Sofia Vergara and Netflix are being sued by the son of Griselda Blanco over the “Modern Family” star’s portrayal of the late Colombian drug lord in a new limited series.
Michael Corleone Blanco and his wife Marie filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade County on Jan. 17, alleging “unauthorized” use of his “artistic literary work” and the family’s “image, likeness and/or identity.”
Blanco claimed in the lawsuit that Netflix used information from private interviews he did about his mother’s life for its limited series without his authorization and without compensating him.
The lawsuit added that Blanco has “devoted several years to meticulously documenting the private narratives of his, as well as his mother’s life, with the intention of publishing a book and developing a Spanish soap opera.”
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Eric Newman, creator and executive producer of “Griselda,” told Today.com: “I dealt with similar suits from Pablo Escobar, his family, during the making of ‘Narcos.’ I tend not to think much about them. It just feels a little bit unsurprising and kind of comes with the territory.”
Albert Soler, a partner with NYC-based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck, told Fox News Digital on Friday that lawsuits of this type are “rather common.”
“The same types of suits took place in connection with the various shows depicting the late Pablo Escobar,” Soler explained. “The main issue is that family members and the estates want to (a) protect their loved ones from unflattering depictions and (b) profit from their own projects and books for example.
“However, a producer typically does not need permission from the subjects or their estates for these types of projects. Nonetheless, obtaining life story rights is always the best practice in these situations.”
Soler noted that “when the subject of a show or documentary is a ‘public figure’ like Griselda Blanco, there are fewer protections and the First Amendment offers protection for shows of this type that portray Griselda and her life.”
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But, he added, “Griselda’s family are not ‘public figures,’ so this suit alleges that Griselda’s family, including her son Michael, were featured in the Netflix show without permission.”
He continued, “Even in states that recognize a post-mortem right of publicity, there are exceptions for creative and expressive works. Public figures are afforded minimal protection, but the use of the name and likeness of Griselda’s family may be an issue, but such claims may be difficult to prove in this case.”
Soler is not involved with the lawsuit.
Vergara previously told Telemundo she wasn’t “very aware” of the lawsuit but had respect for Michael Blanco and wanted to read his book, according to Today.com.
Vergara is an executive producer on the series as well as starring as the “Cocaine Godmother,” a name Grisela Blanco came to be known by on the show.
The lawsuit seeks damages “in excess of $50,000” and a temporary injunction to keep the show from being released on Netflix on Jan. 25, but the show was available on Netflix as of Thursday.
Blanco called the series “disrespectful” in an interview with Fox News Digital published earlier this week.
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“Sofia Vergara did not consult with any members of the Blanco family as a sign of respect or elicit family details in portraying my mother,” he said.
“When I learned of the ‘Griselda’ project, my team reached out to Sofia’s camp and offered my consultation services,” the 45-year-old alleged.
Michael also alleged that following an invitation to sit with Vergara’s team, he was told “there was no room on the project.” He claimed the series was made without involvement from any members of his family.
“Sofia’s camp and the Netflix creators were disrespectful and ultimately produced the ‘Griselda’ project on their own for commercial gain, without key details from the Blanco family,” he claimed. “After the sit-down at the table, my lawyers formally sent a cease-and-desist letter to Netflix and Sofia’s camp. As of today, Netflix nor Sofia’s camp has made any attempt to reconcile.”
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“Regardless of public information, basic respect is warranted,” Michael continued. “I am Griselda’s only living son that has life rights agreements signed by Griselda herself in which she intended I carry out her life story. I am a businessman in the entertainment industry and comprehend the importance of motion pictures as I have a book to be released, based on the real story.”
Attorneys for Netflix argued in court that Blanco had previously agreed to allow his information to be used for the show, according to NBC News.
Blanco’s attorney, Benjamin Mordes told NBC News, “Netflix, as we’ve alleged, is using these ideas that were part of interviews that were memorialized, and writings and notes. Nobody else could have those ideas and nobody else could have those stories.”
The series explores the rise and downfall of Blanco, a single mother of four who rose to infamy as a cartel leader before she was gunned down in 2012 at age 69. Blanco, who led a cocaine-fueled empire with an iron fist during the ‘70s and ‘80s, has often been labeled as “the female Pablo Escobar.”
Fox News’ Stephanie Nolasco and Tracy Wright contributed to this report.