Orlando Pineda Weighs Loyalty and Love on Netflix’s Griselda

Orlando Pineda Weighs Loyalty and Love on Netflix’s Griselda

Rumour has it that the infamous Pablo Escobar once said, “The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named Griselda Blanco.”

Netflix’s new six-episode limited series, Griselda, starring and executive produced by Sofia Vergara, begins with that very quote and launches immediately into the dangerous and suspenseful narrative of the woman determined to build a drug empire to rival any man’s while, at the same time, raising three sons.

Orlando Pineda as Dixon, the middle child of the Cocaine Godmother (one of Griselda’s monikers), brings a grounded depth and impressive authenticity to the role.

Speaking with The Televixen from Bogotá, Colombia, he shares with us the path that led him to his most complex role so far.

[The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Griselda. (L to R) Jose Velazquez as Uber, Orlando Pineda as Dixon, Martin Fajardo as Ozzy in episode 102 of Griselda.
Cr. Elizabeth Morris/Netflix © 2023

“I am born and raised in Colombia. I went to L.A. when I was eighteen. I started studying acting in college. I graduated, did the whole visa/green card process … and I’ve been having so many opportunities with commercials and different shows, but this is the biggest show I’ve been part of. I’m very excited for it.”

What was the casting timeline like for you on this production?

“I first got the audition in September, and it was supposed to start shooting in October of 2021. October came, and I heard nothing, and I was like, ‘Okay, whatever, let’s move on.’ And then the last week of October, I got a callback. The second week of November, I got another callback.

“Then, the last week of November, I got the meeting with Andy [Andrés Baiz], the director, which was hilarious because I did a Narcos episode with him, and he did NOT remember me whatsoever. Of course, he meets so many people, I didn’t expect him to. But it also felt good because I was getting cast by my talent not because he remembered me.

“I got the news the first week of December 2021, and we started shooting last week of January 2022. It was very fast, you can say. The casting process took awhile but then, as soon as I heard, it was almost immediate.”

Photo Credit: Amanda Ramón – @aramonphotography

What sort of connection developed on set between your character, Dixon, and his mother, the title character, Griselda, played by Sofia Vergara?

“It was more of a loyalty feeling. More than love, it became more like ‘I have to be loyal’ because, as Dixon, he grew up with all the amenities, all the commodities that he could possibly think of. And he always lived with his mom. So in his eyes, his mom gave him everything. So whatever she did was the ‘right’ way.

“So you develop this sense of loyalty and almost like belonging. You belong to her so whatever she needs of you, you will deliver. Finding that reasoning in my head… Obviously, there’s ‘Mom’ — and you love Mom — but then at the same time you know she’s something more. You don’t quite understand consciously what it is, but you know you have to be loyal.”

Photo Credit: Amanda Ramón – @aramonphotography

How about the three brothers? Did you, Jose (Velazquez), and Martín (Fajardo) get along well?

“Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Us, as actors, we are like brothers now. I was just texting them, and I was like, ‘Hey, guys, could you not ghost me?’ They were like, ‘Oh, sorry!’ [laughs] Stuff like that. We’re just very much like that.

“I had brunch with the little one today as well. We’re spending some quality time together. They’re amazing people. And in the show, I think that relationship built before our [characters’] relationship which was funny. We’d be acting — just behaving like brothers — and they’d call, Cut!” and we were acting the same. They were like, “Jesus Christ, you guys are literally the same on and off screen!’ So I guess it worked perfectly fine.”

How does Dixon process Griselda’s growth from naive drug lord wannabee to actual cartel head? What does he think about being part of the world she chooses to live in?

“Dixon is very spoiled. And he turns out very much like his mother with the attitude and everything because he was so spoiled, right? And the arc of Griselda is literally what starts bad is gonna end bad.

“She keeps choosing to go down that path. You say, ‘naive.’ I say lazy and, like, comfortable because she knew that she could [sell drugs] and that it’s a lot of money very fast. I’m saying that as Orlando, an immigrant that came to another country and had to struggle and do the survival jobs and all of that, right?

“But I feel like her arc is that she started from zero, she got all the way to the top, but as I told you, what starts bad ends bad, and then you see the consequences of this world and these life choices that everyone ends up choosing.

“You see at certain points, the brothers have the opportunity of choosing a different path but because it’s all they know and they have this sense of loyalty to their mom, it’s a no, not ever a question. This path or this one? Where’s Mom? Over there? Let’s go. So I think her arc is something like – I don’t want to say 360 because it doesn’t end at the same point, but let’s just say it starts empty and it ends empty.”

Photo Credit: Amanda Ramón – @aramonphotography

While the entirety of the series was shot in L.A., Griselda‘s premiere events were held in Colombia and Miami. What has that been like?

“So we had the premiere last night, [January] 18th, for Colombia, for Bogotá. And I’m gonna fly Sunday to Miami because we have the world premiere there because the show takes place in Miami. That one’s gonna be crazy.

“Last night was crazy already. I have so many stories. We did the red carpet, and then we stood up in front of the whole theatre, and then we left to the VIP area, and the guests and everyone watched the first episode

“All of them were invited to the party. We had an afterparty there, and it was super cool. I met so many celebrities from Latin America, so many people that I’ve seen on TV since I was a little kid. Obviously, I was starstruck by everyone. I just kept saying, ‘I love your work! I love your work! I love your work!’

“Everyone was so nice. Everyone was congratulating me and the cast so much. They really liked the product. I mean, they said they liked it. Hopefully, they did. I feel like it got people’s attention and they want to keep watching.”

Photo Credit: Amanda Ramón – @aramonphotography

Unknown to the production team, Orlando Pineda had a personal peripheral connection to the real Griselda Blanco through his father, a general in the Colombian police force who worked directly in the effort to take down the Colombian cartels.

How did your family react to you booking the role of Griselda’s son?

“I called them… I don’t tell my family when I’m auditioning for stuff because I feel like I jinx it. But when I booked it, I told them. They just started laughing and crying and all of that.

“I said, ‘I booked a Netflix show!’ and they’re like, ‘What is it about?’ I’m like, ‘All right. Dad, sit down. It’s about Griselda Blanco.’ He’s like, ‘Of course it is.’ He just laughed. He was very proud of me as his son, as an actor. And then I sat down with him and said, ‘Okay, I need you to tell me absolutely everything.’

“He had to deal with the Cali Cartel in the 90s so it wasn’t exactly related to Griselda but they were responsible for Griselda’s… y’know… end? Let’s put it like that. So he had a lot of information and he helped me a lot to build the character and to build this world in my mind which has a lot of unspoken rules and very fine lines that you have to keep yourself in.

“That helped me so much, understanding that world because I was raised on the other side of that world. And also, all the reasoning for these criminals and drug addicts to do what they do. All the inspiration, all the creativity was triggered or sparked by my dad’s comments from what he dealt with.”

What does Sofia think about your connection to the real person she’s portraying?

“She doesn’t know. We never got to it. Every time she asked me about my family, I would only say the nice things. She knows my dad was a general and my mom is a dentist, and knows I have two brothers for sure. She met my parents and my brothers last night in person. We never talked about [my father’s work in fighting the cartels].”

Photo Credit: Amanda Ramón – @aramonphotography

Having watched the completed series, was there anything that surprised you, that blew your mind?

“Yes. Everything. Because we would act, and Andy didn’t let us see the result, how the scene looks. He wouldn’t let us see ourselves or the scene after so we had no idea how it was looking. We were just there, on set. Smoke. Act. We’re like, ‘I guess that was good? All right?’ And then Andy would be, ‘Hmm, wasn’t good, let’s go again.’ When he was like, ‘That was good,’ we’d be like, ‘Okay, we guessed wrong. Now, it’s good.’

“So when I saw it, the cinematography’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. The music, the soundtracks. Oh my god, perfect. I was so involved in the whole thing even though I read the script a million times, and I saw that episode already six, seven times, I still get engaged because of the soundtrack of the episode so I was really impressed by everything.

“Obviously, Sofia’s acting… I saw it first hand so I wasn’t surprised when I saw it onscreen but I was surprised how people reacted to her because they were gasping. When they first see her and they see her angry and stuff, you see people opening their eyes, saying, ‘That is not the Sofia Vergara we’re used to.'”

Colombian actor Orlando Pineda
Photo Credit: Amanda Ramón – @aramonphotography

As a son of Colombia and an actor, how do you want Colombia’s global persona to evolve in media?

“As a Colombian, I understand that there are stories that sell because they are not something that happens around the world. As an actor, I’m very grateful with Griselda. I love this project. I love this story. I love the family I got to make there.

“But just last night, I met some of the actors from another show called Eva Lasting. And I love that show. It’s a Colombian show and I told them, ‘I love my story that I’m telling in Griselda.’ And I know a lot of people are going to be like, ‘Oh, another Narcos show’ and stuff like that. It’s not like we can ignore that because that’s part of our history. And we’re just telling a story from our country, y’know?

“But I was telling these actors [from Eva Lasting], ‘I love your show because it has nothing to do with Narcos stuff.’ It’s a very innocent show. It’s a high school kids show from the ’70s. So it’s very innocent and very loving and it’s just so warm and so bright which is totally the opposite of Griselda.

“And they told me, ‘We love YOUR show. Cause it’s so dark and it’s so interesting. It keeps the suspense there!’ I feel we understand, as artists, that we’re telling stories from our people that we just can’t ignore.

“In the future, in my career, I wanna keep telling stories that are more towards this other show that I am telling you [about], real stories from Colombia, from Latin America, from Hispanics around the world that show us as cultural, as our culture, as the people that we are.

“We’re very warm. We’re very funny. Oh, we’re LOUD. We’re so loud. So I would like to show more of that instead of something that gives a negative connotation, but just because it’s something negative, we’re not just going to ignore it and skip it.”

Watch Orlando Pineda as Dixon Trujillo-Blanco when Griselda premieres on Netflix on January 25, 2024.

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