The new Amazon series “El Presidente,” premiering Friday, lays bare the 2015 FIFA soccer scandal that exposed the international organization’s wide-ranging corruption, resulting in the ouster of its president, Sepp Blatter, and the arrests of top-tier members — including US officials.
The gripping eight-episode series, created by Oscar-winning screenwriter Armando Bo (“Birdman”), tells a tale of betrayal, subterfuge and how an FBI agent (Karla Souza, “How to Get Away with Murder”) helped turn Chile’s powerful soccer president, Sergio Jadue (Andres Parra), into an informant.
Bo, 41, spoke to The Post about “El Presidente.”
Why did you feel compelled to tell this story?
For me, as an artist, screenwriter and director, I was looking for something that was big and international and meaningful, and this was the biggest corruption scandal in the world — and one of the biggest roles played [in the scandal] was by the FBI. I found a kind of new motif; you watch many shows and films but you’ve never seen a mafia in soccer, and that was an interesting way for me to play with the characters and the tone of the series. These guys had too much freedom with how they managed the money. It was one of those situations where fiction was smaller than the reality.
The series opens at the wake of powerful FIFA official Julio Grondona, who then narrates the story and introduces the major characters a la “Sunset Boulevard.” Why did you choose to do this?
It needed to be an over-the-top satire of the case. We have fun with it. Julio Grondona was the father of Latin American soccer and was a big part of FIFA for 35 years. When he died, everything started to collapse. From this [narrative] perspective, he can tell you the organization’s secrets in a comedic way.
Did you cast Mexican-born Karla Souza because of her fluency in Spanish or for American viewers who know her from “How to Get Away with Murder”?
It’s more of an international cast but it’s based on talent and the ability to help tell the story. She’s an amazing actress. We had her playing a different kind of role and we played with her look, making her hair shorter and less feminine. It was exciting to work with her and she has a bilingual background. She took risks and risks always pay off.
“El Presidente” also shows how soccer players in different countries were mistreated by the owners and top officials — in some cases with violence.
It’s a real story but we were pushing the limits a little bit. I’m not saying that the players weren’t beaten — every type of mafia has some violence and corruption — but it’s more about how this guy, Jadue, from this little town with the s—-iest team, went on to become the president of soccer in Chile and had a huge takedown. It’s really a tragicomedy and I like that.