Actor Boyd Holbrook (Hatfields & McCoys, Behind the Candelabra) is currently on location in Indiana working on his next project. He’s about to play a villain on the next installment of the Marvel franchise Wolverine. More recently, he starred on the hit Netflix show, Narcos. On the show, Holbrook plays a DEA agent who helps track down drug lord, Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura). With balloting for the Emmys closing at midnight, we managed to squeeze in a last minute conversation about Columbia and how he researched his role as Steve Murphy, a DEA agent hunting Escobar.
Boyd Holbrook, why is there this obsession with Pablo Escobar? I’ve been fascinated with him for the longest time.
The rich are a certain few percenters to have that sort of lifestyle, and life is the best struggle. When people see someone go through the ranks in being superior, it’s a fascinating extension as we know how hard it is.
I think what he did is iconic in crime. It’s very Shakespearian because we see this young, poor man ascend to being a king, and it unravels.
What did you know about him before you took on the role?
I was ten when he died. I wasn’t doing that much cocaine when he died. [Laughs] It wasn’t until I started talking to Steven Murphy that I learned about it. I was training to see how to get into this skin. Pedro and I got to train with the cadets. You’re risking your life going into these places saying you’re not really who you really say you are.
We had guns that fired blanks, in one scenario, they pulled a gun at me and shot me. It was a blank.
It was great. To just do the show in Columbia was great. We could have done it in English with bad accents, or even shot it in Puerto Rico, but all that goes into the genuine show.
That’s one thing I liked about the show, not only did we have the visuals of Columbia, but also the Spanish, on a show like this.
It’s engaging that way. You have to be active to watch the show.
Absolutely, you had to pay attention, it wasn’t one show that you could have on in the background. So, going back to shooting in Columbia, what was that like? It wasn’t something you could have done 20 years ago.
Columbia is gorgeous. I was there for 17 months. Every time I was down there, the altitude is really high. For me, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was also the most rewarding. I’ve seen things that not many North Americans get to experience. That much of time there changes you.
You touched on it earlier, but you really researched this role.
I was on the phone to Steve every day. Wikipedia was tracking every episode to see how the facts check out. Some were out of timeline, but we were verbatim to history. It was wild.
What was it like working with Steve Murphy, Javier, and Pedro Pascal?
We became buddies. They’re really good cops. To do that work, it’s about friendship and getting to know a person. We had a good dynamic set up in the narrative. We all spoke and talked and listen to experiences, and hung out a lot.
What other experiences did you have that you enjoyed?
To go to work every day as an actor is rare. To do that for 17 months, figuring out the scenes and innovating things was really rewarding.
What about some challenges?
The location, and navigating around the country. The film infrastructure is nowhere near as what it is in the North.
What’s the appeal of living out of the East Coast?
I have ten acres where my dog can just run around. I dug a pond. I get to landscape!