Griselda Blanco was a notorious drug queen-pin in Miami in the 1970s who is believed to have made billions of dollars importing and distributing cocaine and allegedly murdering hundreds of people before being gunned down herself at the age of 69. America’s Got Talent judge Sofia Vergara is set to star as the so-called “Cocaine Godmother” in the new crime series Griselda, which will be available to stream with a Netflix subscription on January 25.
This role is a far cry from Modern Family’s Gloria Delgado-Pritchett — the role Sofia Vergara is best known for — however, critics who were able to screen the six-episode miniseries ahead of its release seem to be impressed with the actress’ transformation. Let’s take a look at what they’re saying, starting with GamesRadar’s Megan Garside. The critic gives the series 3.5 stars out of 5, saying it lacks grit but is full of emotion, and Vergara gives a career performance. Garside continues:
Bloody, sexy, and fashionable, Narcos co-creator Eric Newman has struck gold again with Griselda. Whilst it’s not perfect and lacks the grit of most cartel dramas, Vergara's performance steals the show, making this miniseries a worthy, yet different addition to the genre.
Christina Escobar of RogerEbert.com rates Griselda 2.5 out of 4 stars, saying Sofia Vergara brings star power to her portrayal of the cartel leader, but six hours of her story is a lot to take in. Fans of Narcos and Sons of Anarchy will find plenty to like here, but the critic wonders if the series reinforces negative Latinx stereotypes, writing:
Sofía Vergara does well in the role. Early coverage may have declared her ‘unrecognizable’ thanks to some prosthetics in the role, but she clearly brings her alluring star power to the role. More than once, male characters declare themselves confused, unsure if they’d rather kill or have sex with her, and some audience members may feel the same.
Daniel Fienberg of THR says Griselda picks and chooses the actual facts of the queen-pin’s life in order to adhere to a tragic underdog narrative of sorts, but the lead actress provides some much-needed steel to what is otherwise an overly soft series. Fienberg says:
As dramatically shoddy as Griselda increasingly becomes, Vergara keeps it watchable. The hardest-working member of the Modern Family cast — she consistently elevated Gloria from walking stereotype to intricate punchline machine, yet never won an Emmy — Vergara, an executive producer here, deserves full credit for unveiling a whole new set of serious chops. She never makes Griselda quite as frightening as the real woman was — an opening quotation from Pablo Escobar admitting to being afraid of her makes it particularly odd that Escobar isn’t used as even a minor character — but she locates Griselda’s insecurities and her brains even from under the layers of makeup.
Aramide Tinubu of Variety writes that the entire cast is stellar, particularly Martin Rodriguez as hitman Jorge "Rivi" Ayala-Rivera, and the series works as the story of a woman who becomes a predator after being prey for too long (though she and other critics clarify that Blanco’s story is not made to be aspirational). Tinubu continues:
Griselda is a revenge story. Yes, it’s an account of real-life drug queenpin Griselda Blanco’s (an engrossing Sofía Vergara) rise to The Godmother of the Medellín Cartel. But this tale isn’t an account of some distressed damsel who gets swept up in the underworld. Instead, what creator Eric Newman offers is a window into the mind of a highly meticulous and intelligent woman, intent on taking back everything that was ever stolen from her, even if she destroys herself in the process. Fast-paced and well-acted, the show is brutal, fascinating and full of high drama.
Saloni Gajjar of AV Club grades the series a B, saying that Sofia Vergara’s “cutthroat yet tender portrayal” alone makes Griselda worth the watch. However, her performance is the only pleasant surprise the show offers, the critic says, with the rest merely following in Narcos’ footsteps. Gajjar writes:
Shedding the persona of her well-known Emmy-nominated performance as Modern Family’s Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, the actor approaches her heavily dramatic turn with guns blazing. She embodies the titular notorious drug dealer in a subdued yet powerful manner. And while it takes her a couple of episodes to hit this stride, she provides a steadfast anchor for an enjoyable but predictable TV show.
Critics seem to have their issues with Griselda overall, but there’s a clear consensus on Sofia Vergara’s transformation into the head of Miami's drug cartel, especially with this part being so different from her Modern Family character and other roles we’ve seen her play in the past. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, you will be able to stream the series starting Thursday, January 25, and be sure to check out what else is new and coming soon to Netflix.