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Sofía Vergara Wanted to 'Test' Herself by Playing Queenpin Griselda After Brothers' Crack Addiction and Murder

"I understood that business, I understood that woman, and so I thought it was a really interesting character," Vergara said of channeling her own experience to portray Griselda Blanco

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p> Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco in episode 3 of

Courtesy of Netflix

Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco in episode 3 of 'Griselda' on Netflix

Playing cartel boss Griselda Blanco didn't just require Sofía Vergara to transform physically — it also prompted her to work through some emotional touchstones from her past.

The Colombian actress, 51, reflected on having “a lot of similarities” to the drug lord and how her own family's experiences with grief influenced how she approached Netflix’s Griselda.

Vergara’s older brother — who had been involved in the drug “business, unfortunately, for some time” — “was killed in Colombia in the ‘90s,” she shared on Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s Dinner’s on Me podcast.

“So a lot of those things, I thought I understood. I understood that business, I understood that woman, and so I thought it was a really interesting character,” Vergara said.

The actress didn’t approach the role looking for “a character to prove that I can be a dramatic actress,” but, rather, thought Griselda was “so interesting” and a way to "test myself."

"I thought it needed to be somebody that I kind of, like, knew who she was,” she said of what kind of "dramatic" role she was interested in.

Related: Sofía Vergara on Hosting a 'Very Special' Modern Family Reunion: 'We’re Always Connected' (Exclusive)

<p>Netflix</p> Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco in episode 1 of Netflix's 'Griselda'

Netflix

Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco in episode 1 of Netflix's 'Griselda'

Vergara expanded further on the murder of her older brother and how it influenced her family, who then fled to Miami. “When my brother was killed in Colombia in the '90s, we didn't really know what the situation was and the whole family was in danger. We weren't clear who had done it,” she told her former Modern Family costar, 48.

She and her mom and two other siblings left their home country, and at that point, Vergara was already a mother to her son Manolo, then 3, as well as an aunt to a 2-year-old niece. It was “a lot,” she recalled. “Very hard.”

“Now that I'm 51 years old and, you know, I see the new generations and I see younger people, I'm like, ‘I don't know how I did it at 23 years old’.... Taking care of a kid, of a family that was not really very stable.”

After the “trauma” of her older brother’s murder, her family weren’t “happy people,” and her other brother turned to drugs. “He became an addict,” she shared, which was “really bad for years,” and offered another connection between Vergara’s own life and Blanco's world.

“He became a crack addict, which is like the worst thing that could happen to a person. And, you know, he changed. He kind of ruined his life and it's been hard. It's been very hard,” she shared.

As Ferguson pointed out the “parallels” between the actress’ life and her character, which he called “fascinating,” Vergara mused, “I guess now that I'm done with it, I think, you know what? I guess it was — all of those things, they served me for something, not just for bad memories.”

Related: Sofía Vergara Opens Up About Her 'Very Interesting and Very Difficult Year' (Exclusive)

<p>Courtesy of Netflix</p> Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco in episode 1 of Netflix's 'Griselda'

Courtesy of Netflix

Sofia Vergara as Griselda Blanco in episode 1 of Netflix's 'Griselda'

Vergara previously reflected on her similarities to Blanco, telling PEOPLE at the show's premiere in Miami, "We are both Colombian, we are both immigrants, we are both mothers, we are both women – so I did relate to her a lot."

The role, though, still required "a lot of work, a lot of preparation," she said. "I had to really investigate what it meant to be a woman in that era. A mother, a Colombian woman... that turned into this monster. So it was a really difficult task for me to understand it."

While the role was an emotional one, given the deep ties to her own life, Vergara is “very proud” of the limited series.

“The people that have watched it now have been so responsive and they've been telling me how much they love it," she told PEOPLE in February. "It's really exciting to see how the people are reacting to it."

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Griselda is streaming in full on Netflix.

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