STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Billboards and bus stop ads in Mexico City are promoting the latest Netflix drama. That drama stars Kate del Castillo as a feisty first lady who takes on corrupt conspirators. So her image is all over Mexico but del Castillo is not. She hasn't been to Mexico since her meeting two years ago with the famous drug trafficker known as El Chapo. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports on the aftermath of her moment in the news.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: That secret trip Kate del Castillo took with actor Sean Penn to meet Guzman won her worldwide name recognition, but it almost derailed her career. She lost several acting jobs due to what she says has been Mexican authority's trumped up investigation of her for possible money laundering and obstruction of justice.
KATE DEL CASTILLO: There was no way I could go back to Mexico.
KAHN: She still hasn't gone back. She went to NPR's studio in Culver City, Calif., for our interview. Del Castillo says when filming was about to start on the Spanish-language Netflix series "Ungovernable," she thought there was no way she could do it.
DEL CASTILLO: It was dangerous for - not only for me but for the entire production. I was not going to put all the production in jeopardy, you know?
KAHN: But with the magic of editing and a body double, the production company adjusted, filming in both San Diego and Mexico City. And del Castillo says they even flew extras between both set locations.
DEL CASTILLO: They miraculously stick with me and that - for that I will be always very, very grateful.
KAHN: "Ungovernable" is a fast-paced political thriller.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INGOBERNABLE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, speaking Spanish).
KAHN: It centers around the first lady, Emilia Urquiza, who the TV newscaster announces has asked her husband for a divorce, an unprecedented move in Mexican history. Within minutes of the premiere episode, the first couple are fighting during a rainstorm.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INGOBERNABLE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, speaking Spanish).
KAHN: And it doesn't end well. The president's murdered body is flung from a balcony. Emilia is framed for the crime and forced on the run to clear her name and, in the end, Mexico's too. There are plenty of ripped-from-the-headlines plot twists throughout, including high-level corruption, collusion with drug gangs and a not so veiled storyline, like the case of the 43 students disappeared in 2014. Del Castillo says it pains her to see so much still wrong in her country.
DEL CASTILLO: We want to entertain, at the end of the day, but it was a entertaining way of telling the truth and getting to know Mexico in a very raw way.
KAHN: "Ungovernable" has helped del Castillo get back in the game after her Chapo detour. While she admits maybe she could have done things differently in her quest to tell the drug lord's life story, she's unrepentant about their encounter.
DEL CASTILLO: For me, that's a fascinating character as well as the godfather and as well as many other characters out there. But now this is my country, and I have the opportunity to have the rights to his life.
KAHN: She still plans to produce a movie about Guzman's life and even visit him in his U.S. prison cell. He was extradited to New York last January. And del Castillo continues her activist work and keeps up the fight for meaningful movie and TV roles that she says break Latina stereotypes.
DEL CASTILLO: Playing those characters as the maid or the nanny or the prostitute, you know, so all those roles are - I'm not saying they're not there. They're still there, but at least it's getting a little better.
KAHN: Look at "Ungovernable's" leading lady, says del Castillo.
DEL CASTILLO: She's trying to do better. She's trying to have a better Mexico, and I think we need more Emilias in Mexico.
KAHN: And she says more in Hollywood, too. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The title of the Netflix series is "Ingobernable," not the English translation "Ungovernable," as we say in this report.]
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