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Why Alex From Who Killed Sara? Looks So Familiar

The latest Netflix sensation is Who Killed Sara?, a Brazilian crime drama that dropped March 24, and has already been renewed for a second season, proving that the series has the confidence of the streaming service. It's been getting good reviews, with Ready Steady Cut calling it "a compelling, revenge-thirsty, murder mystery" that rides on the strength of Alex's character. "[His] determination; his singular approach to his mission, his linear goal to expose and find out the true murderer, makes it a tantalizing 'whodunit' for the audience," the reviewer wrote.

Alex is played by journeyman actor Manolo Cardona. If you think you recognize the actor from previous projects, you may very well be right. He's a Colombian TV veteran who has been acting since 1995, though you may not recognize some of his extensive credits, because they're not in English. He got his start on a Colombian television show called Padres e Hijos, then did the soap opera circuit for a few years on shows like Carolina Barrantes¿Por qué Diablos?, and Amor a Mil, which led to a role on a Mexican soap opera, Ladrón de Corazones. He's also been the host of Telemundo's version of Temptation Island, La Isla de la Tentación (2003 edition) and has starred in Gitanas, a Mexican telenovela (via El Tiempo). 

More recently, he's starred in both English and Spanish projects. Here are some you might recognize him from.

He made his North American debut in Rosario Tijeras

After starring in Spanish-language television projects for a decade, Cardona transitioned to the silver screen in Rosario Tijeras — a film that also got him his first Hollywood gig. The movie is based on a book by Jorge Franco, and launched in North America at the American Film Institute Festival in 2005.

The title of the film is also the name of the main character, who lives in 1980s Medellin, Colombia. She becomes a contract killer to insulate herself from the violence in her daily life, but is ultimately shot and wounded. Cardona plays her wealthy romantic interest, Emilio, one of the two main male characters in the film. The "sexy noir romance" was a box-office smash in Colombia and soon became a cult classic, Variety reported in 2006. The film was nominated for Best Spanish-Speaking Foreign Film at the Goya Awards in 2006.

There are a few other shows called Rosario Tijeras floating around, all based on the book by Franco, including a recent Mexican telenovela that's currently viewable on Netflix.  

He got a Supporting Actor Award for his role in Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Now a veritable Colombian superstar, it was time for Cardona to make waves in Hollywood. In 2008, he caught a break with a supporting role in Beverly Hills Chihuahua. He plays Sam Cortez, the male human lead opposite Piper Perabo as Rachel and Jamie Lee Curtis as Vivian Ashe. Sam is a gardener with a pup, Papi (Andy Garcia), who's in love with Rachel's dog Chloe (Drew Barrymore). Of course, the dogs are the stars in this family-friendly Disney comedy, but Cardona nabbed a Best Supporting Actor prize at the Imagen Awards in 2009 for his work in this movie (via UPI).

In an interview for the movie, Chuck the Movie Guy starts off by mentioning how much the woman next to him in the theater loved Cardona, leading Perabo to extoll his virtues. "Obviously Manolo is very good looking, but I think he's also a very talented actor, and there's a certain sort of real manly quality about him that I think not all American actors have ... and to have that old-fashioned strong leading man, I think Manolo really embodies that," she said. 

He played a rebel leader in Covert Affairs

That connection with Perabo clearly led to better things, as his next American project (following a few more years of Mexican melodrama) was her adventure television series Covert Affairs on USA Network. Cardona has a recurring role in six episodes of the show's fourth season, playing a Colombian rebel leader named Teo Braga, who kidnaps Annie (Perabo) in his first appearance, and turns out to be a double agent recruited by the CIA to infiltrate the ALC. His character dies in the episode "Hang Wire," but as his body is moved and his death remains unconfirmed, some fans think he's still alive. 

Covert Affairs was canceled after its fifth season, ending any chance of seeing the popular actor on future episodes of the show. However, according to Collider, his time in Toronto for the show directly led him to sign on for a two-episode guest spot on his first period drama, The CW's Reign, playing Tomas the prince of Portugal in the show about Mary Queen of Scots.

His first Netflix original was Narcos, in which he played a politician

In 2015-2016, Cardona was a semi-regular during the first two seasons of the Netflix drama Narcos, playing Eduardo Sandoval in the series about the growth and spread of international cocaine cartels. The series also stars Wagner Moura as kingpin Pablo Escobar and Pedro Pascal as Javier Pena, a DEA agent. 

Cardona's character, Eduardo Mendoza, was initially the chief of the National Prison System, described by Deadline as "an inexperienced, kind, idealistic man-child with a can-do attitude who was wrongly blamed for Escobar's escape from La Catedral." However, the role seems to have shifted: In the actual series, Sandoval is a politician — the Vice Minister of Justice and president César Gaviria's right-hand man.

ET Online called his recent roles, including this one, part of Cardona's "[shift] towards more prestige TV," and Univison's review of Narcos called the show's actors "extraordinary," noting that, " the entire cast gave us super special nights with their performances."

With so many rave reviews, we likely haven't seen the last of Manolo Cardona. As far as Hollywood is concerned, he's just getting started.