There's nothing funny about Sofia Vergara in her latest role as Griselda Blanco in Griselda.
The limited series arrived on Netflix this week and received wide praise from critics, and is already topping the Top 10 list on the platform, mainly thanks to Vergara's performance. Most people know her from her role as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett in Modern Family—a character that catapulted her into fame and made her the highest paid TV actress at the time. But she has always been more than just a comedic star with an exaggerated Latin accent, and the new Netflix mini series is proof.
Vergara has been on our TV screens for decades, and even longer for those who grew up watching Univision, where she was a recurring guest star on their talk show El Gordo y La Flaca. Back then, she was mostly known as a pretty face with a charisma and sense of humor to match. She then crossed-over to Hollywood, landing roles in films like Soul Plane, Chasing Papi and Four Brothers. But it wasn't until Modern Family that her really career took off.
Her character in the hit sitcom was also Colombian, had a heavy Spanish accent, and a loud and vibrant personality. That aspect of the character seemed similar to how Vergara acts during TV interviews, so although she didn't have acting experience or training, she was able to play Gloria effortlessly. Her accent and humor have also made her a target for ridicule, and at times disrespect, with people taking her playful personality as a ticket to make jokes at her expense. It didn't matter that she played one of the most beloved characters on one of the most popular sitcoms in recent memory—her looks, her start as a model and her accent seemed to trump her success.
Recently, during an interview on Spain's El Hormiguero, Vergara responded to host Pablo Motos after he poked fun at her English. She quickly said, "How many Emmy nominations do you have in the United States?" She is a four-time Emmy nominee and even this deep into her career people still can't resit making quips about something as trivial as her accent. So what more does she need to do to prove herself?
That's where Griselda comes in. The Netflix series, which Vergara also produced, chronicles the rise of Griselda Blanco, who became known as the godmother of cocaine in the 1970s. Similar to Vergara's life, Blanco and her four children fled Colombia and moved to Miami. While Vergara began a career as a model and actress, Blanco became one of the most feared and successful drug lords and built a thriving cocaine empire. In the series, Blanco is tough and menacing and in order to climb the food chain as a woman, she has to be even more ruthless than the men in her circle.
This is the first drama that Vergara stars in as the lead. She underwent a make-under to appear more like Blanco, and while she doesn't quite look like the criminal, it somehow works. She doesn't disappear into her character, but in this case, it's a good thing. Other stars have been linked to other Blanco projects, but Vergara was the most fitting for the role. The actor being Colombian adds a level of authenticity that other shows about the drug trade in South and Central America don't have. Everything from the accent to how she expresses herself adds to the show's credibility. The cast is also made up mostly of Colombian actors, including Karol G in her acting debut, and it made the series richer. Vergara was also living in Colombia at the height of the drug cartels and experienced it firsthand. As a mother to her son Manolo, who is 32, she also understood Blanco's desire to take care of her children—no matter the cost.
The Netflix series is mostly in Spanish, and watching Vergara act in her native tongue makes her even more of a natural than usual. I can't say with certainty that she was born to play this specific role, but a more serious project was exactly what she needed to take her to the next era in her career. Vergara can do action, thrillers, dramas, etc. and doesn't have to be boxed in to just comedic roles. Griselda proves that she is ready to take on any role.
Taking on complicated characters like Blanco is no easy feat. While her being a woman makes her more fascinating than previous stories that have been told about drug lords, Blanco was still a conscienceless and dangerous criminal. Vergara portrays this well, while also balancing her devotion as a mother and as someone who looked out for her people. While shows about Latinos and drug cartels are not my cup of tea, Vergara's performance and Blanco's story kept me dialed in.
The show depicts all the highs and lows of Blanco's success, if that's what you can call it, and it also shows how greed and power can corrupt a person—regardless of gender. As each episode carries on, the level of Blanco's cruelty and turbulence increases and everyone around her suffers for it. Vergara committed to the role, smoking more cigarattes than I could count, and transforming into a completely dislikable woman that you also somehow pity as her world begins to crumble. She had a lot to prove as an actor, and this story was the precise vehicle to do so.
In a recent interview promoting Griselda, Vergara spoke to El Gordo La Flaca's Raúl De Molina about her journey. While she said it hadn't been too challenging to find success in Hollywood thanks to hard work, she credits all her triumphs to being herself—accent and all. As she undoubtedly enters a new era in her career, it's time for people to give Vergara the respect she rightfully deserves and has undeniably earned.
Griselda is now streaming on Netflix.