Bichir with his The Bridge co-star Diane Kruger
Frank Ockenfels/FX
Ten years ago, DEMIÁN BICHIR was an enormous star in his native Mexico — but was virtually unknown in the U.S. Today, after mesmerizing turns playing a charismatic drug lord on Weeds, Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s Che and a struggling father in 2011’s A Better Life (which earned him an Oscar nod), Bichir is poised to break out, and his new FX show, The Bridge, promises to put him over the top. Bichir — who plays Marco, an angst-ridden detective — shares his acting inspirations with American Way.

“My parents named me for a book by Hermann Hesse, Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth. In this book, the author talks about how we all have this angel and demon inside, every one of us. This applies to pretty much every character I’ve ever played but definitely to Marco. You don’t ever know which one you’re going to get.”

“I grew up watching the best of the best: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Jack Nicholson. These are my heroes. Movies like Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Godfather, The French Connection — they are full of characters that are not all good or all bad. That inspires me as an actor.”

“Every performance for me begins with music. It’s about mood and temperament. For Marco, I’m listening constantly to narcocorrido, banda music and opera — Puccini, Verdi, La Banda el Recodo, Cuisillos. This guy is that music.”