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Agents who inspired Netflix show “Narcos” talk Pablo Escobar and other DEA duties


Former DEA agents Javier Pena, left, and Steve Murphy, right, speak to the audience on Oct. 17 in Plachta Auditorium. 

If you let fear control your life, then you cannot think straight, said former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Steve Murphy. 

This is something he and his partner Javier Pena had to keep in mind constantly while on the job. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 17 in Plachta Auditorium, Murphy and Pena, the DEA agents portrayed on the Netflix series “Narcos,” discussed what it was like tracking down and killing narco terrorist Pablo Escobar. During their lecture, they showed photographs from the site where Escobar was shot, and graphic pictures of some of the men that he tortured and killed. 

The event was presented by Central Michigan University’s Program Board. 

In an interview with Central Michigan Life, Murphy and Pena talked about what it’s like having a television series based off their lives and how excited they are about the Netflix show.

“When you see them on TV, it’s not like watching yourself at all,” Murphy said about actors Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook who portray him and Pena on “Narcos,” a Netflix series about the life and demise of famous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the DEA agents who took him down. 

Though a lot of the events that take place on the show involving their characters did not actually happen, he said, much of the story is fairly accurate. 

Murphy said they spent lots of time getting to know the actors and have become good friends with them. Attending the season two premiere in Hollywood made them feel important with all the limos and celebrities, he said. He also said the actors went through extensive training for this series. They went through multiple DEA training courses and even learned how to work undercover.

Murphy and Pena also discussed what it was like being DEA agents. 

“It’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks. However, once you finish the investigation and put the cuffs on the bad guy, that’s the reward,” Pena said. 

He also said on "Narcos" and on TV in general, the life of a DEA agent seems idealized with all the fancy cars, women and money. In real life, there is lots of paperwork, surveillance and it is extremely life consuming as they must work weekends and holidays. Murphy said it is more of a lifestyle than a job, but to him, it is the best job in the world. 

The two DEA agents have had many close brushes with death. Pena said he had a gun held to his head and wished the entire time that he could yell, “time out, I’m an actor!” and walk off like they were just actors on a movie set. 

Murphy watched a former partner get shot and killed right in front of him during a shootout in Miami, which he said was his scariest experience on the job. Many assume their most frightening experience was in Colombia and taking down Escobar, Murphy said, but it was really more exciting for them. 

Pena and Murphy started out doing lectures just for police groups, but because of the popularity of “Narcos,” they began receiving requests to come speak at colleges. Pena said that the message they want to convey to students is the truth, because there are so many lies about Pablo Escobar. They want to make it clear he was an evil man and a terrorist who killed thousands of innocent people. 

“We want students to know this really happened,” Murphy said. “Escobar was the first narco terrorist and the world's most wanted criminal.”

Many look at Escobar and think his lifestyle is cool, he said, but it’s not. He had over $30 billion and was one of the richest men on the planet. In the end, it all meant nothing and his only legacy should be that he was a criminal and a murderer, Murphy said.