Netflix’s Alberto Zeni On Joining “Narcos: Mexico” Season 2

Alberto ZeniPhoto Credit: Bobby Quillard

Mexican-born actor Alberto Zeni is making his debut in the highly-anticipated second season of Netflix‘s crime drama Narcos: Mexico premiering today. Zeni stars alongside Diego Luna (Gallardo), Scoot McNairy (the narrator) and Teresa Ruiz (Bautista). The first season of Narcos: Mexico reset the Netflix series when it traveled back to 1980s Mexico to show the birth of the Guadalajara cartel, and traced the origins of the Mexican drug war, beginning at the time when Mexican traffickers were a loose and disorganized confederation of small-time independent cannabis.

After finishing school, Zeni continued working in the entertainment industry starring in telenovelas such as Hoy Soy Nadie, Trillizas de Colores, Bajo el Alma, XY. La Revista and the web series Vidas Cruzadas starring Kate del Castillo. In his mid-twenties, he decided to make a change by moving to Los Angeles to continue his acting career. While in Los Angeles, Zeni trained in the Meisner Technique and taught himself English. Haute Living caught up with Zeni to discuss his character, Amat Palacios, on Narcos: Mexico, and how his career in acting began.

HL: Was acting something you were interested in as a young child?

AZ: Actually, it wasn’t. I wanted to be an inventor when I was a child. I would go around building small mechanical things and I would disassemble car stereos that my dad had around. I loved it! The only problem was that I could never put them together again. Oops! Entertainment was something that came later, first in the shape of music and then acting took all precedence.

HL: Did you study acting in school or was it something you picked up on your own?

AZ: When I was 18, I got offered a scholarship to take classes at one of the biggest TV stations in Mexico City where I had some of the most prominent professors in the industry. After a few years, I discovered a technique called Meisner and learned that some of the best schools were in Los Angeles, so I moved to the United States. It was the best decision I ever made for my acting career. From then on, I trained with Ivana Chubbuck and Lesly Kahn, among others. It’s been so much fun.

Alberto ZeniPhoto Credit: Bobby Quillard

HL: Tell us about your first experience working as an actor, professionally. Do you have any favorite shows or projects that you loved early in your career?

AZ: It’s been the pleasure of my life. In one single lifetime, I’ve had many different experiences, traveled because of work, have held many different professions, have laughed and cried from love and pain that lives only in the fantasy of what I can believe. Most of all, I live in a perpetual state of creativity. Everything and everyone has taught me something new, every single day and for that, I am truly grateful. Whereas my favorite past shows, I can say they all have left something special, each experience has brought more life to the next one. That said, XY, La Revista, and Narcos, are the two projects that have propelled my career and experience even further than the rest.

HL: How were you cast on Narcos: Mexico Season 2?

AZ: After auditioning six times (yup, that many) for different roles over the five seasons of the show, I finally got invited by Natalie Ballesteros from Carla Hool‘s casting office to audition one more time. It was a weird time, too—I had just left my reps and was basically on my own when I got the call. So, I went into the audition, I came out, like every other time, hoping to get a call in the next day or two, but nothing happened. I thought, “Well that’s it! Until next time.” After a month or two, I finally got a call formally inviting to be part of the new season as a series regular, and well, as the saying goes, the rest is history. I truly thank Natalie and Carla for thinking of me and going above and beyond to get me involved with the show.

Alberto ZeniPhoto Credit: Bobby Quillard

HL: Can you tell us about the character you play?

AZ: Amat Palacios is an incredibly complex character, just like any human being. He was involved with the DEA shock team that has infiltrated the country with the idea of finding Kiki Camarena’s killers. Amat is a man with a big heart and little scruples. It’s an interesting combination because everything he’s doing has no bigger agenda than to free his brother from prison in the US. A deal he makes with the leader of the DEA rogue team, Walt Breslin, played by Scoot McNairy. Amat is an invaluable asset for the team since he has a close connection to the life on the northern side of the border, as well as the language to communicate without any hiccups, as well as the expertise on the south side of the border, having been a cop in the Mexican territory. He is cunning, shrewd and very protective of his team and his own persona. He doesn’t expose himself to anybody, but that doesn’t impede him from creating a tight friendship with some in the team. As I said, he is a complex guy.

HL: How did you get involved with Homeward LA?

AZ: That was done by an invitation from a producer friend of mine named, Virginia Novello, who was putting up a show as part of the organization and wanted me to direct it. Then, I met Jason Lesner, the man in charge of the organization, and I got involved in developing a show on the times we volunteered that year, raising close to $150,000 USD for Homeward LA and The Midnight Mission, in support of the many homeless in the City of Los Angeles. Recently, I just spoke to Jason about the possibility of coming on as a member of the committee to continue growing awareness and support for the organization.

HL: Do you have any advice for someone looking to become an actor?

AZ: This is a career of dedication, patience, love, discipline and tons and tons of learning. It doesn’t matter your reasons for getting into this beautiful profession—whatever you choose, go for it. Don’t expect anything and you will always receive something.