Special Events / Interview

Meet Narcos’ DEA Agent Steve Murphy

He's one of the stars of the hugely popular Netflix series who'll be visiting venues across the UK this May.

Narcos has become one of the most successful series on Netflix, and it’s wild to believe that seasons one and two were based on the true events of capturing renowned drug-lord, Pablo Escobar. The two DEA Agents who were in charge of the case, Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, are coming to the UK in May to tell their story, but before they touch down, we caught up with Steve Murphy to get some background on what happened and what their future holds.

Your talks so far have gone down incredibly well, what are the main things you want audiences to take from them?

We present our story as a lesson in history, and we tell the “true story” about what really happened in Colombia with Escobar and his gang. The real violence, which was worse than what you might have seen in the Netflix series ‘Narcos’; the wealth and opulence associated with Escobar, the unbelievable deal Escobar negotiated with the Government of Colombia that resulted in his surrender, how nice and ridiculous Escobar’s custom-­‐built prison really was, (which was much nicer than what you saw in ‘Narcos’) and what really happened on Escobar’s last day. Our message also provides a great example of perseverance, staying focused on your mission, and never giving up.

Did you find it at all difficult to talk about and relive the Pablo Escobar case when you first started doing these live shows?

Our presentations have never been difficult for us because we stress the fact that we’re telling the truth. They give us the opportunity to continue discussions about the real dangers associated with illegal narcotics, as well as the violence that goes hand-­in-­hand with those activities. When ‘Narcos’ was released, I watched all three seasons and enjoyed the series. Javier is still watching season two. Some of the scenes brought back some stressful and bad memories because of so many police friends being murdered. Keep in mind, I was stationed in Colombia for three years, but Javier was there for over six years.

After you had successfully captured Escobar and the case was closed, did you have any idea that this is what your work would lead to and the impact your story would have?

None whatsoever! Never did we think anyone would want to hear our story. Over the years, people have suggested we write a book or make a movie, but honestly, we didn’t think anyone would be interested. WOW, were we wrong! Several years before ‘Narcos’, we were approached by two different Hollywood producers, but they had personal agendas and wanted to change the focus of the story, so we declined to work with them. When we were contacted by Eric Newman, the Executive Producer and creator of ‘Narcos’, initially we told him no, that we weren’t interested, but after conducting some research on Eric and the writers, and meeting them face-­to-­face, we decided to tell our story and see what happened. Believe us when we say, no one is more shocked and surprised by the interest in this story then us!

Have you been back to Colombia at all since everything happened? If not, would you return?

We’ve been back to Colombia several times since Escobar’s death, and we’ve even been back to Medellin. All of our return trips were associated with filming different shows about Escobar. What we found was that Colombia, and especially Medellin, have become so much nicer than when we lived there. We tell every audience we speak to that Colombia is a beautiful place, and we encourage them to visit Colombia. Is it still dangerous? Yes it is, but so are certain areas of almost every city around the world. In 2017, Javier and I watched the U.S. Super Bowl football game at the Hard Rock Café in Medellin during filming for the Discovery Channel show, ‘Finding Escobar’s Millions’.

It must have been exciting, although strange, to see your story become such a successful television series. How much of the creation where you involved with?

Seeing the success of our story is surreal. Again, we never thought people would be interested in these events, but watching an actor play you on TV isn’t like watching yourself. We think Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal, Wagner Moura, and all the other actors and actresses did an outstanding job in the ‘Narcos’ series. We’ve had the opportunity to meet many of them, and everyone has been so nice and personable. Javier and I were contracted as consultants for seasons one and two of ‘Narcos’. Other former DEA Agents were brought on board for later seasons. This was a great idea because it brought so much authenticity to the various seasons, which resulted in a very realistic series. Is everything you see in ‘Narcos’ real? Of course not. The creators and writers utilised some literary licensing in parts of the series, but there’s more reality in there than most people think.

The Escobar case was a highly dangerous and difficult case to work, did it ever make you question your choice in career, or affect your cases going forward?

DEA is an organisation that is tasked with pursuing the largest illegal drug traffickers in the world, so getting the opportunity to go after the world’s largest cocaine manufacturer and distributor, the world’s first narco-­terrorist, and the world’s most wanted criminal, was a challenge that every DEA Agent around the world would love to pursue.

When we transferred to Colombia, neither of us knew we would be assigned as the lead DEA Agents in Colombia targeting Escobar and his organisation. But when we received our assignments, we reacted as every other DEA Agent would react; we were excited and aggressively accepted the challenge. There was never a single moment when we questioned our assignment or responsibilities. There were moments when we got a little discouraged because there were so many occasions when we almost captured Escobar, but for various reason, we missed him. But then when we saw the atrocities committed by Escobar, the murders of so many innocent people, the indiscriminate bombings, the deaths of so many Colombian Police Officers, many of whom were close friends, those events renewed our resolve to get back on mission and continue the fight to capture this guy. Was it hard and discouraging at times? Yes it was, but the work ethic and dedication of the Colombian National Police and the DEA is unparalleled. Our job was to stop this narco‐terrorist, and that’s what we did.

Unfortunately, drugs are still a dominant part of society today. Is there any part of you that still wishes you were handling drug cases?

We miss the challenges of working drug investigations, but as you can imagine, it’s a stressful and demanding job. In fact, we don’t refer to being a DEA Agent as a job, it’s a lifestyle. It requires great sacrifices if you are successful in your investigations. It places a great toll on your family and agents miss most family functions, birthdays, school events, family get–togethers, etc. Do we think that illegal drugs are still a significant menace and threat in the world? Of course we do, because they are. And we are very thankful and appreciative that the men and women of law enforcement around the world are still dedicated to pursuing those criminals that bring so much death and destruction upon all of us. But do we miss the long hours and stress of those events, not at all.

What do you think makes a great federal agent? What skills are important to have?

A DEA Agent should have a very strong work ethic, be able to focus on the challenges of the investigations, have good observation and analytical skills, great dedication and integrity, be able to work under stressful circumstances, forward thinking abilities, the list goes on and on. But DEA Agents are a very eclectic group with skills and talents from every category. That’s one of the things that make DEA such an outstanding and successful organisation. What’s very important is that DEA Agents are able to work with other law enforcement professionals around the world. That is one area that sets DEA Agents apart. As you can tell, we were very proud to be DEA Agents.

Is there anything more you’d like to do with your work and your experiences? What do you hope the future holds?

We would like the opportunity to do our small part in continuing to get the message out there about the dangers of illegal narcotics and those associated with them. Some people seem to think being a drug dealer, trafficker, criminal tough guy, whatever you want to call them, is a glamorous lifestyle. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s extremely dangerous and violent. Those people seize any and every opportunity to take advantage of all law abiding citizens around the world. Make no mistake, there are so many evil people in the world who will employ whatever means they deem necessary (murder, torture, kidnapping, maiming, intimidation, whatever) to further their own goals. We want people to know the truth, as well as the dangers associated with those people and their lifestyles.

This article originally appeared on the O2 Academy Brixton website.

Tickets to see Narcos – Capturing Pablo & the Cali Cartel at venues across the UK from 9 – 14 May 2018 are available now at Ticketmaster.co.uk.

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