TCA Press Tour - Lifetime Presentations to Look Forward to

By Valerie Milano

Catherine Zeta-Jones at the Lifetime
"Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story" TV show panel,
TCA Winter Press Tour, Jan 2018
Photo by David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

For over 30 years the Lifetime network has provided cutting-edge programming for women. Lifetime movies and TV to watch for include Kyra Sedgwick's "Story of a Girl: Faith Under Fire" starring Grammy winner Toni Braxton as well as a biopic of Olympian Simone Biles, often referred to as the greatest gymnast ever.

This year, journalists have played an important role in exposing abuses of power. How far might we go to uncover a story? Pioneering journalist Nellie Bly actually pretended to be crazy and got herself committed to uncover abuses of patients in an insane asylum. This riveting story starring Golden Globe nominee Christina Ricci as Nellie will also be told on Lifetime. Lifetime will also soon debut a movie about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as well as Rob Lowe's re-imagining of the classic thriller "The Bad Seed."

Academy and Tony Award-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones spoke about her exciting new role in the upcoming Lifetime drama "Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story" at a TCA Winter 2018 press tour panel. "Cocaine Godmother" is set to debut very soon on January 20. Also present on the panel was Zeta-Jones' co-star, Juan Pablo Espinosa. Zeta-Jones said that, although she had made such an impression in the acclaimed 2000 film "Traffic" about the war on drugs in America, she hadn't been tapped for the role of Griselda Blanco. She herself went after it after seeing the 2006 documentary "Cocaine Cowboys" and hearing about the woman everyone kept referring to as "La Madrina."

"My God, what did I know about this woman in a very dark, dangerous, man's world who had so much power!" Zeta-Jones exclaimed. And then it happened that Tanya Lopez at Lifetime A&E got a script about Griselda Blanco and put Zeta-Jones onto it while they were discussing some different projects. While commenting on the roles that women often play in the drug world and the reasons they are recruited for them, Zeta-Jones referred back to the woman she played in "Traffic," who was neither an "unknowing wife" or "unfortunate victim." This woman in fact became like Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" when she took over the illicit family business. Zeta-Jones insisted that Griselda was the "polar opposite" of everything she believed in morally and she just relished playing her.

Juan Pablo Espinosa, a native of Colombia, said he had been thrilled to be part of a project that told the drug story from a woman's perspective. He had seen Catherine Zeta-Jones in "The Mask of Zorro" and was excited to hear Colombians saying that she looked and sounded Colombian in the Griselda Blanco film and had to be Latin American.

An audience member said of Griselda, "This is such a strong woman who doesn't take anything from anyone, who doesn't give up to men's power" and asked Catherine Zeta-Jones how important it was for her to play women like that. Zeta-Jones replied, "Well, as an actor you want to play all sorts of women, you know. This is not a cookie cutter kind of thing!" While Griselda was not a likeable person, she definitely had layers of vulnerability worth exploring. "The cracks [in Griselda's character] got much deeper and the wheels started to come off because, as with every addict, eventually the wheels come off," Zeta-Jones concluded.

Actors Catherine Zeta-Jones and Juan Pablo Espinosa of
"Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story" speak
onstage during the A&E Networks portion of the
Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour
at The Langham Huntington, Pasedena
Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America

Zeta-Jones, a working mother herself, understands that women need to be both sweet and strong to fill the many roles required of them in life. Her advice to younger actors coming up is "Keep turning up" despite the knocks in the road. "You have to battle the storms, you know!"

Zeta-Jones considers the four weeks of shooting she did for the Griselda Blanco film to be the best four weeks of her life. Working on the film made her remember how much she loved what she did. The opening scene of the film where the 11-year-old Griselda is shown having sex with a grown man and then being beaten by her mother shocks even those who are not easily shocked. Zeta-Jones commented, "We had to have that moment. Not to justify anything, but to get a sense of where this woman came from." Zeta-Jones continued, "You know, Lifetime does such great stories about women for women...and we're seeing another side of women. Maybe men should watch more of Griselda on Lifetime. Get a better sense of what we really can do."

The child actors in the film are said to be "unbelievable" in their heart-wrenching roles. Catherine Zeta-Jones herself underwent quite a transformation to play Griselda Blanco. While not as naturally beautiful as Zeta-Jones, Blanco wore long eyelashes, colorful clothing, and a lot of red lipstick and nail polish, even in prison. "She was the movie star starring in her own movie in her own head," observed Zeta-Jones. 

Catherine Zeta-Jones' equally well-known Hollywood husband, Michael Douglas, told her, "You don't have to do much. You are at your most terrifying when you do nothing." After dissecting that comment for a few minutes, Zeta-Jones thanked the assembled group of critics for following her television work. "I love the way that television has really become a wonderful platform for us [actors]," she said right before the panel wrapped up.

Posted By Discover Hollywood on January 25, 2018 02:21 pm | Permalink