The 42-year-old actor plays DEA agent Kiki Camarena in the Netflix series, and those who have followed Camarena's real-life case against Mexican drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna) know that it doesn't end well for him. But stepping into Camarena's shoes for the more intense scenes might not have been the most challenging for Peña, who identified with Camarena on a much more basic level: being a father.
"It makes you more cautious," Peña told ET's Hallie Stephens at the show's junket in Los Angeles on Wednesday. "Like, even the way that I drive now is a little more cautious."
The actor and his wife, Brie Shaffer, are parents to one son, Roman, whom they welcomed in 2008. Camarena, meanwhile, shared three sons with his wife, Mika, before he was killed in 1985.
"You get the feeling of potential loss, like you don’t want your kids to grow up without a parent," Peña said of how the role affected him as a dad. "So, you sort of take that into consideration whenever you’re close to danger or what not."
"That’s what I would think of when I was playing certain parts or certain scenes is that think of the big picture and is it worth it," he added.
Peña consulted Mika when he was preparing to play her husband on Narcos: Mexico.
"I wanted to be totally respectful because obviously she had to deal with a lot... so I had to be very sensitive. But she gave me the impression that she was a very strong woman and that she supported him all the way," he said.
"He kind of had resentment about injustices that were happening, especially when no one was doing anything about them... That’s what motivated him, especially when people didn’t believe him that there was a centralization of this organization, [which] was the formation of a cartel," Peña explained of his character. "Nobody would believe him."
"She’s the one that told me that he was the kind of guy that had to do something about it. If not, it would just keep him up at night," he added.
Narcos: Mexico is available for streaming on Netflix. See more on Peña in the video below.