“Cassandro” star Gael García Bernal joined the Variety Studio, presented by Audible, to break down his role as a gay Mexican wrestler.

“The macho culture that exists in Mexico is very, very big and has many complexities to it, but it is very different to the macho culture that exists in the United States,” said García Bernal. “If you scratch a little bit under the surface, what do you get? A man that loves other men. All the charro world, there is something very transgender about it that is fascinating, and it’s incredible.”

The biopic follows Saúl Armendáriz’s Cassandro, an effeminate Mexican gay wrestler who rises to fame with his new unmasked persona. After his trainer Sabrina suggests he unmasks, Armendáriz embraces the flamboyant exótico character, Cassandro, and captures the attention and affection of wrestling fans. As he marvels in the spotlight, Armendáriz’s relationships with his mother and his secret lover begin to falter. 

García Bernal shared details about his physical transformation to prepare for the role. “I didn’t want to go to a coach for that, because Cassandro would never have a coach for that. So I just ate a lot and did a lot of exercise and a lot of flexibility and a lot of acrobatics,” he said. “YouTube was trying to force me to get into getting into one of those plans, but no, I was resisting against it. I was gonna do it proper, how you would do it in the ’80s or ’90s without the internet.”

García Bernal stars alongside Roberta Colindrez, Perla de la Rosa, Joaquín Cosío and Raúl Castillo in “Cassandro.” Directed by Roger Ross Williams, the film’s producers include Gerardo Gatica, Todd Black, David Bloomfield, Ted Hope and Julie Goldman.

“Cassandro” premiered Jan. 20 at Sundance.