Gael Garcia Bernal has praised the art of acting for allowing performers to “explore the transgender we all have inside”.
The 45-year-old Mexican actor recently starred in the Amazon Prime film Cassandro, a biographical film about the life of Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur wrestler who became an international sensation.
In a new conversation with US entertainment publication Deadline, Bernal reflected on how he initially had reservations about portraying Armendáriz.
“With Cassandro, it’s Saúl playing Cassandro to find himself. I played a version of Cassandro that is mine that only I can play,” he said. “It’s the joy of acting and representation.
The Y tu mamá también star went on to explain his view that performers should be able to portray whoever feels right, regardless of whether it represents them in reality.
He explained: “I strongly disagree with someone’s sexual orientation defining what characters [actors] can play or not. This is a very deep and complex conversation and I will one day write everything I have been thinking. But first, the nature of doing theatre, of interpretation and representation, in itself creates a world where anyone can be anything.”
In the Mexican practice of lucha libre – free wrestling – fighters wear masks and flamboyant costumes to heighten the entertainment factor of their performance.
Bernal explained that in a similar way, acting allows performers to explore a range of identities.
”It doesn’t matter who’s behind the mask,” he continued, noting that you can then “start to deconstruct gender as well”.
“We are so transgender in the world of acting,” Bernal said. “I grew up in a family of theatre actors and I’m from Guadalajara and yet, I have never played a character from there. I grew up and was good friends with some of the first gay couples and their families in the community of theatre.
“The theatre is a tender place to explore your sexuality. Growing up, I felt like I could explore whatever. I had a very beautiful and loving upbringing, as well. Acting has allowed me to explore the transgender we all have inside.”
In 2018, lucha libre was declared an intangible cultural heritage of Mexico City.
As such an integral part of Mexican culture, Bernal was certain that it was a topic he wanted to explore on film. “In hindsight, of course, I had to make this Lucha Libre movie, he said. Just like I have to do a boxing movie and a cowboy movie, but more for the indigenous perspective like the old films from Mexico.
“It really was a pleasure to embark on maybe the only project I will ever do about Lucha Libre, a sport that I loved watching and I admired but I didn’t know how hard it was until I started to do this and how interesting it was also.”