What The Characters From Netflix's Griselda Look Like In Real Life

The Netflix trailer for "Griselda" promises a story "Inspired by true events," which in writer parlance generally (though not always) indicates greater liberties taken with the known facts than a series "based on a true story." Not that there's anything wrong with that, or any secret about it; Netflix ran an article on the true story even while quoting co-creator Eric Newman on the importance of authenticity. "[A] driving force for us is finding that truth — even when we can't know the truth. There's no interview you're going to get with Griselda Blanco that tells you what she was thinking and feeling. And so creating that in the most authentic way becomes essential."

Still, the needs of drama aren't those of a documentary, an interview, or a confession. Timelines need to be condensed, narratively redundant episodes in a life need to be combined, and there's a difficult balancing act between creative license and the goal of authenticity when scenes that never happened — sometimes quite dramatic scenes — get inserted into the plot. The same balancing act extends into the visual details of a production, from portraying the time period to casting. From Sofia Vergara down, actors who did not necessarily look much like the people they were portraying still had to be true to the characters and find the humanity in an unsavory crew.

There was, of course, care taken in wardrobe, make-up, and performance to transform into the characters of "Griselda," if not their real-life counterparts. Here is a quick side-by-side look at the real people from Blanco's story with their performers.

Griselda Blanco (Sofia Vergara)

There's no way around it: Sofia Vergara doesn't look very much like the real-life Griselda Blanco. Even if she did, Vergara would have been an unexpected choice for the part in some minds, being most famous for her part in the sitcom "Modern Family." But co-creator Eric Newman told The Hollywood Reporter that "Griselda" was a long-held passion project of Vergara's, and her performance has drawn raves.

A literal recreation of Blanco's face and frame was never on the cards once Vergara was cast. Early make-up tests were "too extreme" in Newman's estimation (via USA Today), and he complained that many productions that made extensive use of the prosthetics needed for a more visually accurate portrait compromised the performance, at least in his eyes. "It's no longer the actor," he said, "and in our case we wanted to be able to see [Vergara] emote." 

That didn't mean a concerted effort wasn't made to give Vergara a unique look for "Griselda." Make-up artist Todd McIntosh used the word "average" to describe the desired look, achieved through minimal prosthetics, false teeth, and a lot of hair work. Elements of the period, such as the giant 1970s hairdos, were ignored, as they made Vergara look "too beautiful" for the character. It was an approach Vergara embraced, as she wanted to have as dramatic a transformation from her most famous role as possible. She took such pride in remaking herself for the part (an hour-and-a-half process) that, when it was suggested on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" that all that was changed was her nose, she spent half a minute detailing what went into the look.

Dario Sepulveda (Alberto Guerra)

One piece of the Griselda Blanco story Netflix retained for its miniseries was her repeated acts of mariticide. "Griselda" changed the details — her first husband Carlos Trujillo isn't in the cast list, and husband number two died under very different circumstances than were depicted on screen. But Blanco really was implicated in the murder of all three of her husbands and reportedly admitted to killing the second one herself. Of the three deadly marriages, "Griselda" devotes the most time to the third. Blanco married Darío Sepúlveda, himself a murderer, in 1978, and was fiercely jealous and controlling of him. She allegedly had eight strippers killed on suspicion of sleeping with Sepúlveda. When he tried to leave for Columbia with their son, Blanco had him killed in front of the boy's eyes.

Cuban actor Alberto Guerra plays Sepúlveda in "Griselda." What photos there are of the real Sepúlveda show a man with dark, slicked-back hair, a fleshy face, and either a close-cropped beard or a prominent mustache. Guerra is a noticeably thinner man, and his facial hair was done in the style of a goatee. But his hair is greased back, his dress sense is not unlike the photos of Sepúlveda, and the TV Darío still faces a very troubled marriage.

Jorge Ayala (Martin Rodriguez)

Griselda Blanco was already behind bars when a potential star witness came forward to testify against her. In life and in "Griselda," Jorge "Rivi" Ayala-Rivera was one of Blanco's most trusted and deadly henchmen. Charming, bilingual, and camouflaged by a nickname, Ayala fell into police hands after robbing a Chicago bank, and it was only when they had him in custody that investigators realized that he was the right-hand man of the Blanco organization, likely responsible for dozens of murders. He was prepared to be a star witness in a murder case against his former boss but, in an embarrassing episode dramatized in "Griselda," he ended up compromising the whole operation by engaging in a phone sex scandal with more than one secretary.

Mugshots of Ayala show a young man with curly hair and a mustache. Actor Martin Rodriguez's look for "Griselda" echoes his real-life counterpart, though TV Rivi's hair is a bit longer and unkempt. Ayala is one of the few people depicted in the series who could compare his portrayal with himself; as of 2024, he is still alive and serving a life sentence.