Before the series premiered in Colombia on May 28 -it then made its US debut on July 9 on Telemundo-, Parra already had that feeling actors get when playing an iconic, real-life character. For instance, when he gets on a plane, people say "There's the boss," or even refer to him as "Pablo". "That's not cool," he said with an awkward smile on his face. "I wouldn't want people to see me as that character. It seems crazy to me because in school I couldn't even say 'Pablo Escobar'. It was forbidden. You couldn't mention drugs at the airport and it was extremely hard for Colombians in the US since people saw us all as Escobar," he said.
THE STORY OF PABLO
From the very beginning, the idea behind the project was to tell this story with the upmost respect for its victims and the audience, since it was a very sensitive issue. Thus, in order to embody Pablo Escobar, the actor took on a complicated process of researching and analyzing him for over four months.
"I studied all the material I could find: books, documentaries, home-videos, tapes, articles and photographs," he said. That's how he began to "become obsessed with Pablo," and spending 24 hours a day taking in anything that had to do with the criminal. "At one point, I met with a group of psychologists to try -on a personal level- to understand the contradiction that is Pablo Escobar." Then came the time to process everything and try to imitate his voice, gestures, posture and all his body movements.
During that research time, Parra had to go deep into all the character's layers; the way he thought, how he felt and his moral values. "Pablo has a very unique moral and ethics. If you attempt to judge him within the system, you can't; it's just not viable. But when you come to understand him as a complicated person with a peculiar mindset, then it becomes easier, because otherwise it's very hard to understand how someone could be capable of blasting a bomb on an airplane while he's tending to his sick daughter," he said. "According to those who were close to him, there was no better father, son, husband or cousin than Pablo Escobar; but he was a man who killed almost 4,000 people."
The actor completed that research and combined all the layers to become the complex character. "It was something very difficult to do. Escobar would give orders to kill people as easily as we would give orders to mow the lawn. He was stone-cold and felt to guilt. To me that was extremely difficult to wrap my head around. But when you understand he was a social outcast, aggressive and sadistic; it all makes sense," he said.
The series Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal, is considered done of the most ambitious productions ever made by Caracol Televisión. Based on La Parábola de Pablo by Alonso Salazar, the HD product was directed by Juana Uribe and written by Juan Camilo Ferrando. Parra spoke about his experience working with such a talented group of professionals on several exterior locations and with two mobile units managed by Carlos Moreno and Laura Mora.
"I found myself working with a group of people that where completely devoted to the project, convinced it had to be made; convinced the story had to be told and it had to be done this way: seriously, staying true to the actual events, and trying to pay as much attention to detail as possible. The process behind creating this character was amazing. I dare to think it's the first time a production company in Colombia invests so much in a project, with the great amounts of money and time it took," he said.
"There were extremely long hours and it was especially hard shooting on exterior locations," he said. Looking at the end result, one can really appreciate all that meticulous, artistic work. "I believe the audience will find an incredible production; a series with all the ingredients necessary to become a success. It has everything the viewer could want: action, romance, entertainment and suspense," he added.
Lastly, the actor took full responsibility for the story: "I find it's very important that Colombia and Latin America have the opportunity to see what really happened in this series, since a lot of people don't really know that much about Escobar. I even think Escobar should be studied in school as a mandatory subject, so that everyone could understand why our country is what it is today, and how we've all been somewhat responsible for this phenomenon. That way people will understand we have the obligation to ensure this doesn't happen again, and the only way to do it is giving this to the audience," he concluded.