June Hawkins, police officer in ‘Griselda’, is based on a real person — and the actor met her

“Griselda” treads the line between reality and fictionalized drama.

The Netflix crime series centers around Griselda Blanco, portrayed by Sofia Vergara, the drug queenpin who created one of the most powerful cartels when she moved to Miami from Colombia, in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The only woman in a male-dominated world, Blanco built an empire — one that was not without blood, savagery and murder — before being arrested for drug trafficking and later charged with first-degree murder by the state of Florida in 1994, per the Tampa Bay Times' reporting.

The state's case against Blanco fell apart after the prosecution's key witness, Blanco's former hitman Jorge "Rivi" Ayala, was found having phone sex with secretaries from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. One of the three secretaries fired was cleared of wrongdoing, per the Orlando Sentinel. Blanco was able to cut a plea deal in 1998 after pleading guilty to three counts of second-degree murder, and was sentenced to serve three concurrent 20-year sentences. She was deported to Colombia in 2004 and killed in 2012.

Miami-Dade police department intelligent analyst June Hawkins was among the investigators who built a case against Blanco. Actor Juliana Aidén Martinez takes on the role of the real-life woman and now-retired sergeant.

Martinez tells TODAY.com about meeting Hawkins and how she balanced bringing her own essence into the character.

Hawkins was a single mom and one of the few Spanish speakers on the force. However, as the series shows, she was frequently sidelined by her male colleagues as she attempted to convince them that a woman was the leader behind the new and deadly cartel that emerged in Miami.

“She was one of the first female homicide detectives in the metro PD, the Miami homicide unit, and she ended up becoming — as you see in the series — one of the lead detectives in finding Griselda Blanco," Martinez tells TODAY.com.

Juliana Aidén Martinez as June in
Juliana Aidén Martinez as June in

June Hawkins operated in a 'world of men'

Martinez says that she had many conversations with Hawkins and related to her since they both are from Miami.

“She told me so much about how she had to operate in this world of men. She couldn’t be reactive,” the actor says. “She had to be really still, let things slide by and then just be really dedicated to her job.”

What Martinez loved about Hawkins was her subtle resiliency and her “contained power.”

“She’s going to get the job done,” Martinez says. “That just shows how incredible a woman she was at that time, and that she still is.”

Martinez says she didn't want her performance to be a "mimicry" or a "direct imitation" of Hawkins. Rather, she wanted to get to Hawkins' "real life experiences" and the "stories and memories that impacted her" to this day.

Martinez wanted the world to see the "essence" of who Hawkins was and show her “inner truth.”

June and Griselda are different sides of the same coin

“Griselda” places two women front and center, both single mothers trying to make lives of their own while being undermined by the men around them.

However, as Vergara noted in Netflix press notes, June and Griselda are not the same.

“When you then look at someone like June, a mother trying to fight a male-dominated culture in her workplace, I think more than drawing a comparison, you see more and more why Griselda’s self-justification is so wrong,” Vergara said. “Griselda and June are different sides of the same coin, the two different paths a person can take in order to take care of their family.”

Creator and executive producer Eric Newman added in the notes that in the series, Griselda was never a hero to Hawkins, “but was inspiring, in a way."

"It was very hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that the person responsible for helping to make Miami the murder capital of America for a number of years was a woman who was really good at getting people to kill for her," he continued.

“June makes the case that not everyone who is oppressed becomes an oppressor,” he said.

What the real June Hawkins said about her experience on Miami-Dade force

During a September 2017 interview with “Law Enforcement Talk” True Crime and Trauma Stories,” Hawkins spoke about being a pioneer for women in her field and entering the "boys' club."

“It was unique, a two-sided coin, because on the one hand, there was a lot of, I guess ... suspicion and apprehension on the part of my male colleagues about, ‘What the heck, what are these women doing in here now?’” Hawkins said.

“And on the other hand — I have to give them credit — most of them, when once they realized that I was really sincere and this wasn’t just a lark for me, then they became my big brother(s),” he said.

Hawkins said that working in the homicide department from 1979 to 1981 was one of the things she was “most proud” of in her career.

“Not only the thing I’m most proud of, but the thing I enjoyed because I really did impact and help identify (people),” she said.

Hawkins explained that since there weren’t many Spanish speakers on the department, she “was the intelligence analyst" who filtered through people and helped identify them.

Without naming Blanco and people involved in the cartels during that time, she said, “I talked to informants and I’d write all these memos ... I was able to put together a link analysis chart ... I helped our cause and it caught the attention of D.C. We wound up getting financial help down in South Florida because we were just being overrun.”

Nelson Andreu, a former West Miami police chief who spent a decade of his life trying to convict Blanco, tells TODAY.com that she was "the most brutal" figure on the drug scene during his time on the force.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com