Catherine Zeta-Jones on Cocaine Godmother and Her Husband's Response to Harassment Accusations

The actress discusses her nearly four–year obsession with Griselda Blanco and her support of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

by | January 19, 2018 | Comments

Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) is the latest movie star taking a turn on TV, and the role — as a Colombian drug kingpin in the Lifetime film Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story — finds the actress at her most gritty. Zeta-Jones spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about what attracted her to the role and addressed an interview her husband Michael Douglas gave to Deadline about sexual harassment accusations against him.

Zeta-Jones as Griselda Blanco is the actress like you’ve never seen her before. She first learned of Blanco in the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys. There were only still photographs of Blanco in the documentary, but interviews with others conveyed her legend.

“She was feared, revered,” Zeta-Jones said. “It was fascinating to me that this woman was ruling the roost, running the big boys. She was very powerful in that world. She retained that power for so long when everybody wanted her dead. She dodged life in prison through technical details, and then gets assassinated by her own way of gunning people down with the drive-by.”

As Cocaine Godmother shows, Blanco invented the drive-by shooting with her motorcycle assassins. She also developed ways to hide drugs — in women’s underwear and shoes and false-bottom suitcases — that fans of gangster movies (and the real DEA) take for granted now.

“She was sexy because she was dangerous,” Zeta-Jones said. “These men found her sexy because she was dangerous. You don’t get more dangerous than a Colombian woman running the show in Miami, the birthplace of the Colombian drug cartels. And the fighting between the Colombians and the Cubans; we’re talking about drug dealers against drug dealers, DEA against [cartels]. It was chaos; the Dade Massacre, the drive-bys, the killings, the dismembering. It was like a war zone there, and this was where old people used to go to retire.”

Blanco was not only dangerous for her deadly stranglehold on the drug-smuggling business; she also seemed to tempt fate. She named her son “Michael Corleone” (Dagan Nish), and Zeta-Jones’ research found she had a dog named Hitler too. Hitler did not make it into the movie.

“So there was a sick sense of humor,” Zeta-Jones said. “I’m sure her kids were accessories like a handbag; choose one for each day.”

Research uncovered one piece of film of Blanco, and Zeta-Jones could tell she was performing for the cameras.

“There was footage of her walking into the church and taking the holy water, talking about her beliefs,” Zeta-Jones said. “I went, ‘I don’t buy it,’ but I buy the fact that she had that sociopathic way of convincing herself that it was all OK, convincing herself that it’s right and she deserves it.”

Cocaine Godmother does not try to justify, sympathize with, or redeem Blanco, nor does Zeta-Jones.

“No, there are no excuses for Griselda,” she said. “There’s no redeeming quality to Griselda. That’s why she’s brilliant to play. All those things about Griselda that I detest, I admire her strength of audacity to be able to succeed that long in a man’s world. She did the false-bottom cases, the hiding [drugs] in the heels of the shoes, creating mules to do the work — pretty girls, models, anything. She was smart. You’ve got to applaud her for that, if anything.”

A frequent visitor to Miami, Blanco’s American headquarters, Zeta-Jones often heard the locals talk about Blanco. Now she can call B.S. on a lot of their tall tales, since she’s an expert on the subject.

“I go now to Miami, I talk about Griselda Blanco in a car going somewhere (from the airport or something), everyone [says they] knew somebody who knew or worked for Griselda Blanco,” Zeta-Jones said. “All of a sudden it’s like everyone knew Griselda Blanco. Nobody did. The DEA were trying to track her down for years. She just was so smart. For somebody who never went to school, she could barely read and write, she was able to do that.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones in Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story (Lifetime)

Douglas and Zeta-Jones usually stay out of each other’s performances, but for this one, Douglas knew one personal quality that would be very useful in playing Blanco. He said, “You are at your most terrifying when you do nothing,” Zeta-Jones shared.

Their kids concurred.

“My kids tell me that I have a look that I do which I don’t know [I’m doing], and that’s the serious look,” Zeta-Jones said. “They used to call it the Griselda look while I was shooting Griselda. She always had that look. That was so funny that note with Michael because I genuinely didn’t know, and he was really serious. He wasn’t making a joke of it. I used it in those moments of me going, ‘Oh gosh, what am I going to do here with this? There are so many ways I could go. I could go this way, I could go that way. Why don’t I just do this? I’m going to scare them with nothing.’”

Michael Douglas in New York in May 2017 (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Before Rotten Tomatoes spoke to Zeta-Jones, Douglas gave a interview to Deadline in which he said he “felt the need to get ahead of” sexual harassment accusations by former employee Susan Braudy, a journalist and author,  that have since been published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Douglas’ interview was published only days after Zeta-Jones wore black in support of Time’s Up at the Golden Globes. In this interview, the actress restated her support of #MeToo and Time’s Up and said Douglas’ decision to speak had the desired effect.

“It’s been very positive, extremely positive,” Zeta-Jones said. “Unfortunate that he had to make a statement, but it was essential that he do that. There was no other choice.

“I just want to instill how much we are, and I am, of course, 100 percent behind this movement — it’s been a long time coming — and so is my husband,” she continued. “My husband has a fantastic track record of creative-women empowerment and [with] women in his business: working with them on screen, producing with them, alongside them. His mother was an actress, I’m an actress — [but] not just actresses, women in general. Us as a family, we really want to say how much we support this movement, absolutely.”

Asked if she felt caught between supporting the movement and standing by her family in this situation, Zeta-Jones said she did not.

“My husband doing that preemptive interview with Deadline is supporting the movement,” Zeta-Jones said. “It’s supporting the truth, and the truth is the movement.”

The premiere of Cocaine Godmother will be the end of a three-and-a-half-year journey for Zeta-Jones in developing The Griselda Blanco Story. Even though she wrapped filming on July 4, Blanco has stayed with her, she said.

“I’m finding it really hard to let her go,” she said. “You would think of all the characters, she’d be an easy one to dump. Take me away from all that pain, take me away from that violence, take me away from that dirty, dark, world. No, it’s a real big part of my career working on this and being able to play her. It was just so fulfilling to have the chance.”

Zeta-Jones said she expects to feel closure once she shares Griselda Blanco with the world.

“It’s all coming to a glorious natural end,” she said. “Once it airs, it’s out there, and then I can give it away.”

Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story airs Saturday, January 20 at 8/7C on Lifetime.

Tag Cloud

singing competition dc movies romantic comedy versus Rocketman Freeform screenings Premiere Dates spy thriller psychological thriller zombie kids Vudu Mudbound spider-man Sneak Peek space Shondaland CBS All Access Lifetime sitcom ratings Columbia Pictures hist PBS New York Comic Con Shudder Pirates The Purge latino Music First Reviews Comic Book Spring TV cancelled TV shows SDCC Spectrum Originals Brie Larson toy story Esquire Television Academy Election USA Paramount Network Tomatazos Disney Channel quibi YouTube Premium comic Grammys robots Year in Review 45 golden globes Set visit 2018 adventure strong female leads Star Wars Dark Horse Comics TLC National Geographic Tarantino 2017 LGBT Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Crackle serial killer HBO Max 2016 Writers Guild of America comiccon casting Nominations Podcast Cosplay Box Office FX TV Land Rock Kids & Family Apple TV+ justice league Amazon Prime Video YA based on movie teaser Hulu Women's History Month political drama Holidays IFC disaster Teen Apple Pet Sematary Masterpiece YouTube Red diversity Britbox OWN BET Black Mirror breaking bad Mindy Kaling SundanceTV Emmys Disney Plus Marvel Toys science fiction revenge 2019 Amazon Prime Pride Month Mystery cars natural history FXX Trailer blaxploitation Pixar Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Schedule 20th Century Fox ghosts History 24 frames Anna Paquin foreign See It Skip It animated dragons video Valentine's Day Oscars cooking Rocky 2015 book Biopics Countdown comics Peacock HBO crossover USA Network BBC America biography miniseries ABC Walt Disney Pictures sequel Netflix Holiday war what to watch Animation DirecTV 21st Century Fox Nat Geo Hallmark spain American Society of Cinematographers theme song Calendar Tumblr talk show vampires TIFF Captain marvel MTV doctor who Watching Series Film Festival RT History nature Sony Pictures transformers DGA Spike Infographic The Walking Dead sports Syfy cancelled TV NYCC Reality anime San Diego Comic-Con Thanksgiving APB Country MCU discovery ABC Family spinoff Creative Arts Emmys Pop Logo festivals Martial Arts Turner supernatural halloween Musical El Rey Elton John streaming Certified Fresh TCA GIFs crime drama Rom-Com crime Musicals social media Universal batman medical drama children's TV X-Men mutant DC streaming service Comics on TV Interview GoT Drama E3 TruTV mockumentary unscripted travel jamie lee curtis docudrama Apple TV Plus Summer zero dark thirty Character Guide Adult Swim Superheroe rotten movies we love Awards TCM christmas movies Sundance Now crime thriller Lifetime Christmas movies free movies Mary poppins facebook police drama game show canceled TV shows Cannes Quiz Disney streaming service cults Hallmark Christmas movies boxoffice Song of Ice and Fire Epix cops E! CBS cartoon The Witch Best and Worst Lucasfilm Horror WGN VICE Comedy Central Polls and Games ITV thriller TCA 2017 A&E Arrowverse Action TNT Superheroes Starz Photos Western Amazon Cartoon Network Family PaleyFest A24 richard e. Grant BBC LGBTQ psycho Nickelodeon indie RT21 anthology series Disney+ Disney Plus MSNBC The CW CNN cancelled television Classic Film GLAAD Opinion romance Chernobyl cats TV renewals Video Games Turner Classic Movies Comedy canceled renewed TV shows Reality Competition composers Ellie Kemper 007 Super Bowl First Look television true crime Sundance slashers Winter TV FOX Fantasy dramedy Red Carpet The Arrangement adaptation Crunchyroll Extras Mary Tyler Moore IFC Films Ghostbusters Marvel Television YouTube Marvel Studios DC Comics 71st Emmy Awards Paramount aliens Food Network zombies DC Universe Winners Warner Bros. Showtime Awards Tour Disney stand-up comedy binge tv talk joker Christmas technology hispanic TBS Star Trek game of thrones Trivia AMC independent elevated horror Binge Guide Fall TV harry potter VH1 ESPN historical drama SXSW Heroines Acorn TV 2020 blockbuster NBC Emmy Nominations spanish language Lionsgate cancelled TV series CW Seed south america witnail politics Stephen King period drama WarnerMedia President CMT dceu finale Film Sci-Fi Fox News green book Mary Poppins Returns Bravo cinemax Marathons Netflix Christmas movies werewolf Ovation Trophy Talk award winner