For the Mexican actor and producer Luis Gerardo Mendez, making movies is about eliciting emotions. Mendez has starred in such hits as Nosotros los Nobles (2013), Mexico’s biggest-ever box-office hit at the time of its release, as well as Netflix’s first-ever Spanish-language TV show, Club de Cuervos. At 38, he’ll still visit theaters, he tells me, “disguised with a cap and a mustache, to hear people’s reactions.”

Mendez grew up in a family of doctors in Aguascalientes, a small city in central Mexico. To his parents’ horror, he decided when he was still a child that he was more interested in making short films and plays than in learning the family profession. With acting, he could express his tumultuous inner world, Mendez explains. At a theater workshop in high school, he worked on a play about a family getting a divorce. “My parents were thinking of divorce at the time,” he says. “As they watched, I had the sensation of touching them deeply.”