Magda begins The Cartel as Adan Barrera's girlfriend. But Magda is no dumb arm candy; she uses her relationship with Barrera to establish herself in the drug world and quickly becomes indispensible to his regime. Mia Maestro is certainly beautiful enough, and we this she can handle a role with substance and smarts.
Pablo is a journalist from Juarez who is horrified with what his city has turned into: a place where the death of 20 innocent people doesn't even make the newspapers anymore. He has plenty of personal problems—a severe drinking habit, an ex-wife and son living in another part of the country—but he loves his city. We'd like Diego Luna to play the role. He's not quite disheveled enough at the moment, but if he downs a few pints of melted ice cream and doesn't sleep for a few weeks, he could be on his way.
According to rumors, Leonardo DiCaprio is already "being courted" for the plum role of Arturo "Art" Keller. A retired DEA agent and drug war veteran, Keller decides to get back in the game when he hears his archrival Adan Barrera has escaped from prison. While he thought he knew what to expect, Keller finds that the violence among cartels has exponentially escalated. We have some issues with the idea of DiCaprio playing the role—mainly his ethnicity, as Keller is half-Mexican—so are going to go with Benicio Del Toro instead.
Del Toro has starred in a Don Winslow adaptation before (Savages) and, given that he always plays the drug lord or cartel soldier, it would be nice to see him on the other side of things.
Adán Barrera is the ruthless kingpin of the Sinola Cartel and the nemesis of Agent Keller. Or, at least he once was. Middle age, the death of his daughter, and the increasingly horrific violence of his rivals have softened Barrera. He's still a murderer—he once threw two young children off of a bridge—but in the eyes of Mexico and the U.S. government, he's beginning to look like the lesser of many evils. Our first choice for this role is the Brazilian actor Wagner Moura, who plays Pablo Escobar in the upcoming Netflix show Narcos.
Moura might not want to play another drug lord so soon after Narcos, and he's probably too young for the part (at least in The Cartel book), but he's played older than his age before, and he would do such a good job.
"Crazy Eddie" was raised in Laredo, Texas, a handsome high school football star who married his high school sweetheart. After deciding a nine-to-five job isn't really going to work for him, Eddie moves to Mexico and begins working in the drug trade. He views himself as a generally reasonable man—one who shies away from unnecessary violence—and resents his nickname. We see him being played by Jay Hernandez.
Nicknamed "La Médica Hermosa," Marisol is an upper class doctor who ditches high society life to move back to her hometown and fight the drug was on the ground. She's Keller's love interest, but she's also so much more than that: a smart, fearless woman giving everything to save her home. We nominate Spanish actress Elena Anaya.