'Narcos: Mexico': Luis Gerardo Méndez on Taking on His 'Most Complex' Role Ever in Season 3 (Exclusive)

By
Luis Gerardo Mendez Narcos Mexico Season 3
Netflix

Narcos: Mexico amplifies the lives of the kingpins and their actions. But while the Netflix drama may be entertaining, for some, it hits too close to home.

Luis Gerardo Méndez joined the third and final season of the crime series, taking on his "most complex" role yet and questioning his own integrity in the process. The actor portrays Victor Tapia, a cop from border town Ciudad Juarez who is faced with a moral dilemma when asked to look into the case of a missing girl. As he begins to investigate, he discovers a series of ongoing and brutal killings of many women. Tapia's storyline explores the beginnings of femicide in Mexico in the '90s.

"It's been probably one of the most complex characters I've ever done, which was very exciting in the beginning because of all the work that I needed to do, not just the physical change of putting on all the weight for it, but also answering all these questions about, What is integrity?" Gerardo Méndez tells ET. "I started asking myself, Luis, what is integrity for me. And then starting to understand, what is integrity for this cop in Ciudad Juarez in the '90s, discovering this huge problem of all these femicides, which by the way is still the biggest problem in Mexico right now."

At least 10 women get killed in Mexico every day, Gerardo Méndez states, citing a recent Amnesty International report confirming the statistics in 2021. "That started there in Ciudad Juarez because it was a huge territory for drug trafficking," he says. "So this guy is between those two lines, he's a cop working with the drug cartels at the beginning and then he decides to take the right path. But at the same time, he has no idea the forces he's fighting against. Honestly, we still don't know how complex this problem is. I feel pretty grateful to be able to put that story out there because I think it's incredibly relevant and incredibly painful."

Luis Gerardo Mendes Narcos Mexico
Juan Rosas/Netflix

Just like in the series, the families of these victims are often forced to investigate their own homicides, not fully being able to trust law enforcement. For Gerardo Méndez, this situation was all too familiar.

"What I think is fascinating about Narcos, especially this season, is all this news we saw as kids growing up in the '90s,'' he recalls. "Now this is an opportunity to really see what happened, like [Luis Donaldo] Colosio [Murrieta], el Cardenal Posadas Ocampo, the Christine, this nightclub at the beach, we grew up watching this news but we didn't know what was actually happening and when you see the show, you get the whole enchilada, like the full perspective of the politics, social, economic, ambitions, working to create this horrible, perfect storm in the '90s."

According to The Guardian, femicide during the '90s claimed the lives of about 400 women in Ciudad Juárez. Many have taken to the streets in protests of the epidemic, with law enforcement rarely taking action. The outlet reports that Mexico recorded the murders of 3,723 women in 2020, with 940 of those murders investigated as femicides.

Luis Gerardo Mendes Narcos Mexico
Juan Rosas/Netflix

Viewers will see Victor Tapia search for the truth as his morality is questioned.

"The police in Mexico have a very bad reputation," Gerardo Méndez states. "And understanding this storyline and this character, it changed my perspective completely because the reality of it is, police in Mexico, they don't get paid enough. They get paid really, really low [wages] and they need something to get money from other places, and that in a way creates corruption."

And while he notes that there are officers who "really want to make a difference," he admits "that world is really complex." "For me, it was really important to show that this character at least tried. He tried," he says.

While diving into his research, Gerardo Méndez admits that he was "really aware of everything" going on in Mexico regarding cartels and police officers. But what did surprise him the most was "how hard it is for them to make the right choice. Like the level of corruption that they are living in, sometimes their bosses are telling them to do the wrong stuff, even if they want to do the right stuff," he says of officers. "Again, integrity and really understanding integrity, I was really shocked to really ask those questions in a deeper way."

Luis Gerardo Mendez Matt Letscher Narcos Mexico
JUAN ROSAS/NETFLIX

The Club de Cuervos star, meanwhile, hopes this season creates awareness for the societal and political problems that are currently happening in his native country. Whether it's femicide or people who buy and consume drugs.

"I think that change starts with you. You can actually make a change. You cannot just ask the government to make everything right. It has to start from you," he expresses. "We are all part of this problem of corruption, consuming drugs and sh*t. Like for me, when they offered me this role, I was really into it because I think this show really creates an awareness of the problem."

"If you're a guy in New York doing cocaine lines, you need to know the amount of blood that cocaine has in it, and it's not just the traffickers, it's also the people around where the traffickers live, all these women getting killed in Juarez, all these women getting killed in Mexico every single day," he states. "That's part of the same problem. And I think creating that awareness is crucial for me as an artist and as a creator."

The third and final season of Narcos: Mexico drops Nov. 5 on Netflix. 

RELATED CONTENT:

'Narcos: Mexico' Season 3: Everything We Know About the Final Season

Luis Gerardo Méndez on the Need for Authentic Immigrant Stories

 

Related Gallery