Why You Should Stand like Pablo Escobar

Several months ago, I started watching the Netflix show Narcos with my dad. We both love crime dramas (classics like The Godfather and Goodfellas are always on our rewatch list), so a show about narcotics trafficking in Colombia seemed like a perfect fit for a Saturday treat. And, after the iconic “plata o plomo” opening scene in the first episode, I was hooked.

Narcos is an incredibly interesting and complicated show with so many plot twists and extravagant escapes that one can lose sight of the fact that the events of the show aren’t fictional ― they’re based on real history. The unbelievable plot combined with excellent actors and superb set design draws you into the show immediately, and for the fifty minute time span of each episode, you feel like you’re actually there in Colombia. I could spend weeks exploring the many fascinating facets of the series, but what I find most interesting is the body language of Wagner Moura, who plays drug kingpin and main character Pablo Escobar.

Everyone has heard about the importance of body positioning for interviews or presentations, but I never grasped the true impact of body language until I saw Moura’s acclaimed portrayal of Escobar. The traditional advice that I (and I'm sure many others) received was to spread out and take up more space to appear more in control ― hands on the front part of the hips, legs shoulder width apart, and wider hand gestures. Moura, by contrast, does none of that. He assumes relatively noncontrolling positions, with his hands either clasped behind his back or on his back hips and his legs together, with minimal body movement.

Escobar (second from the right) goes against traditional dominant body language.

It’s hard to convey fully through pictures, but Moura ― despite his noncontrolling body language ― is visibly in control throughout the series, even when next to those who assume more dominant positions or those who don’t defer to him. Regardless of context and despite his seemingly disadvantageous body positioning, Moura is clearly the top dog. Why?

I don’t pretend to be a body language expert, but here are a few things I noticed:

  • He maintains constant or near-constant eye contact, even when moving, but not to an excessive degree

  • During particularly tense scenes, he levels his head and focuses on who he's talking with

  • He stands completely upright to maximize his height

  • He keeps his face slack to hide his emotions

Now, emulating the body language of a ruthless criminal usually isn’t a good idea ― picture Escobar giving a sales pitch and he just looks silly ― but I gleaned a few tips from watching Moura’s performance that I plan to use, particularly the first two bullet points above. It's always a good idea to keep an open mind to self-improvement, even from Pablo Escobar.


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Photo Credit: "Narcos: The Palace in Flames.” Netflix, season 1, episode 4.