Q: You really see your character of Mexican cartel leader Teresa Mendoza as an empowered woman, correct?
A: Yeah. I read the book like eight or nine years ago … and I just thought it was a very interesting book. I mean, the show is super-different from what the original book is. But the idea of this woman rising up and being the leader of a cartel was kind of fascinating, her journey, her story of who she was, who she becomes, I thought it was a wonderful challenge for an actress to play. And of course, she’s a drug dealer; of course, there are flaws and it’s not an honorable profession. But it is a really challenging, interesting character for you to create the spine, for you to create the soul of it and the arc (of) where she comes from, a drug dealer’s girlfriend … to surviving through so many things in her life and then becoming a leader of a cartel in a world that is mainly dominated by men.
Q: So her mind-set was not difficult for you to tap into?
A: Yeah. It was interesting because I’d based her a lot on … what the writer of the book wrote. And even if we’re not doing the book, I tried to get her personality and some characteristics that she would have if she was in different situations like we created for the show. And I think the most challenging thing was understanding her strength. I think it was really wonderful to understand this person that didn’t victimize herself, and even though she had a very harsh life and harsh childhood by being someone who was raped, by being someone who lost her parents and all that, she never gave up. She always was a fighter and kept on going. I think that’s a very powerful thing to be, to have.
George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.