Netflix's 'Griselda' Blends Fact and Fiction to Tell the Ghastly Story of the Cocaine Godmother

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jan. 22 2024, Published 10:20 p.m. ET

Griselda Blanco and Sofia Vergara in 'Griselda'
Source: YouTube/Grunge; Netflix

Netflix's Griselda begins with an act of violence, but it's one we as the audience won't know the details of until later in the series. We meet the woman who would later be known as the "Cocaine Godmother" as she's fleeing her home, slowed only by a mysterious injury to the side of her stomach. She quickly gathers up her children and tells them very little. From there, they flee their home in Colombia and head to Miami.

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We meet Griselda Blanco in the middle of her time as a drug dealer. The series picks up after she and her husband Alberto Bravo established a drug trafficking ring in New York City. To avoid an indictment, they escaped back to Colombia in 1977 but Bravo's untimely demise forced Blanco to land in Miami. It was there she made a name for herself. So, is Griselda based on a true story or were more than a few liberties taken? Let's get into it.

Is 'Griselda' based on a true story?

According to Netflix, Griselda was "inspired by real events." When you see those words, that's an indication that "a lot of the characters and scenes surrounding it are fictionalized," per Film Independent. Essentially, enough of the story has been changed that what's left is just an "essence" of the real events. A good example of what might happen in this scenario is when one fictional character is cobbled together from more than one real person. It helps move the story along better.

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Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco
Source: Netflix

What helps make the series more realistic is the casting and in particular its star, Sofia Vergara. Most people know her as the hilariously brash Gloria in Modern Family. Griselda allows Sofia to show the world a steely darkness that fans haven't seen before. Sofia told Jimmy Fallon while guesting on The Tonight Show that this is a project she has been working on for 15 years.

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What drew Sofia to Griselda was the fact that no one believed a woman was capable of all the gruesome things she did, because she was a woman. Griselda used their misogyny against them. For Sofia, this was somewhat personal as she grew up in Colombia during the 1970s and 1980s when this was happening. Plus there was a family connection in that her brother was sadly "part of that business," and was killed in 1998 because of it.

Sofia Vergera was taught how to smoke in order to play Griselda Blanco.

As Sofia points out while chatting with Jimmy, people only knew her as Gloria so she had to learn a few new tricks. One of them was how to smoke and how to do cocaine but to be clear, she has never done either! Her answers got a bit lost in translation while explaining her process to Jimmy. After mentioning that the cast of Griselda is filled with the best Latin American actors currently working, Sofia shouted out the series's director Andrés Baiz.

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"He was my anchor during the filming," she revealed to Jimmy. "And he taught me how to smoke. He taught me how to do cocaine." That second line was met with laughter from the audience but Sofia is a consummate professional so she just kept going without realizing what she said. Andrés popped over to Sofia's house while she was preparing in order to go over things like the proper way to light a cigarette.

"I had never done cocaine," Sofia said while remarking upon the learning experience. "It was amazing," she said. Obviously it very much sounded like she was waxing poetic about cocaine but quickly corrected herself. "No, no ... the cocaine that I did was fake." She ended the interview with a sound byte heard 'round the world: Everything was fake, but the acting was real.

Griselda is available to stream on Netflix starting Jan. 25, 2024.

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