Film

Alfonso Herrera Talks Responsibility in Telling Narco Stories, ‘Ozark’ & ‘Rebelde’ Reboot

Photo by Esteban Calderon.

It’s human nature to have dreams and aspirations. If you would’ve asked Mexican actor Alfonso Herrera what his dream project was four years ago, he probably would’ve told you it was to be on Ozark, the critically acclaimed Netflix show about a financial advisor, played by Jason Bateman, who drags his family to Missouri to launder money for a drug cartel. But today, that dream is a reality. 

Five days after auditioning for the crime drama via Zoom during the pandemic from his home in Mexico City, Herrera landed the role of Javier “Javi” Elizzondro, the incredibly charismatic and cunning nephew of drug lord Omar Navarro, Bateman’s character’s boss. “It was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had in my life, work-wise,” Herrera tells Remezcla. “It’s a very well-written and well-directed series. And the result is there. The fans and the people who follow this story are still hooked.”

At a time when narco series abound in media, Herrera points out that Ozark is different from those perpetuating the same stereotypical — and harmful — images and narratives that have desensitized audiences to these types of stories. “We’ve seen so many clichés and stereotypes on telenovelas, movies, series, where a person who works in [drug trade], we automatically stop humanizing them. We go to the caricature: an evil-looking face, macho, that dresses in a certain manner,” he explains. 

With Javier, Herrera wanted to bring more depth to the person who also happens to be a drug trafficker. “When I’d read the script, I’d say, ‘Javier is charming.’ He’s someone who enjoys a good chat, he likes the little things, and he knows how to appreciate them. If we can maximize those little things in the script, we can make something out of them. To create a balance between, yes, he comes from a world where he’s seen as a very ambitious person, but if we have faults and virtues, we can create a three-dimensional character. Because if we deconstruct everything, at the end of the day, [Javier] is a person who wants to expand his business. Period.”

Herrera also highlights the importance of Ozark not placing the blame on drug trafficking solely on the countries south of the U.S. “The ones responsible always live in the south. The one that supplies, lives in the south. But where is the responsibility from the other side of the border? That’s what this story presents. It presents a much general responsibility that doesn’t only lie on the neighbors in the south… And that’s why this story is outside of the clichés and stereotypes because we can see how all of this machinery operates in a very peculiar manner, and how it gets to the north. And in the north, things happen too.”  

To audiences in the U.S., Herrera is known for his roles on Netflix’s Sense8, FOX’s The Exorcist, and USA’s Queen of the South. But to audiences in Latin America — yes, he’s been in iconic movies like El baile de los 41 (for which he won an Ariel award!) and Amar te duele — he’s dearly remembered for the character he played on the Mexican version of the telenovela Rebelde and as a member of the band it birthed, RBD.  

Though Herrera wasn’t part of RBD’s 2020 reunion, he’s fully aware — and thankful — of the lasting impact the band and TV show has had on different generations. “It was amazing, to be part of a project that was so important for a generation,” he says. “I don’t have anything but words of gratitude for being part of a project that I enjoyed, that I valued. We traveled a lot. Imagine, I was 20-something and I had the opportunity to travel the world, meet many people, get to know cultures, cities I never imagined I’d visit and experience.” 

He recently caused a stir on social media after tweeting that he wished the new Rebelde cast success and, in jest, shared a valuable piece of advice: check your contracts. When asked about it, he clarifies that he was joking. Broma en serio, if you will. “If there’s something that I can help them with, it’s [advising them] not to make the same mistake I did, which was not checking the contracts that well,” he says. Being the voice of experience, he adds that he celebrates the fact that newer generations are still enthused with Rebelde. “I really do wish [the current cast] all the success in the world.”

On his future projects, being part of anything RBD-related is not in the cards, but other projects, like directing and producing, are. When it comes to his former band, Herrera says that moment has passed. “There’s a new generation now,” he shares, referring to the new cast. “So it’s logical, life goes on. It’s their time now, and I hope they’re successful, that they do an amazing job. I think they have everything — the platform, the talent. So I’m sure it’ll be something wonderful and they’ll do very well.” 

However, what is coming is a project that’s currently in development, where he’ll be taking on a role behind the cameras. “I can’t say much about it, but we’ve been in talks with different platforms, and there’s a lot of interest in bringing this story to life,” Herrera explains. Another secret project that he can’t talk about is an upcoming podcast. He references it after being asked if he’d be interested in working on a superhero movie or seres. “A project that I just recorded exists. That’s all I can say.” 

Another thing we don’t know yet is when part 2 of season 4 of Ozark is coming, and yet again, Herrera is not divulging much. But one thing is for sure: “Specifically talking about Javier, well, Javier will be Javier,” he says with a laugh. “It’ll be very interesting to see how he’ll react, how his ambition will lead him to take certain decisions that can be good for some.” 

Season 4A of Ozark is now streaming on Netflix.