poor people in his city. So all these contrasts are what makes us human, you know, all of us. And all of us, we all have — of course in different levels — we have a dark side and a good side.”

Escobar has been depicted in film and television before, often as a character “inspired by” the drug lord instead of the actual Escobar, but Moura was committed to creating his own take on Escobar. He reveals, “I had to put myself in his shoes and think what I would do if I was Pablo in these situations. And this is very personal. I think I’ve read everything that was written about him, but I did that in order to forget all that and then to create my own version of him. … I ended up doing things — for example, the way I was holding the pants and the way Pablo walked — I didn’t try to do that on purpose. And then people were [like], ‘You know what? You know that Pablo used to do [that].'”

Moura admits that shedding some of Escobar’s negative energy — and his weight — was challenging. He describes, “What happens is that when you’re living with a character like that, it’s not like characters are taking your body … it’s just that you’re dealing with a certain kind of energy every day that’s not good at all. So, for example, losing the weight: Doing the vegan diet wasn’t only about losing weight, but getting rid of that character, you know, getting rid of that energy that I was having to live with for two years.”

In fact, Moura confesses that he wouldn’t take another role that requires him to put on weight, though he is still interesting in expanding his range as an actor. He says, “No, I wouldn’t change my body again. I meant that’s — I think that’s something for young people to do, you know. I can’t do that anymore. My cholesterol was — it was horrible. But to do something in Spanish? I would love to, because now it’s a new tool that I have as an actor.”

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