Hotel Cocaine cast and creators talk about the upcoming MGM+ series

Hotel Cocaine is set to hit MGM+ on June 16th. We sat down with the show's cast and creators to discuss recreating the drug scene of Miami in the 1970s and 1980s.
Hotel Cocaine
Hotel Cocaine /

A new series, Hotel Cocaine, is coming to MGM+. It was created by Chris Brancato, who created shows like Narcos, Narcos: Mexico, and Godfather of Harlem. Ahead of its debut on June 16th, we sat down with the cast and creators of the show to discuss what viewers can expect from the eight-episode series.

Hotel Cocaine, set in the late 1970s and early 1980s Miami cocaine scene, follows the story of Roman Compte, a Cuban exile and manager of the Mutiny Hotel, as he tries to navigate politics, drugs, and a brother who is in the mix. The series stars Danny Pino in the lead role of Roman Compte, with Yul Vasquez, Michael Chiklis, and Laura Gordon. The first episode will be available to stream on MGM+ on June 16th.

Hotel Cocaine was one of the easiest binges I've had in a long time. Ahead of the interviews, I sat down and watched the season and was enamored by the series' aesthetics, production, and vibes. Show creator Chris Brancato is known for his work in this drug cartel-style series with Narcos, but with this one set in the beautiful drug scene of Miami in the 70s/80s, I found myself engulfed in his world. Top to bottom, this cast is strong, but Danny Pino, who has been acting for a long time, delivers some of this best work to date as Roman Compte.

I caught up with the cast and crew to chat about Hotel Cocaine

Show Snob: Danny, what attracted you to the role of Roman?

Danny Pino (Roman Compte): Roman Conte came for me through one of my very good friends and brother, Yul Vasquez. It came about from a phone call where Yul said, look, I'm working on Godfather of Harlem with Chris Brancato, and he wants to develop a show called Hotel Cocaine, set in Miami 1978, where we would be playing brothers. I said, you can stop right there, I'm in. He said, I think you should read the script first, and that's where the dominoes started to fall.

In creating Roman Comte specifically that comes about through Maurice Comte, who's a fellow colleague of mine on Mayans MC, a fantastic actor in his own right. He actually pitched the show to Chris Brancato on the set of Narcos, where they were working together. So Roman comes from multiple conversations with Maurice about his actual father and being the general manager of the Mutiny Club and Hotel in 1978, Miami, and setting that foundation as the authentic center for the character, but then riffing off of that with Chris to fictionalize the character to be the Roman that we get to meet in Hotel Cocaine.

Hotel Cocaine Season 1 Episode 108
Hotel Cocaine /

SS: Michael, nobody in this world plays a cop better than you, but tell me, what was different about preparing for Agent Zulio in this era vs. prior roles?

Michael Chikilis (Agent Zulio): I've been very, very fortunate to be able to play guys like Vic Mackey and Tony Scali in The Commish. They've all been very distinct, and this one was distinct as well. Beginning with the period, it was 1978, the advent of the cocaine trade in Miami. He's originally from Brooklyn, and Mackey was from Boston, so there are many differences between these two men. It satisfied me that I could live in this character completely differently than I have with any of the others. Now, to the audience, you know, they'll see some crossover that will probably be a good thing for them. If they enjoy any of my portrayals of law enforcement in the past, they might Pardon my language, f*cking dig this, but, you know, he's not Vic Mackey. He's Dominic Zulio. He's just a different guy.

SS: Nestor is a badass, hard-nosed crime boss. What is it like to prepare for this larger-than-life drug pin?

Yul Vazquez (Nestor Cabal): All the circumstances are written, and they're baked into the script. So it's a matter of preparing how I would approach that through this character's filters. Then honestly trying to have some fun with it, you know, not take it super seriously.

SS: Chris, casting a series of this nature is vital, take us behind how you landed on Danny Pino in the lead role of Roman Compte?

Guillermo Navarro (Director): For us, it was very important to have a Cuban American to play the role—both brothers. So, the center of attention was to find them. Fortunately, we got Danny Pino to play the role. I think it's remarkable and so reliable, and he just sheds confidence and discipline and good work. The entire cast really gravitates around that, and it was a blessing. Yeah, he's phenomenal.

Chris Brancato (Creator): As Guillermo says, having Cuban Americans playing those roles was important because Cuban immigration was the only immigration to the US from a foreign country that was welcomed with open arms because they were leaving Castro. Almost every other immigration, Italian, German, certainly the Black immigration, which was forced was that people weren't greeted with open arms.

So this is a unique experience, and it was important to have guys who were Cuban playing the roles. That then extended to all other roles on the show. For instance, Roman's girlfriend, Marisol, is an actress we cast out of Madrid, and that's where she's from in the show. She came from Madrid here. We wanted that kind of authenticity, not for politically correct reasons, just simply because we thought it was the best thing for the show.

SS: Laura, Janice is a multifaceted character who protects her girls while also helping Roman with some dirty work. Can you talk about playing both sides of the character?

Laura Gordon (Janice Nichols): I think all interesting characters do have more than one thing going on, and they are multifaceted, and it's interesting when those two or three or four things come into conflict and watching somebody try to keep all the plates spinning. Particularly once Roman Comte's character gets enmeshed again with his brother, Nesta Cabal. That world really starts spinning all her plates because everything that happens to Roman really greatly impacts Janice and also the nightclub and she's determined to keep the nightclub and the hotel running because that is her whole world. She has put all her eggs in that basket.

And also she cares so deeply about Roman that, um, she's really willing to do a lot to protect all of those things and watching somebody try to do that and also remain true to themselves and maybe realize that they've overstepped and, I liked those moral ambiguities and playing around in that pool was, it was really fun.

SS: Tania, you play the heart of this series as Marisol, how was it like playing within that role?

Tania Watson: I felt this responsibility because Chris Brancato, the showrunner, said, "You're going to be the heart of the show." So, I took that seriously. As an actor, as an artist, you have certain sensibility and that's always very nice to play and explore, right? Very fortunately, I had Danny Pino as my on-screen partner, and he's incredibly open to talking about anything. So, the way I like to work is mostly to react naturally to what is there. Nothing else is real.

New episodes of Hotel Cocaine will be available to stream on MGM+ on Sunday's.

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