Rafael Amaya, ESDLC9 Interview
Latin Times/Courtesy Telemundo

MIAMI — Rafael Amaya has been inside the skin of Aurelio Casillas for more than a decade. For him, those 10 years have been a journey between heaven and hell. After a sustained career in modeling and acting, he found international success in the story of El Señor de los Cielos (ESDLC), the super series inspired by the character of Mexican drug dealer Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

He also faced a perilous health crisis in 2020, during which Amaya vanished for months. Eventually, he made the decision to voluntarily seek treatment at a rehabilitation facility owned by Mexico's boxing icon, Julio César Chávez.

Fast forward four years— the Latin Times met with Amaya while he was filming the ninth season of ESDLC. After being clean for a year, the actor was looking better than ever. His skin was glowing, he looked fit, alert, and more present than ever. He was also more reflective of his journey and of Aurelio Casillas. "He's a survivor who will do anything to stay alive." He knows his character well, after embodying the ruthless drug lord for so long.

In this season, "he's pure, he's raw. That's Aurelio Casillas, and that's what people want to see," he asserts, acknowledging the visceral appeal that has propelled the series to unparalleled heights of success.

That purity doesn't mean good or simple. While during the eight seasons there was some redeeming behavior, in the current one, Amaya seems to have given up any pretense of absolution. "I don't think Aurelio is capable of real love. He thinks he loves his family, and maybe he does in his own way, but it's never from a healthy point of view. I don't think he can access real or nurturing feelings," he said.

El Señor de los Cielos 9

The ninth season of "El Señor de los Cielos" has been an outstanding success and continues its reign as the number one program in Spanish language television in the U.S., captivating audiences with its gripping narrative and intense portrayal of the underworld.

At the heart of the current success lies Rafael Amaya's ability to embody the tender and rootless sides of Casillas. His talent for shedding light and darkness on the raw essence has enthralled viewers worldwide.

For Amaya, the journey alongside Casillas has been transformative. From battling personal demons to finding redemption, he sees parallels between his own struggles and those of his character. For a while, the artist saw his path parallel to his characters. He doesn't feel that way anymore. "I've changed my life. I have new habits. I've learned to love myself above all," said Amaya. "That feeling is what keeps me sane and healthy."

In contrast, the ninth season of "El Señor de los Cielos" has marked a return to the roots of Casillas' character, resonating with audiences who clamored for a resurgence of his raw essence. Amidst the demands for heightened violence and promiscuity, Amaya recognizes the need of the audience to escape through ESDLC9. "We all have a dark side, and I think it helps to see people on TV unleashing it, but also suffering the consequences. Aurelio isn't a happy man, and will never be."

Despite embodying the ferocity of Casillas on screen, Amaya remains steadfast in his personal journey towards self-improvement. As the tagline for the ninth season boldly declares, "The beast is unleashed," Amaya reflects the ultimate appeal of his character.

"This is a character, a person who, despite a lack of formal education or polished business acumen, manages to thrive in his chosen business," he says about El Señor de los Cielos. "He grew up under challenging circumstances, wasn't schooled in the traditional sense, nor does he engage in sophisticated business dealings, but his straightforward, uneducated background becomes a unique strength. I think that for the audience, his journey is a testament to overcoming adversity through authenticity and resilience."

Joining Amaya in this electrifying season are a stellar cast of actors, including Carmen Aub and Iván Arana, who portray Casillas' eldest children. Itatí Cantoral is giving the performance of her life.. With its riveting storyline and compelling characters, "El Señor de los Cielos" continues to captivate audiences, solidifying its status as a cultural phenomenon.

As Rafael Amaya navigates the tumultuous world of Aurelio Casillas, he remains grounded in his own journey of self-discovery. With each episode, he peels back the layers of complexity, revealing the raw essence that defines both the character and the series itself. In a landscape dominated by rivalries and power struggles, "El Señor de los Cielos" stands as a testament to the enduring allure of storytelling and the indomitable spirit of its enigmatic protagonist.

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