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Why are Netflix and Sofia Vergara being sued by former drug lord Griselda Blanco’s family?

Sofia Vergara plays the late Colombian drug lord in Netflix's new limited series, "Griselda."
/ Source: TODAY

Sofia Vergara is being sued by the estate of former Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco over the new Netflix limited series "Griselda."

The 51-year-old actor, along with Netflix and others involved in the project, are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed Jan. 17 in Florida's Miami-Dade County and obtained by NBC News.

While talking with, creator and executive producer Eric Newman says a lawsuit from the subject’s estate “comes with the territory.”

"I dealt with similar suits from Pablo Escobar, his family, during the making of 'Narcos,'" Newman says. "I tend not to think much about them. It just feels a little bit unsurprising and kind of comes with the territory."

Vergara plays Griselda Blanco in "Griselda" and also serves as an executive producer on the series.

Griselda Blanco’s son, Michael Corleone Blanco, identified as Michael Sepulvedablanco in the lawsuit documents, and his wife, Marie, are seeking damages "in excess of $50,000," as well as an emergency temporary injunction to block the Jan. 25 release of "Griselda," arguing that the series and its promotional materials use the unauthorized "image, likeness and/or identity" of family members.

Sofia Vergara
Sofia Vergara at the premiere of "Griselda" on January 9, 2023, in Madrid, Spain.Jose Oliva / Getty Images

The pair also allege in their complaint that the series relied on recorded conversations the show's producers had with Michael Corleone Blanco, who was not compensated for their use.

Benjamin Mordes, an attorney representing Michael Corleone Blanco, recently spoke to NBC News about the lawsuit.

"Netflix, as we’ve alleged, is using these ideas that were part of interviews that were memorialized, and writings and notes. Nobody else could have those ideas and nobody else could have those stories," he said. reached out to reps for Vergara and Netflix for comment and did not hear back.

Read on to learn more about "Griselda" and the lawsuit it faces.

Who is 'Griselda' about?

Netflix describes "Griselda," which features Vergara in the title role, as a "fictional dramatization" of the life of Griselda Blanco, a former Colombian drug lord who was one of the first to engage in large-scale smuggling of cocaine into the United States from Colombia.

Blanco is credited with organizing many of the routes used by the Medellin drug cartel. Her prominence in Miami's narcotics underground beginning in the 1970s earned her the nickname the "Godmother of Cocaine."

"Griselda" was directed by Andrés Baiz and also stars Alberto Guerra, Christian Tappan and Juliana Aidén Martinez.

Griselda Blanco
The real Griselda Blanco in an undated mug shot photo.Alamy

Newman tells that his goal as a storyteller is to "humanize people, even if they do monstrous things."

"This is very much a tragedy. This ends about as badly as it could end for someone," he says, calling it "a cautionary tale."

Focusing on the dramatization of the show, he adds, "But what's more interesting to me is, at what point does the audience cease to understand or relate to what the character is doing? I've done this for six seasons with 'Narcos' and I've been asked this question about, are we glorifying these people?"

"I think if you watch until the end, and usually even well before the end, these people have flown too close to the sun and their wings are melting and they're hurtling towards the ground," Newman says. "For me, what is worth doing is understanding. Even Griselda Blanco, she had reasons for doing what she did. They were not excuses, but they were explanations, and they're always worth hearing."

What has Vergara said about 'Griselda'?

Vergara, who was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, opened up about her interest in Blanco's life story when she appeared Jan. 17 on "The Tonight Show."

“I grew up during that time. I know that business,” Vergara told host Jimmy Fallon. “My brother was part of that business. He was killed in the ‘90s. I was very, like, I know this character. I think I can do it.”

"One of the reasons why she was able to get away with so much was actually because she was a woman, and they were never thinking that a woman was capable of doing all the horrific things that she did," she added.

The former "Modern Family" star also noted that Blanco raised four children while she was the head of one of the world's most notorious drug cartels.

Why are Vergara and Netflix being sued?

Vergara, Netflix and others involved in the limited series are being sued by Griselda Blanco's son, Michael Corleone Blanco and his wife, Marie, who are seeking damages “in excess of $50,000,” as well as an emergency temporary injunction to block the series' Jan. 25 premiere.

They argue that “Griselda” and its promotional materials use the unauthorized “image, likeness and/or identity” of certain family members, with documents specifically naming Michael Corleone Blanco and his wife.

The injunction also says the six-episode series relies on the producers' previously recorded interviews with Michael Corleone Blanco, despite the fact that he was not compensated for their use.

The injunction alleges that Michael Corleone Blanco had plans to use the recordings, which were made between 2009 and 2022, for a project of his own.

The Blanco family said in a statement that Michael Blanco has "conducted numerous interviews and TV shows to tell his story."

"Michael Blanco was more than willing to share his hard work and the nonpublic details of his mother’s life with Latin World Entertainment/Netflix if he was to be fairly compensated," the statement read, in part. "Make no mistake, Michael Blanco is humble and thrilled each and every time someone reaches out to shine light on his mother and the Blanco family. However, in the case of Netflix/Latin World Entertainment, the Defendants approached Michael Blanco to gain his work, perspective, and insight to only turn around and act like he does not exist, in an apparent attempt to reap their own profits."

Netflix’s attorneys pushed back behind court doors on Blanco’s claims his ideas were “misappropriated,” arguing he agreed to share his work with two intermediaries before Netflix obtained it, NBC News reported.

"Novel, original and unique — but it’s not being expressed as an ‘idea,’" they told the judge. "He's attaching it to the literary work."

"It's a duck! This is (about) copyright infringement."

Blanco's attorneys told NBC News they never pursued a cause of action on copyright grounds, as Blanco just wants to shape the story of his mother.

"He wants to be able to make sure that whatever details are displayed about his mom to the public — that they actually have some sort of real basis," Elysa Galloway, an attorney representing the Blanco estate, told NBC News, "and it’s not just something you pulled off of Wikipedia and the internet."

Vergara recently told Telemundo she was “not very aware” of the lawsuit because she has been on tour and added she has always been a fan of Blanco and plans to read his book.

(Telemundo is part of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and

What happened to the real Griselda Blanco?

Griselda Blanco was arrested in New York in 1985. She spent nearly 20 years in prison for drug trafficking and three murders before being deported to Colombia in 2004.

She was shot and killed by an assassin on a motorcycle on September 3, 2012 in Medellin.