Why Catherine Zeta-Jones Couldn't Get Cocaine Godmother's Griselda Blanco Out From Under Her Skin

Exclusive! The Oscar-winning actress explains why the Lifetime original movie was such a passion project for her.

By Billy Nilles Jan 19, 2018 7:31 PMTags
Watch: Catherine Zeta-Jones Talks Playing Griselda Blanco

This is not your mother's Lifetime movie.

When Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story premieres on the cable network on Saturday, Jan. 20, it'll mark the telling of a woman's story that isn't usually seen on its airwaves. Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, the film chronicles the life of drug lord Griselda Blanco, a pioneer in the cocaine trade who was also known as The Black Widow because her husbands kept dying around her. While the woman, who is suspected of having ordered over 200 murders in her lifetime and is thought to have invented the drive-by shooting, certainly isn't an aspirational figure, playing her became something of a passion project for the Oscar-winning actress.

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"When you say we know the story, we don't really. For me, three and a half years ago, I saw a documentary called Cocaine Cowboys and there were many stop-starts, connotations, different projects with me playing Griselda. And this woman got under my skin," Zeta-Jones told E! News' Sibley Scoles when the two sat down to discuss the film. "Got under my skin because I knew she would be so fantastic to play. I mean, morally, everything this woman did and stood for is so the polar opposite of what I believe in and who I am. And of course, this wouldn't necessarily have my name written all over it...and that's what made it so amazing."

Watch: Catherine Zeta-Jones Praises Lifetime's Griselda Portrayal

Zeta-Jones admitted that part of the drive to bring the story to the screen was because her impact on the drug trade stood in stark contrast to the general public's knowledge (or lack thereof) of her. "This woman was the kingpin. She was revered and feared by very dangerous men in a very, dangerous time in Miami in the '70s at the height of the drug trading...One would think...she would be on the tips of everyone's lips, like, 'Oh, remember that woman?' And the fact that she was a woman makes it even more fascinating," she added. "So I couldn't let it go until I played her and I had the best time doing it. Of all the people, you'd think I'd want to let this one go now. I feel kind of sad that it's coming to the end and coming out now. It's like my baby. 'Off you go, Griselda. See you never, I guess.' Anyway, it was the four weeks of shooting that reminded me that I love acting and this is why I wanted to be an actor."

And while the film doesn't seem like the sort of thing Lifetime might typically air, Zeta-Jones said she's impressed by the fact that they took the chance on telling the story without making any attempt to sugarcoat it. "What I do applaud them for is taking a woman like Griselda, who is not like you said, the quintessential what people who don't watch Lifetime have a preconception of, but making her as a woman, warts and all," she explained. "She's a woman. You many not like her. You may not agree with what she did or what she does or how she approached things, but for sure, she's one hell of a woman. If anything, the one thing that I do admire in Griselda is that she kicked ass in a man's world. She really did. Not everyone has to go out there and do drive-by shootings. Let's not take her as the classic role model, I would not suggest that. But you have to applaud the drive and determination. You have to."

For more from Zeta-Jones, be sure to check out the videos above!

Cocaine Godmoter: The Griselda Blanco Story premieres Saturday, Jan. 20 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.