Hotel Cocaine: Is Roman Compte Based on a Real Person? What Happened to Him?

In MGM+’s ‘Hotel Cocaine,’ Roman Compte finds himself stuck between hell and high water. His estranged brother is the biggest smuggler of cocaine in Miami, and the DEA wants Roman to infiltrate his gang to help bring him to justice. If he doesn’t do it, the DEA will turn his life into a living hell, and if he does so and is caught, his brother will definitely kill him. With no better option in sight, Roman has to take on this seemingly impossible task while working at the infamous Hotel Mutiny. It might seem like a story conjured to fit in the box of a Hollywood crime story, but interestingly, the protagonist is based on a real person.

Roman Compte was a Real Manager at The Mutiny Hotel

The character of Roman Compte is based on a real person who worked at the Mutiny Hotel from 1976 to the early 1980s, following which the hotel was closed down. A Cuban refugee who fought at the Bay of Pigs, Roman was entirely focused on providing for his family and living a good life, Roman Compte made a reputation for himself as a man who could fix anything. It made sense, too, because he was working at a place that was teeming with people of all sorts. He had to handle situations focusing on guests who could be anyone from famous singers and actors to criminals with influence to corrupt law officials to intelligence officers.

While the Mutiny Hotel has made a name for itself that will go down in history books, the people who kept it running no matter what the situation has been largely ignored by an otherwise compelling narrative about crime and cocaine. Roman Compte’s role as a manager at the place also falls in that category and would probably have never come to light if it weren’t for his son, Maurice Compte, deciding to talk about his father’s life and work.

Maurice Compte is an actor known for his work in ‘Narcos,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ and ‘Mayans M.C,’ to name a few. Referring to his father as “an original Cocaine Cowboy,” Maurice revealed that his father’s position at the hotel and the nature of his work brought him into contact with some very high-profile people, and through him, Maurice also got to be in touch with them. In an Instagram post, the actor revealed that he “grew up alongside all the icons of the era, Willie, Sal, the Tabraue brothers, and the more prominent leaders of the community – Maurice Ferrer, Ray Corona Jr, The Leon’s.” Calling it “a crazy time,” he believed that this was a story worth telling about.

Roman Compte passed away in 2007. About a decade and a half later, his son has produced a show about him, though it must be noted that the series presents a heavily fictionalized version of his life.

Roman Compte’s Arc in Hotel Cocaine is Much More Dramatic Than Real-Life

The real-life Roman Compte was indeed involved in the day-to-day workings of Hotel Mutiny, but the whole arc about his brother being involved in the drug trade and him working for the DEA as an informant is entirely made up. The series is executive produced by his son, Maurice, who had worked with the show’s creator, Chris Brancato, years before they worked together on ‘Narcos.’ When Brancato hears about Roman Compte’s connection to Hotel Mutiny, he became interested in setting a story around him.

While Roman’s work at the hotel was interesting enough, telling a Hollywood story required much more from the drama point of view. Stakes had to be raised, and more characters had to be introduced in the story, which is why the writers came up with the character of his brother, even though he didn’t have a cocaine smuggler for a relative in real life. Maurice Compte enriched the narrative through his knowledge of his father’s life and worked to ground the story in reality as much as possible.

For actor Danny Pino, who plays Roman Compte in the show, it was important to get the character right because he felt a responsibility towards the real-life person as well as his son, who had put in a lot of work along with the memory of his father into the project. Being of Cuban descent himself, Pino brought a touch of realism to the character by focusing on the right vernacular and accents of the Cuban-Americans in the late 1970s. To connect with Roman’s character, Pino thought about his own family and the extent to which he could go in order to protect them. He brought that thought process into his acting, presenting Roman as a dutiful family man who is also flawed on several levels, humanizing him even more.

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