On Thursday, Netflix dropped Griselda, a miniseries chronicling the life of Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco, played by Sofia Vergara. Known for her violent leadership style, Blanco had a decades-long reign transporting cocaine between Colombia, Miami, and New York. She spent nearly 20 years in prison in the U.S. for drug trafficking and murder before being deported to Colombia, where she was killed in 2012 at the age of 69.
Netflix describes the miniseries as a “fictional dramatization” of Blanco’s “journey from Medellin to becoming ‘the Godmother’ of Miami’s drug empire.” The show is also now the subject of a lawsuit; last week, TMZ reported that Blanco’s children were suing Vergara, Netflix and other people involved in its production, accusing them of using unauthorized “image, likeness and/or identity” of their family members to promote the series.
Here’s what to know about the show.
Who is Griselda Blanco?
Beginning in the 1970s, Blanco was a prominent drug dealer in the Colombia-U.S. drug trade. Her violent methods earned her the names “Cocaine Godmother,” La Madrina (“The Godmother”), La Jefa (“The Boss”) and the Black Widow. Though she’s suspected of having been involved in more than 200 murders, Blanco managed to evade authorities until she was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1985. She was found guilty of conspiring to manufacture, import and distribute cocaine and sentenced to 15 years in prison. While serving the sentence, she was charged with three counts of murder (including of a 2-year-old). She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three concurrent 20-year sentences. She was granted compassionate release in 2004 and deported to Colombia. In 2012, while leaving a butcher shop, Blanco was shot and killed by someone on a motorcycle — an execution style she is often credited with popularizing.
What has Vergara said about Blanco?
Vergara has been promoting Griselda for weeks. In an interview with the New York Times, she detailed the process of pitching the show to Narcos producer Eric Newman. She has called Blanco a complicated person, and said that she was intrigued by how someone who was a mother — Blanco raised four children — could also be a “monster.” “It was a lot of work, it was a lot of preparation. I had to really investigate what it meant to be a woman in that era. A mother, a Colombian woman … that turned into this monster. So, it was a really difficult task for me to understand it,” she told People.
Speaking to the Times, she added: “I always dreamed of Griselda to be a little bit like Tony Soprano. He was a very bad buy, but you wanted him to win; you could justify some of his behaviors.”
Why is Blanco’s family suing Netflix and Vergara?
A week before the show was set to drop, TMZ reported that Blanco’s estate — led by her son and daughter — had sued Vergara, Netflix and others involved in the production. They claim that the images and likeness of their family members were used to promote the show and asked for $50,000 in compensation. Blanco’s son, Michael Corleone Blanco, says that between 2009 and 2022, he gave interviews to people who said they were interested in making a show or movie about his mother’s life. He claims Netflix producers used those interviews to create Griselda, but he wasn’t compensated. “Make no mistake, Michael Blanco is humble and thrilled each and every time someone reaches out to shine light on his mother and the Blanco family. However, in the case of Netflix/Latin World Entertainment, the Defendants approached Michael Blanco to gain his work, perspective, and insight to only turn around and act like he does not exist, in an apparent attempt to reap their own profits,” a statement from the estate says.
Vergara hasn’t responded to the suit publicly. Eric Newman, the show’s creator and executive producer — who also worked on Narcos, the Netflix show that follows Pablo Escobar — told the Today Show that suits like this “come with the territory.” He added: “I dealt with similar suits from Pablo Escobar, his family, during the making of Narcos. I tend not to think much about them.”