Behind The Scenes: An Interview with Narcos’ Jorge Ochoa
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When people think of Colombia, they picture beautiful white, sandy beaches with crystal waters, one of the best coffees in the world, and more recently, the series "Narcos." The Netflix series has brought the spotlight to Colombia once again.
Colombia was once home to the Medellin Cartel; one of the biggest drug trafficking groups in history run primarily by Pablo Escobar. Two of the most important members of the Medellin Cartel were the brothers, Jorge and Fabio Ochoa. In "Narcos" actor André Mattos plays Jorge Ochoa.
Mattos, 55, is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has been in show business for over 35 years, but his family was involved in the arts way before he was born. Both of his parents are well-known actors in his home country and even their wedding ceremony took place on a stage.
Most of Mattos’s acting career has been based in Brazil, but recently his focus has shifted from local star to international actor. Not only has he participated in Netflix’s "Narcos," but he has also worked on the movie "Pelé: Birth of a Legend," produced by Brian Grazer, the producer of numerous blockbusters including: "A Beautiful Mind," "The Da Vinci Code," "American Gangster," and "8 Mile."
When asked how he heard about and was invited to participate in "Narcos," Mattos said a series director Jose Padiha was instrumental. “Padilha invited me to participate in this outstanding series and I am pretty proud to have done this. Padiha is a great friend. I love, really love to work with them. [José] Padiha, Wagner [Moura], and Lula Carvalho.”
Padiha and Carvalho worked together on "RoboCop (2014)." Padiha directed the movie and Carvalho was the cinematographer. Before doing "Narcos," the four of them worked together on the movie "Elite Squad (2007)," and "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010)."
Their friendship was already built before "Narcos," and Mattos expressed how all of the actors got along together on the set. With honesty and laughter Mattos said, “Well, this is the nice part. We’d play soccer, we’d watch movies, and we’d get together and sing. And you know… enjoy this gorgeous country, which Colombia is. Spending time on the beach with the girls, listening to music, drinking… That’s it. Having fun, my friend,” said Mattos.
On a more serious note, Mattos also revealed some of the challenges he had finding reference material about Jorge Ochoa, which is rare and difficult to discover. Mattos said, “By watching interviews, by reading books, listening to music. Using all the tools available. "All the tools, which came in handy,” said Mattos.
One of the few criticisms "Narcos" has received is about making the drug traffickers in the show look like heroes. When asked how he feels about portraying this as an actor, Mattos answered cautiously.
“This is a very delicate theme for the Colombians. As you know, Pablo Escobar was considered kind of a Robin Hood for mainly poor Colombians. Loved and hated by part of them. So, it is a delicate matter, you know what I mean?,” said Mattos.
(Photo Courtesy of Clara Prado)
Mattos explained how professionally, he does not criticize the actions and decisions taken by the individual, but instead focuses more on the character he has to interpret. “As an actor, I’d rather not judge the character’s attitudes. I don’t do this while acting,” said Mattos.
When asked if he received any messages, positive or negative, from the real Jorge Ochoa, Mattos answered jokingly, while also highlighting the importance of maintaining the character’s essence and portraying the story as realistically as possible.
“Jesus, no. We didn’t. Thank God! No I didn’t,” said Mattos laughing. “This is a subtle matter, because he is still alive. I think that the most important thing we did is to be close to his story. That’s what we did.”
Despite having a great time and falling in love with Colombia, Mattos expressed how actors sometimes get homesick. Staying away from family and your native culture can be a challenge,” said Mattos. “I missed my daughters, for sure… and the fabulous Brazilian barbecue.”
Unfortunately for both Narcos and André Mattos’ fans, the actor reveals that he will not be participating on the upcoming season of the show. “Yes, there will be a third season!’ said Mattos. “But I won’t be on it. No, I won’t. I have another job to do.”
“I am going back to Brazil this week to film and after that I intend to focus more and more on my international career. That’s why I am here. To improve my English and to be in the place where things happen, Los Angeles,” said Mattos.
Mattos revealed that he will be filming in Brazil with Domingos de Oliveira, one of the biggest screenwriting names in the nation. Mattos is also going to direct a short-film and produce, direct, and participate in the theatrical play, "Pluft," which will have multiple casts and come to Los Angeles starting in the summer of 2017. Personally, Mattos believes theater in America focuses on big name productions and said, Pluft would be “a breakthrough in how theater has been shown to children.”
Mattos participated in theater during his early years and said Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Fernando Montenegro were his biggest inspirations. De Niro is still Mattos’ favorite actor.
Professionally, Mattos said there is no such thing as a bad role “I don’t choose a character, I get prepared for them. So, they are all great for me. I don’t think one was better or worse than another. They are all great, for me,” said the actor.
Mattos knows about the difficulty of getting into this highly demanding business. So, for future actors and SMC students wanting to break into the industry, Mattos’ advice is this, “Study hard and be humble. This is my advice for them…study hard, hard, hard.”