Now streaming on Netflix in its entirety, Griselda marks a career-defining turn for executive producer and star Sofia Vergara, who sheds every last cell of her Modern Family persona as she transforms into real-life cocaine queen Griselda Blanco.
Well, maybe not every last cell. The true-crime drama’s third episode opens with Vergara cruising around Miami, singing along to — what else — Laura Branagan’s 1982 bop “Gloria.” If your immediate thought is that this must be a not-so-subtle reference to Modern Family‘s Gloria Pritchett, the role which famously earned Vergara four Primetime Emmy nominations, you’re definitely not alone.
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Series creator Eric Newman (Narcos) acknowledges to TVLine that “it is a bit of a wink,” albeit an unintentional one, saying, “If you aren’t in on it, it still works.”
So, what’s the real story behind this inadvertent tribute to the role that made Vergara a household name in the US? For that answer, we go to Griselda director Andrés Baiz:
“You could read it that way,” Baiz tells TVLine, “but one of my biggest inspirations for the character was the amazing actress Gena Rowlands. She was married to director John Cassavetes and acted in many of his films. I admire her tremendously.”
Among the many projects on which Rowlands and Cassavetes collaborated was a 1980 crime drama called — you guessed it — Gloria, for which Rowlands earned a Best Actress nomination at the 53rd Academy Awards.
“So if there’s a wink to something, it’s actually to Gena Rowlands and not to Gloria Pritchett,” Baiz says.
In truth, a lot of effort went into into making sure that Gloria was the last thing viewers think of when they see Vergara in this role. In addition to the actress adjusting her speech and mannerisms, Newman adds that prosthetics, fake teeth and three daily hours in the makeup chair were also key to her transformation.
“We didn’t want to mimic Griselda, but we needed Sofia to disappear,” Newman says. “Particularly the Gloria Pritchett version of Sofia.”
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