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‘Special’ role

From left, Alberto Zeni, Alex Patrick Knight, Matt Biedel, Miguel Rodarte and Jero Medina in “Narcos: Mexico,” the second season of which is streaming on Netflix. (Courtesy of Netflix)

Alberto Zeni was born and raised in Mexico.

He often heard stories of the drug problem in his hometown of Monterrey and its surrounding areas.

Fast-forward a few decades, and Zeni is part of the cast of Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico,” in which he plays Amat Palacios.

The series’ second season began streaming on Feb. 13.

“I grew up hearing all of these stories and how the narcos had a specific presence in people’s lives. You knew about it to a degree,” he says. “These characters were developed around the time that I was a boy. Being able to be a part of this show is special for me.”

The first season of “Narcos: Mexico” was the fourth season of “Narcos” overall, and it reset the Netflix series when it traveled back to 1980s Mexico to show the birth of the Guadalajara cartel and trace 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 growers and dealers.

Zeni describes Amat Palacios as a practical man.

“He doesn’t really care about the outcome of things or care about who has to get involved with,” Zeni says. “In a sense of practicality, he’s also very observant. He’s one of those people who will remain in the background and see how people are moving. He won’t ever show himself entirely, though. He’s taught me a lot about listening. I listen more now today than I did before.”

Zeni first caught the acting bug when he was 14 years old while working for Parque Plaza Sesamo in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico; a family-friendly destination with a “Sesame Street” theme, featuring rides, games and a water park.

After completing his studies, 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.

It wasn’t until his mid-20s that he decided to make a drastic change, pack up his bags and move to Los Angeles to continue his acting career. While in LA, Zeni immersed himself in the craft – training in the Meisner technique and teaching himself English. He is now fluent in Spanish, English and Italian and can speak some French, Hebrew, Arabic and Mandarin.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get where I am,” he says. “This industry can be hard on you. I’ve been fortunate enough to keep moving forward in my career.”

On the set of “Narcos: Mexico,” Zeni was able to act with Albuquerque’s Alex Knight.

“Alex has told stories that make me want to get out to Albuquerque,” he says. “It’s incredible to make some great friendships on this project. It’s been one of the best and most satisfying roles for me.”


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