Photo by [NIRVANA](https://www.instagram.com/nirvananh/?hl=en).
Chances are, at this moment, [Luis Gerardo Méndez](https://www.instagram.com/luisgerardom/) is working on something. He’s currently on press for his new Paramount+ original series, [_Los Enviados_,](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6YdhD9uLXc) but Méndez just wrapped production on a new Netflix comedy [_Me Time_,](https://www.phillyvoice.com/kevin-hart-mark-wahlberg-netflix-movie-me-time-regina-hall/) starring Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg, will star in Netflix’s [_Belascoarán_,](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vk4R0_WRO4) and is in the currently airing final season of [_Narcos: Mexico_,](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhZBDO0CKJo) which was the No. 1 show for five weeks on Netflix.
But of course, that’s not all. He was recently appointed as a producer for Spanish language projects at Paramount+ and owns his own mexcal brand, [Ojo de Tigre.](https://www.instagram.com/p/CVwRJ2pPUjh/) With his busy schedule and endless stream of projects, it was a wonder that _Flaunt_ caught up with the star, talking about his action-centered roles, inspirations, and pandemic wishes.
Photo by [NIRVANA](https://www.instagram.com/nirvananh/?hl=en).
**Hi Luis! I heard you’re filming something recent in Mexico right now?**
Yeah! I’m pretty busy right now. It’s a crazy moment in the year. Today we’re doing the press for a new Paramount+ show for Latin America, and we’re having the premiere tonight. And I’m shooting a new show for Netflix about—this writer wrote these novels in the 80s in Mexico called _Belascoarán_, which is basically a Mexican _Sherlock Holmes_. It’s this detective in the 70s in Mexico City, and his talent is basically reading the city. He doesn’t have the powers of Sherlock Holmes, like, ‘Yeah, you bought your sweater in this store.’ He’s more like an animal who’s able to navigate Mexico City easily.
**You’re one of the stars of Netflix’s _Narcos: Mexico_, which recently earned a Critics Choice Award nomination. What did it feel like to join that team?**
It’s been one of the best experiences of my life as an actor. I mean, I’ve been a huge fan of the show since the first season in Colombia, and I thought from the beginning it was an extraordinary show because of the level of writing, the acting. We have some of the best directors in Latin America, and I think it’s really relevant to talk about those things because it’s one of the biggest issues in America. When I say ‘America,’ I’m talking about the whole continent. You know, all the violence, all the gun control, all these major issues—everything is related to drug trafficking. So, I think it’s really important to talk about those things. Especially with my storyline in this season, I was very happy and moved when they offered me this role because it’s still one of the biggest issues in my country, femicide. They started in the 90s with Ciudad Juárez because it was a big territory for drug trafficking. And my character is this cop who suddenly discovers the beginnings of this major problem. So it was really important for me to be able to give voice to this issue that’s relevant.
**It seems like a stressful role, how did you prepare for it?**
Well, I will say different layers of preparation. The first one was obvious: the physical change. When the producers offered me the role, we had a meeting in L.A., they were super nice and they were like ‘We love you, we want you to play this character—it’s one of the leads in the last season of _Narcos_, and the character is really cool, this is yours…’ So I drove home, I was there with some friends, we celebrated, we played the _Narcos_ theme on Alexa and we were drinking mezcal, celebrating. An hour after that, my agent called me and he was like, ‘Hey, Luis, I have bad news, It’s not gonna be you. They loved you, they thought you were great, but they said you look like you just came out of your pilates class. You’re too skinny to play a cop in Mexico in the 90s.’ I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? Like, I’m an actor, I can change my body! I can change everything you need! Give me their emails.’ So they gave me the emails of the producers and their numbers and I texted them, saying, ‘Hey guys, I can change that! What do you need me to do? How many pounds do you want?’ They never said a number, but my father was a doctor working in the police in Mexico in the 90s, so I knew pretty well the way these policemen look. I ended up gaining, I don’t remember, like, 25 pounds for the role? Which was a very interesting process.
Also, the accent of my character is very particular, it’s from a very particular city in Mexico in the 90s, which is pretty hard to get the reference for. The biggest thing was asking myself as an actor ‘What is integrity?’ because I needed to answer those questions for the character. Like, what is integrity for a cop in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico in the 90s, when this perfect storm of drug trafficking is exploding there. And I also did something really interesting—I found this guy who was a cop in the 90s in Ciudad Juárez, and I asked him to have a conversation, like this. He refused to be on tape and video, but we had a phone call that lasted five hours. The way my character speaks in “Narcos” is based on his mannerisms, the words he used—we even changed some lines in the script to make it more like this guy. He told me incredibly painful and bizarre stories of his time being a cop in Mexico in the 90s. It was really interesting to base my character on a real person. It was really helpful for me.
**Speaking of Netflix, it was just announced that you’ll be in _Belascoarán_, a new Netflix historical drama inspired by what you were talking about—the novels of Paco Ignacio Taibo II. How are you planning to get into the role of detective Héctor Shayne?**
Well, it’s been really interesting because I had no idea of the existence of the novels in the beginning, which I think is a good thing, because you are more free to explore and create your own version of that. When they offered me the role, of course, I bought the novels and I read them, and then I read the scripts, and I started working on that. I cannot talk that much about this project yet but I would say Netflix just made the announcement that this was happening in Mexico, but the response on social media has been bananas. I had no idea he had so many fans. And also, very important fans. The owners of the biggest newspaper in Mexico, all these politicians in Mexico, all of them grew up with his novels. So, everyone is very excited about that. I realized everyone has really high expectations so I started to get a little nervous. But I’m just having a lot of fun, and trying to create my version of this and we’ll see what happens.
**Netflix has recently been expanding and developing new international shows, like the recent, hugely popular _Squid Game._ How does it feel to be a part of these new series that will give viewers a diverse look at different countries?**
I honestly think it’s the best time in history to be an actor. Especially an actor that is not from the United States. Now, your language is not a barrier. I live in L.A., I love living in L.A., but now you don’t need to live there to have an international career. You just need to do your own thing. You just need to create, as a producer, your own shows, and be very specific about the universe you want to talk about. And if you are very specific and very honest and true, you’re going to connect with a bigger audience. There’s no secrets for that, there’s no formula. Sometimes it’s not gonna work, but sometimes it is.
_Narcos_ is one of the best examples for that. _Narcos_ was the biggest show in the world for five weeks on Netflix when they finally started sharing the numbers of how many hours people are watching the shows. I remember that day I was very excited because I’ve been working with Netflix for the past 6, 7 years, I don’t remember, and this is the first time that they’re sharing the numbers. Sometimes, it’s like the clicks, ‘They started watching the show. 60 million people started watching the show.’ But now the conversation is that they’re watching this amount of _hours_ of the show. So you get a real sense if the people are watching the entire series. And the first time they shared that number was with “Narcosis” being the biggest show in the world, and that was pretty crazy.
I get very excited about this phenomenon with _Money Heist_, or _Squid Game_, because it’s the same thing—these actors in Spain, these creative people in Spain or in France or Asia—creating their own stories and hoping to connect with a bigger audience and I think that’s very exciting.
**Earlier this year, the streaming service Paramount+ launched its Latin American division, of which you signed on to be a producer. What are your goals within that role?**
I’ve been producing a lot of stuff I do in Mexico for the past 6 years, but always as an associate or executive producer with someone else. I realized two years ago that I want to have full control of the stories I want to tell. I see myself as more of a storyteller than as an actor now. I realized I have some… I don’t want to sound cocky, but I think I have a good instinct for the stories that are interesting for the audience. I’m really grateful that Paramount+ trusted me with that mission, and we already have a couple of projects in development—I cannot talk about that much–but it’s working really well. It’s been a lot of work, a lot of reading, buying books, buying articles from different magazines, having conversations with writers, writing about my own experience. It’s a new chapter for me and I’m very excited.
**The new mystery drama _Los Enviados_ is premiering this Sunday on Paramount+, which will be the first original on the streaming service entirely in Spanish! What is it like to be a part of something so big?**
It’s been really cool because Juan José Campanella, the creator of the show, is an extraordinary director from Argentina. He won an Oscar for his show _The Secret in Their Eyes_. When I saw that movie in the theater, 10 or 15 years ago, I remember being completely shocked by his talent and by the movie. I remember being, like, ‘I want to do something like that. That’s the kind of movie I want to do.’ And then he won the Oscar. Now, he called me to do this show, and I immediately said yes. I didn’t even read the scripts. When they called me, like ‘Juan José wants you for his new TV show,’ I was like ‘Yes.’ And then I read the scripts, and it turned out to be really cool and fascinating. It’s been really interesting. I feel like I’m living the same moment again, because when we did the first Netflix original, we did the first Netflix international with _Club de Cuervos_, which was five or six years ago. So in a way, we launched the platform in Latin America with this show. And we’re doing the same now, with Paramount+ and _Los Enviados_.
It’s fascinating to be a part of the history of these new platforms, because this is huge news for us as creatives, you know. In Latin America, we grew up having so little options. In Mexico, for example, when I was a kid, you had _Televisa_ and _TV Azteca._ Just two TV networks, and they were doing everything. And they were doing just soap operas—that was the only thing you could do as an actor. We didn’t have a big movie industry at that moment, so I think it wasn’t the best time to be an actor—you could only do soap operas with these two companies. And now, you have Netflix, Amazon, Paramount+, Hulu, all these streamers, not just in the U.S., but coming to Latin America, and there’s so much incredible talent in Latin America that we need those windows. We need those budgets, those executives telling us, ‘Hey, here’s the money. I do not care what you need to say, just talk about what you want to.’ And it’s a pretty unique moment, because honestly, I don’t know how long it’s gonna last. Usually with these big streamers, in the beginning, they take a lot of risks, and then when they become massive, they start becoming more oriented to the algorithm. Now that Paramount+ is just getting started, we have tons of freedom and that’s the best you can have as an actor, producer, or creative.
**I read an** [**interview with Mike White**](https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-interview/mike-white-on-money-status-and-appearing-on-survivor)**, who was the creator of _The White Lotus_, earlier this year, and he said that last year HBO was looking for content because of the pandemic, so they asked him to create something. It kind of gave him free reign to tell his story and create what he wanted, which ended up being a huge hit. It must be freeing for them to trust you enough to give you leadership.**
Yeah. It’s fascinating. It’s really rare, also, but I think that’s why I’m enjoying this moment so much.
**You just wrapped production on a new comedy called _Me Time_, starring Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg. What was it like working with those two?**
The first day was terrifying. Because Kevin Hart is not just incredibly funny, but very fast with his improv. And I also do improv, and I also do comedy, and I’m pretty fast… in Spanish. But when you need to do that in a different language with someone like Kevin Hart, you need to step up, really fast. I really enjoyed my time on set with him, but I remember arriving to my house completely exhausted. The process of doing comedy and improv in a different language is too complicated because you’re listening to Kevin or to the other actors and you need to improvise. So I got the idea in Spanish, and I need to translate it immediately in English. And I need to be sure it’ll be funny. And all of that needs to happen in a second. Because if you take two seconds, the moment’s gone and the comedy is over. So it was a fascinating exercise and I really enjoyed my time.
**How has the pandemic impacted your creative process? Did it give you a reset or were you dying to get back out there and film?**
Yeah. I did it all wrong, man. Because at the beginning of the pandemic, I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect. I’m gonna have time for me, for my friends. I’ll have time to read, I’m gonna connect with my inner self, gonna do some meditation, learn to play the ukulele,’ and like, the third day of this process I wanted to begin… I was like, ‘I should also make my production company.’ And that was it. I was working the whole pandemic. It’s nice because now I have my production company and we signed with Paramount+ and we’re creating all this really cool content, but… Yeah, if I could go back, I think I would have waited two months to actually learn how to play the ukulele.
**So in addition to all your acting credentials, you have your own brand of Mezcal, called Ojo de Tigre. Talk a little more about the process behind creating that.**
Well, I've been a huge fan of mezcal since the first day I stepped into Mexico City. I’m from Aguascalientes, which is a small city in the middle of the country. And when I moved to Mexico City to study acting, all these mezcalerias started booming in the hip parts of Mexico City. I remember after acting class, or a play or something, I was with my friends and we were going to these mezcalerias every single night to have a glass of mezcal. And I loved it from the first time because mezcal is like a mystical experience. If you get drunk with mezcal, it’s not the same as if you get drunk with tequila. If you get drunk with tequila or vodka, or whatever, you’re just like \[stumbles around\] and with mezcal, you’re more present. You’re more aware. And I love that feeling, I love the taste, and then I started doing more research about mezcal and I found out this incredibly complex artisanal process you need to do to create it. I fell in love with the product.
One day I was just fooling around with my manager in Mexico and we were talking about mezcal and how cool it would be to have a brand. He was like, ‘Well, you should just do your own mezcal brand.’ I laughed for like 15 minutes, but then I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to try that.’ And one year after that… I actually have it here! I’m in a hotel room because we have the premiere in Mexico City right now, but this is my mezcal.
**There it is!**
We’re gonna make some toasts later.
**Are there any other similar ventures you’d like to explore that you haven’t yet?**
**No, you’re done?**
I’m done. \[Sighs\] I’m exhausted. I wanna learn how to play the ukulele! That’s my goal now. Like, I have the mezcal brand, I have the company, I have the projects, I need to focus my energy into the fucking ukulele.
**What are some actors, actresses, or general people who inspire you in life?**
Well, lots of them. I have some Mexican actors that I really follow. Daniel Giménez Cacho—he’s an extraordinary actor. I really look up to Diego Luna and Gael García because they started years before I did it, and in a way they created a path for the younger generation, and I’m really grateful for that. I’m obsessed with Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep, and Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, all these great actors from that generation. I’m always inspired by them.
**What are your goals for the upcoming new year—we’ve already talked about the ukulele—whether it be career-wise or personal?**
Honestly, I wanna have more time for myself. Again, the pandemic was supposed to work towards that, and I realize now with psychology, that I’m proud of what I did with my time there, but I really need to take it easy with my work. I love what I do. I love my job but I want to do it not that often. I want to have more time for myself. I think I’m just trying to find a balance for that and I’ve been trying to find that for the past three years. I haven’t been successful in that exploration, but I’m trying to find it.