EL ESPECTADOR

Playing Pablo: Actor In Role Of Druglord Escobar Needs Therapy

Colombia marks 20 years since police killed Pablo Escobar, who helped define the nation as the global mecca of violence and drug trafficking. It's a lot to absorb for one man in particular.

Andres Parra in "Escobar, the Boss of Evil"
Andres Parra in "Escobar, the Boss of Evil"
Élber Gutiérrez Roa

BOGOTA — What's it like for a Colombian actor to play the country's famously cruel and bloodthirsty Public Enemy No. 1?

Andrés Parra, describes his television role as Pablo Escobar, once the world’s most notorious drug trafficker, as an “exhausting feast.” It was also one that required him to seek inner peace both during and after filming.

The 36-year-old recalls how as a child in the 1980s, teachers discouraged children from even mentioning the country’s premier mobster, whose criminal escapades and terrorist bombings made Colombia synonymous with violent crime and the cocaine trade.

Colombians have been marking the 20th anniversary this week of when police shot Escobar dead on Dec. 2, 1993.

Parra has acted out the criminal's ugly and eventful life in Caracol Television's weekday soap opera, "Escobar the Boss of Evil," for which the actor says he needed psychological counselling, to better understand Escobar’s “complexity.”

Psychologists confirmed that the drug baron was an “anti-social, aggressive, sadistic” character with a “total absence of disgust, fear and shame," he said. "Escobar was a man who slept easily ... not weighed down by any guilt or his conscience, convinced that what he did was all right.”

Despite the difficulties, Parra loved the role: “It was fascinating accessing a personality with so much color and contradictions.” Filming left him exhausted. "I hid all the books on Escobar, I took a bath with candles, I left the country for a while," Parra said.

Though the country would prefer people speak about such Colombians as Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel García Marquez, soccer star Radamel Falcao or cyclist Nairo Quintana, Parras says: “Whether we like it or not, Escobar was the world’s most famous Colombian.”

What was most interesting about Escobar? “Ninety-five percent” of his life, Parra says. “I had no idea about his relations with sports, with construction, with the law and politicians. I had no idea about the power he had, or that he was responsible for so many attacks. Escobar was in charge!”

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