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Andres Baiz (‘Griselda’ director) on directing Sofia Vergara: ‘She was always very humble and has an amazing work ethic’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

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Andres Baiz had been working as a producer and director on the Netflix series’ “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico” for seven years, telling the stories of drug lords and their counterparts in law enforcement. He was, by his own admission, looking to move on to different material. But the Colombian-born filmmaker was nonetheless drawn to cover somewhat similar turf in “Griselda,” the six-part Netflix biographical crime drama that tells the story of the real-life drug “queenpin” Griselda Blanco. “I had two specific reasons to want to do it,” Baiz (pronounced “Bice”) says. “One was having an opportunity to work with Sofia Vergara (also born in Colombia) in her first dramatic role and to navigate this character with her. She took this very amazing risk in stepping outside her comfort zone. And second, it was a limited series, and I had the chance to director and produce all six episodes, devise a visual style and put a stamp on the show itself.”

Indeed, Baiz decided that if he were going to leap back into the world of narcotics and crime, he was determined to do something completely different from “Narcos.” He and executive producer Eric Newman (the showrunner of “Narcos”) jointly decided to change up the narrative. “We really treated this show as a movie, mostly,” he emphasizes. “I said, ‘I’m not going to have archival footage, I’m not going to have a voiceover, I’m not going to shoot it handheld. I’m not going to have a credit sequence with a beautiful song at the beginning.’ I wanted to make something more intimate and character=-driven.”

This dovetailed perfectly with what Vergara – who is onscreen for close to every frame in her powerful portrayal of Griselda after years exercising her comedy chops as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on “Modern Family” – had in mind as well. The two clicked from the start. “Every time Sofia came to set, even when I was working with her during pre-production, she was always very humble and has an amazing work ethic,” Baiz maintains. “She came to set knowing she was there to learn from her fellow actors and from the crew in general. Even though she was completely prepared, Sofia was there with an open heart.”

It was all something of a relief for Baiz that Vergara was so all-in, putting every ounce of herself into the role as the infamous Colombian cartel leader who was instrumental in the 1980s cocaine trade in Miami and who also happened to be a mother simultaneously four raising and protecting her children. “There are always insecurities that make you think, ‘OK, this is a big risk not only for her but also for me’,” Baiz admits. He went to Vergara’s house in Los Angeles several times during pre-production to meet and gain each other’s trust. “We would talk about ourselves, about our lives in Colombia, about our families, about our dreams, about our fears – and just getting to know each other better. That was very important.”

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