Though many know Vergara as the "funny woman" on 'Modern Family,' her 'Griselda' costars tell PEOPLE that watching her embody the Colombian drug cartel leader was "transformative"
Sofía Vergara knows what it takes to fully step into a new role.
In an exclusive conversation with PEOPLE at Netflix's Griselda Miami premiere, the actress, 51, opens up about the challenges she endured to embody a cutthroat character like notorious drug boss, Griselda Blanco.
"It was a lot of work, it was a lot of preparation," she explains. "I had to really investigate what it meant to be a woman in that era. A mother, a Colombian woman… that turned into this monster. So, it was a really difficult task for me to understand it."
Despite the complicated nature of stepping into such a role, Vergara says she was able to find a connection by thinking about their shared similarities.
"We are both Colombian, we are both immigrants, we are both mothers, we are both women," she adds. "So I did relate to her a lot."
The Modern Family alum stars in Netflix's upcoming limited series Griselda as the titular murderous Miami queenpin.
The series was created by Narcos and Narcos: Mexico showrunner Eric Newman and is directed by Andrés Baiz. Along with serving as an executive producer, Vergara stars alongside Latin music star Carolina Giraldo (aka Karol G), who plays Carla, one of Griselda's most trusted confidants.
According Orlando Pineda, who plays one of Vergara's on-screen sons Dixon, the actress "didn't feel like a boss" but more like "a mom."
"She was always hugging us, giving us a lot of love. A lot of sweets – a lot of sweets," he tells PEOPLE. "Which is unbelievable because she eats sweets and she has that body – ahh, I wish!"
Juliana Adien Martinez, who takes on the role of June, also echoes Pineda's sentiments and recalls how Vergara came in "so down, so game, so generous with her cast." Noting how many know her as the "incredibly powerful" and "funny woman" on Modern Family, Martinez shares the first moment she saw Vergara snap into her bloodthirsty character.
"So many people know her as Gloria, for instance, and to see her go into a fully dramatic role – to own it, to be there, to be transformative. I think people are going to be shocked, excited, enthralled. It’s going to be amazing to watch," she adds.
Other cast members also open up about her dedication to her role.
"She was willing to risk everything – three hours of makeup, transformation, to look different," Aurora Cossio recalls. "That is amazing."
"You need a lot of confidence to understand that playing a character is not only about talent, it’s about being strong inside your brain — everything in here," she says gesturing to her head. "So you can show up and do your best"
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Griselda premieres Thursday on Netflix.
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