Peter Gadiot is a daredevil. Case in point: the actor had just finished climbing a mountain in Russia when he checked his voicemail and discovered he had nabbed a starring role in USA’s new drug world drama, Queen of the South.
“Usually I’ve always played the typical romantic love interest,” Gadiot admits. “This role is different because [my character, James] is a real man.”
Gadiot probably realized this while he was behind the wheel, barreling down an empty Dallas highway for one of Queen of the South’s heart-racing chase scenes.
“The police just shut down the whole of downtown Dallas for us,” says Gadiot. “I’m screeching around corners and pulling guns out! There’s a camera in front of me and one on the side and I can’t even see the road! The side camera sticks out like four or five feet and I have to be really careful not to smash this really expensive camera.”
For Queen of the South, a car chase is just a typical day of shooting. The new USA one-hour drama is an adaptation of Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s best-selling novel La Reina del Sur (which also ran as a successful telenovela on Telemundo for five years). The show centers on Veronica, a woman who flees Mexico for Dallas after her drug-dealing boyfriend is murdered. Based on the real-life cartel queen Griselda Blanco (whose drug empire was valued at $2 billion by Business Insider in 2012),Veronica slowly becomes the drug world’s chief cartel leader over the course of the show.
Enter James: an ally of Veronica’s with a deep understanding of how the narcotics world works.
“My character is not in the novel,” says Gadiot, “so I looked to the screenplay. The best thing about that was it gave me freedom to trust my instincts. The danger is playing a stereotype. But I realized quickly that you can be a forty-year-old soccer mom or be an old man and be dealing drugs. It doesn’t matter. Having that basis of truth, I knew I could just find the expression of this character as he’s written.”
To unwind from the intense role, Gadiot would run along Dallas’ historic Katy Trail (built on an old railroad line) during his time off. “Every dusk they have a bazillion birds come and roost. They rest on the trees and power lines. It’s surprisingly beautiful… When in this big city you have this amazing display of nature every night. I always remember that.”