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Sofia Vergara (‘Griselda’) on learning from her director: ‘He taught me how to smoke, how to snort cocaine – fake, wait, fake cocaine!’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

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Sofia Vergara is hardly the first person you would think of when deciding to cast the role of a real-life cartel boss (or “queenpin”). The actress who co-starred for 11 seasons as the feisty Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on “Modern Family” – a role that earned her four consecutive Emmy nominations – certainly had comedy chops to spare. But after watching the 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys” and seeing a profile of Griselda Blanco, Vergara felt an odd kinship with the kidnapping, murdering drug lord who wreaked untold misery while bringing cocaine to Miami in the 1980s. “I wanted to do more acting and was looking for someone that I felt I could (portray) because I don’t have any acting training,” Vergara explains. “That’s how I found Griselda. Not that I would kill anyone, or sell drugs, of course. But like her, I am Colombian, I’m a woman, a mother, I’m an immigrant. I had many things in common with her. There were also many things I found very, very unique and special in this woman.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

The six-part Netflix limited series “Griselda” stars Vergara in the role of the notorious Blanco, a portrayal that required not merely an acting transformation but a physical one too. She had to go into makeup for three hours daily to don a wig, fake teeth, a prosthetic nose, plastic to cover her thick eyebrows and pads to flatten out her figure. She even adopted a distinctive walk to more fully distance people’s thoughts from Gloria – and Sofia. “It was hard getting used to the teeth,” she maintains. “I’d be screaming at someone and the teeth would come out. It takes a lot of practice not to sound funny, because I’d have to sound like a horrific person, a killer, so I can’t have a lisp.”

It wasn’t that Vergara had necessarily set out to stretch her acting muscles in drama. It was all about this character. It was actually 2015 when she pitched Eric Newman, the showrunner for the series “Narcos,” about her desire to play Griselda. Newman ultimately signed on and said yes to Vergara. Netflix was also onboard. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is happening’,” she recalls. “There was so much about doing this that was new to me. I’d never been a lead character with so many lines. I thought, ‘I’m crazy. Why did I think I could do this?’”

Having director Andres Baiz (also born in Colombia) to work with throughout all six installments helped calm many of Vergara’s fears. She calls their collaboration “a dream,” adding, “He taught me how to smoke, how to snort cocaine…fake, wait, fake cocaine! Andres would come to my house before we started shooting and we would sit in my backyard or in my living room, and he taught me how to smoke. I was 50 years old and I had never smoked – never never never never – and he was like, ‘Sofia, you’re going to be in every single scene with a cigarette, it has to look like you’ve been doing this.’ So it was hard. I was like, ‘I don’t want to learn how to smoke.’ But I did.”

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