Former Degrassi star Ray Ablack has swapped his school ID for a government badge to work alongside the DEA in the latest season of Narcos (Netflix). The new gig sees the 27-year-old, who graduated from the cult Canadian teen drama in 2011, step into the shoes of a young embassy staffer tasked with taking down the dangerous Cali drug cartel. And unlike Degrassi, which was filmed in Ray’s hometown of Toronto, Narcos had the actor boarding a plane for Colombia.
“There's no set design that will ever be better than the location,” said the actor, who recently sat down with Hello! Canada to dish on his exciting new project. And when he wasn’t busy on set, Ray was making friends with a team of DEA officers. “We had lunch and dinner with them a couple of times, just to hear how these guys talk to each other. It's really just like your dad's beer league hockey team," recalled the star, adding, “When they come off that battlefield, it's just guys drinking beers and trading stories.”
Here, the actor opens up about entering the Narcos world, the perks of filming in Colombia and reveals his binge-watching style.
What was the best part about filming in Colombia? The cuisine is amazing. I gained weight while I was out there [ Laughs].
Was it tough at all with the language barrier? I became close with the crew and they were multilingual. The difficult, most heartbreaking part was not being able to connect with local people as well as I'd have liked.
What did you miss most about Canada while you were on location? My siblings. Family is very, very important to me. I see my family three, four times a week. I don't know why I moved out!
The world of Narcos is obviously very different from Degrassi. What do you think your character Sav would think of the cartel? Towards the end of my Degrassi tenure, [my] character became [me]. You're there for so long and the writers get to know you. I was 18 when Sav was 18, and now I imagine I would be Stoddard’s age. So, to a degree, it really is Sav entering the [world of the] cartel.
What type of binge-watcher are you? I take my time, unless it's something that really grabs me. It's a little bit of a guilty pleasure, but 13 Reasons Why was one that really grabbed me.
Who is someone you look to for creative inspiration? Denzel Washington. My mom has always told me, ‘You want to be the kind of actor and person like Denzel Washington.’ The caliber of talent that he has is unparalleled. But also, he's not in the tabloids, he's not a gross guy. He's got a family that he takes care of. [I aspire to be] that caliber of man, as well as performer.