'El Chapo' Miniseries Is Coming To Univision, Netflix

By Kelly Burch 04/11/17

The miniseries will follow Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's journey from being a farmer's son to one of the most wanted criminals in the world.

Actors filming a scene for the new El Chapo miniseries.
Actors filming a scene for the new El Chapo miniseries. Photo via YouTube

Despite vague threats from the drug kingpin’s lawyers, filming has begun on a miniseries based on the life of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the drug lord who is currently locked in a New York prison. 

The series is being produced by the Univision network and Netflix, which reached record-breaking revenue last year due, in part, to the success of the drama series Narcos, which tells the story of Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar and his Medellín drug cartel. 

The new series, simply titled El Chapo, details Guzman’s life, including his rise from the son of rustic farmers to one of the most wanted criminals in the world. Marco de la O, a 38-year-old Mexican stage actor who plays the lead, says that Guzman is a complex character. 

"I can't judge him,” de la O told Time magazine. “From an actor's perspective, you don't judge whether the characters are good or bad ... We tell the truth, and that truth can be harsh.”

After two escapes from Mexican prisons, Guzman was extradited to the United States in January and is being held in a Manhattan prison. He was arraigned in a federal court in Brooklyn and faces a myriad of charges. 

Research for the series began three years ago, under the watchful eye of Gerardo Reyes, Univision research director and adviser to the show. Reyes said that because Guzman has been a public figure for so long, there were plenty of resources to help construct his personality. 

"I have never known of a drug trafficker who has had such a long career, and from each stage of his life there are accounts that have allowed us to construct a portrait of his personality and psychological characteristics,” Reyes said.

The series will take a harsh look at Guzman, and the corrupt Mexican government that allowed his drug empire to thrive.

"We have avoided the Robin Hood image that many have wanted to project on him," Reyes said. "He came from a poor background and was obsessed with not returning to it, and this obsession was also extremely violent.”

Guzman’s lawyers have said that the show does not have the right to tell his story, since he is still alive. "If they air this, they are immediately going to be sued," said Andres Granados, one of Guzman’s lawyers. "They, by necessity, need the authorization of Mr. Guzman, because he is not dead.”

Jose Refugio Rodriguez, another Guzman lawyer, agreed. "If they are producing something that he [Guzman] has not authorized, if they start attacking him, or publishing things from his private life, then clearly there will be a legal response.”

The series' producer said that he has not received any threats. El Chapo will premiere on Univision on April 23, and on Netflix later this year. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.