How Dario From 'Griselda' Prepared to Play a Hitman Dad

dario from griselda
How Dario From 'Griselda' Became a Hitman DadNetflix

GRISELDA BLANCO CAN'T be boxed into any gender roles. She uses house bombs and bullets to carve her own space in the male-dominated world of drug trafficking in Netflix's limited series Griselda. She's not pining over a man after sex; she's stress-smoking a cigarette, contemplating how to stand up to the Ocohoa cartel before telling her partner to leave her bed quietly so her sons don't notice. She eventually had Dario Sepulveda, the father of her youngest child, killed off the show, but even the man who played him understood the gravity of her very existence.

"These old Latin American guys in the seventies and eighties, where the machismo was at its strongest, she made her voice be heard, and she stood up for herself," Guerra tells Men's Health. "That’s the beauty of the show. This is the first time you get to see that, in a show this big, being portrayed by a woman in this power position."

Dario went from being Blanco's hired gun to somewhat of a domesticated hitman dad. He doesn't shoot a single bullet after he tells her he knows she's pregnant with their son. He's her sober conscience when she's drunk on power, calmly reasoning with her to take her fortune and their family and leave the drug wars of Miami behind. He replaced the blind loyalty of a hitman who would wash away problems in a bloodbath with the unflappable decisiveness needed to take a life. He just applied it to protecting his family, even if that meant from their mother.

dario sepulveda and griselda blanco
Netflix

Born in 1982, Guerra grew up in Cuba knowing nothing of the fearsome cocaine queen. It wasn't until he looked into the history of cocaine goliaths of Latin America while preparing for Netflix's Narcos: Mexico that she became inescapable. Guerra was intentional in portraying Dario's love for their wife as strength and not subservience. There are scenes where he channels Dario's frustration with not being told he has a child on the way or his desperation to escape Blanco's self-inflicted collapse into standing up for what he believes in without completely bringing Blanco down to Earth. He never stopped loving the badass woman who never quit. He wasn't afraid of voicing his concerns through his growl of a voice in the face of a woman he knows will kill anyone if she even thought they were going against her.

"Dario lost her to power. He didn't lose her to another man," he explains. "He couldn't fight the vengeance and the thirst for vengeance that she had."

In an interview with Men's Health, the accomplished actor explains what makes Griselda a one-of-a-kind show, the times he and Sofia Vergara had to be separated to preserve the intensity of a scene, tips on how to love a megalomaniacal drug lord, and how him being a father helped him find the complex balance between strength and vulnerability that made Dario a standout character in Griselda.

As Dario, how did you approach presenting masculinity and the typical forms of manhood in a show with such a domineering female figure?

Alberto Guerra: It was beautiful because we had an opportunity to do something that was out of the cliche and out of everything that we've ever seen. When you start thinking about hitmen—sicarios in the seventies and eighties, Latin American hitmen—you have this idea in your head of these macho guys who had no feelings and were cold-blooded. They go out, they get the job done, they go back home, they drink some scotch, they smoke a joint, and they do the next thing the next day. We wanted to take all of that out and explore what happened to this guy. The moment he falls in love, what happens to this guy the moment he realizes he's going to be a father? We all feel something.

I'm a father of three, and the first time I heard my wife say, “You're gonna be a dad,” my whole world changed at the moment. I live a pretty normal life. I wanted to explore what would happen with someone with that life, surrounded by violence and not knowing anything else but guns and blood and killing and all of that. What would happen to a guy like that when Griselda told him he was going to be a father? We found that he hadn't explored the possibility of starting to get feelings. This kind of guy gets sensitive and starts letting fear into their life. They start feeling fear, and they start questioning their decisions in life. And you don't usually get to see that.

On the other hand, it was beautiful because you usually have the role of the male power figure, and then you have the wife accompanying him. In this case, it was the exact opposite. And I wanted to make sure that it was the same. You have this person with some qualities in life, but he's there for her. He's there as a support. He wants what's best for her, and he has very few needs in life that have nothing to do with her. He devotes his life to her, and I wanted to make sure we were able to put that out there as a masculine figure.

dario and griselda
Netflix

After a while, the protection Dario wants to give her feels like constricting limitations to her. So, how do you properly love a drug lord like Griselda Blanco?

My only tip would be to get in your car and drive as far away as you can (laughs). You have to understand so many things are going on in her head. She had all these killings, the thirst for power, and the drugs that she was consuming at the time. It was all becoming very blurry for her. It has to be hard to fall in love with a person you're trying to make some sense of, and you realize she won't listen to you. She's not going to pay attention to you. She's not gonna do what you think is best for her. And you sort of start losing that battle against power. Dario lost her to power. He didn't lose her to another man. He didn't lose her to anything else. They were perfectly fine together, but he couldn't fight the power she wanted. He couldn't fight the vengeance and the thirst for vengeance that she had. She was really angry. She had been through a lot in her life. And now she's in a position where she can put people to the same pain that she went through. She wanted that, and he wanted the exact same opposite. He wanted just to grab the kids and get out of there with her. We made enough money. Let's forget about that. Let’s have a pleasant life. I've killed enough people in my life. I'm done with it. It was almost sweet. If you didn't know it was Dario and Griselda, you would say it's a sweet story, but it's not. It's a horrific story, the two of them.

You and Sofia Vergara shared some emotionally charged scenes that looked too real to be fake. What was the energy like on set? Was there ever a need to separate for a scene?

It always changes. There were some really intense things that we needed to find different ways to do it, to find different words. So we would rehearse them. Some other scenes were equally intense where we’d go, “I'll be in my trailer, you be in your trailer.” Even the director, Andy Baiz, would come to us and say, “Don't talk to each other. I don't want you guys to talk to each other before this argument. Or he’d say, “I want you guys to go out and have some lunch and then come back here, and we'll do it.” It creates mixed emotions

One of the most unhinged scenes in the show is the birthday scene when Griselda’s cocktail of drugs, paranoia, and power takes over, and she starts barking orders to have people strip at gunpoint, and she starts shooting up cars. What was it like to shoot such a wild scene?

That episode was really crazy, man. We did the whole party sequence in five days. It was really crazy. It was really intense. There were a lot of people, a lot of extras. There were a lot of actors. There were a lot of technical aspects to it. You would have to go through the whole party just to get a scene done. I remember it was one of those moments when I saw Sofia’s work. She was really nervous about being high and having consumed all these drugs because she was not familiar with it and she hadn't done it before. This nervousness that she had brought so much good stuff into the scene, and it worked so well. And it was really nice.

Dario is a character that tries to avoid conflict with Griselda all of the time. He tries to make her come to her senses. And this was the first time that he wasn't actually trying to avoid conflict. He was looking for conflict. He tells her, “If you're going to shoot me, then shoot me, go ahead. Shoot me in the back so you don't have to look me in the eyes.” As an actor, it was this sort of exploding moment for me where the character finally gets to say the things that I'm pretty sure he thought before but didn't have the guts to say. It was the first time, so it was a release. It’s a crazy episode. When I first started watching it, it was like, “They're going to do that? No, he's not. He’s not barking. Okay, he's barking.” It was one after the other. It was the first time I saw a birthday cake with my face on it (laughs). That was amazing.

a man holding a woman
Netflix

It’s impossible to fit Griselda’s entire life into six episodes.

I remember they cut off some flashbacks from her past in Columbia. We did a few flashbacks there to portray her life before she got to Miami.

Where’s the golden gun?

I think Andy, the director, has it at home. It was crazy to see that gun, and I couldn't believe they actually made it work. I don't know where that ended up. I'll ask Sofia. It's probably at her place, Andy's place, or someone has it. I don't have it, but I would love to have it.

Griselda and Dario's son, Michael Corleone Blanco, has been vocal about his opposition to the Netflix series because he is not involved. Has anybody from the family or anybody associated with Griselda's family reached out to you about your role?

Not really. We tried to take as much reality from it. I didn't feel like approaching the family yet because I wanted to have the liberty to create from zero. I wanted to have the liberty to create from the script. The facts were there, and the history was there in the script. I wanted to create my own work from the ground up. I had no communication with anyone from the family.

Would you like to see a Season 2 of Griselda? If so, how should it go?

If there were a season two they would have to go back in time because half of the show dies in season one (laughs). I would love to be more specific about when they have a son and start growing because there's this timelapse from episode four to five. I would love to see what happened in that time as they were getting older, what happened with the moments that she started falling harder on drugs, and how Dario’s becoming softer and softer and more sensitive. I would like to explore that. They probably won't give us a show, but maybe a movie.

Emotionally, what was the hardest scene to shoot?

The first time that they meet is when Dario finds her at this motel with her kids, and he has to make the decision. I've never been, as an actor, in a position where I had to hold a gun against a kid's head. That was really hard for me. That’s one of those moments when you realize this is a serious matter that I'm doing. And I'm really glad that it came out that way for Dario. I didn’t have to keep on with the shooting of the kids or anything like that because it was really hard doing it as an actor.

alberto guerra
David Suarez

He never explained why he saved her. He did say he’s never killed a kid. That part appeared to be against his moral code. But then why do you think he saved her?

His boss was an ass. He knew it, and you can see it. Andy and I talked a little bit about that. I asked the same question that you're asking me. I asked him, “What's the reason? What's the real reason behind it?” He said, “There are times in life where you just don't know.” What happens when you don't know is you improvise in the moment. Darrio improvised in the moment. He was supposed to kill this kid, and he didn't want to. When you think about a hitman, if he's not going to do what the boss says at the moment, you better kill your boss because otherwise you're dead. He didn't know what the hell was going to happen after that. That's why it was such a big surprise when she said, “Come help me clean this up.” Then we figured it out. I love that because it resembles life a little bit. It’s improvisation. You have to improve in life. Not everything is scripted in your life.

When does Griselda switch from being simply Griselda Blanco, the woman trying to survive, to La Madrina, the feared drug lord?

Episode five. You can see it on the show. The show moves along, and then you see this monster on screen, and you can feel that on set. You can feel that she has stopped being a regular woman and become La Madrina. She had become a monster. We shot that early on. We were coming back and forth in the episode. Those were the moments. After she really gets powerful, she really becomes La Madrina.

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