DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Right after Mexican authorities announced the third capture of Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, we heard the real shocker here. Just months before, Sean Penn had ventured into the Mexican jungle and secretly met with the drug kingpin. The Academy Award-winning actor wrote an article for Rolling Stone about the encounter. He made it clear it would not have happened without the help of an actress. Kate del Castillo, he wrote, was, quote, "our ticket to El Chapo's trust." NPR's Eyder Peralta tells us about that Mexican actress.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: On screen, Kate del Castillo already played the kind of character that might have met up with El Chapo.
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KATE DEL CASTILLO: (As Teresa Mendoza, speaking Spanish).
PERALTA: She is best known for her roles in narco telenovelas. In "Queen Of The South," she plays a powerful drug trafficker in Spain. In "Masters Of Paradise," she play a ruthless mob boss in 1970s Miami. And she stayed on that track when she played a crime boss in the Showtime series, "Weeds."
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PERALTA: Her relationship with the real drug lords, however, began with a tweet in 2012. She wrote that she trusted El Chapo more than she did the Mexican government. At home in Mexico, she faced intense criticism. But late last year, she defended her tweet in an interview with CNN en Espanol. She said unlike the government, at least El Chapo is upfront about his crime. In his article, Sean Penn says El Chapo sent her flowers after the tweet. The connection between actress and drug lord was made. And the two reportedly began discussing a biopic.
JUAN CARLOS RAMIREZ-PIMIENTA: You cannot make up this.
PERALTA: That's Juan Carlos Ramirez-Pimienta, who studies narco culture at San Diego State University Imperial Valley Campus. He says he was surprised by the stature of the actors involved in this meeting. But at the same time, drug lords have a long history of using artists to tell their stories. In the narco world, big figures often pay musicians to write ballads and filmmakers to make movies.
RAMIREZ-PIMIENTA: So of course, you know, it makes sense, especially at what you perceive to be the end of your career, to try to perpetrate a certain image of yourself.
PERALTA: As for Kate del Castillo, back in 2011, she told NPR that she wasn't worried about being typecast in the role of the criminal antihero. She said she enjoyed playing Teresa in "Queen Of The South."
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CASTILLO: She makes the wrong decisions. She makes mistakes. She contradicts herself. She smokes pot. She sleeps around. She sleeps with married men. She drinks tequila. And people love her.
PERALTA: Perhaps a bit like Joaquin El Chapo Guzman. He's flawed, but it's hard not to be drawn to his story. Eyder Peralta, NPR News.
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