Mexican actress Kate del Castillo has been making headlines lately for her ties to El Chapo, and has been introduced to many Americans as Sean Penn's "direct line" to El Chapo. But before she met with a drug dealer, she played one — in fact, she's been a major presence in Latino film and television for a while now, bringing depth and drama to all her characters. So let's take a look at ten times this real life badass played one on screen:
1. Muchachitas (1991)
Kate first burst into our living rooms as Leticia Bustamante Ortega, the savvy member of the female foursome in the 1991 telenovela Muchachitas. She played an outspoken yet sensitive teenage girl who — along with 3 other protagonists — joined an art academy with hopes of becoming actors or singers. Leticia was somewhat of a villain, marrying for money and saying whatever the f*ck was on her mind at any given time. Sounds about right.
2. Mágica Juventud (1992)
Kate followed up in 1992 with a telenovela called Mágica Juventud on the heels of the massive success of Muchachitas. She played Fernanda. She played the female lead opposite Miguel, a guy had – dun dun dun – had a deep dark secret yet had fallen madly in love with her. Who can blame the guy?
3. La Mentira (1998)
Kate starred once again as the HBIC Verónica Fernandez-Negrete de Azunsolo in La Mentira. A mysterious man comes into town looking for answers as to how his brother was driven to commit suicide. He's convinced Fernanda is to blame so, naturally, he seduces, marries and kidnaps her in his plan for revenge, only to ultimately – you guessed it – fall truly, madly deeply in love with her. Classic.
Del Castillo with Karla Álvarez, who played La Mentira's antagonist.
4. American Family (2002)
PBS tried to strike while the whole "Latin Invasion" was hot in 2002 with American Family, the first broadcast TV show in the U.S. to feature a predominantly Latino cast. The series, by Gregory Nava, depicted the struggles of a Latino family in Los Angeles. Kate played Esai Morales' wife, Ofelia, a ballerina from Mexico who is the newest edition to the Gonzalez family. Her character is forced to choose between her love and her art. You're breaking our hearts!
5. Bajo la Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) 2007
Ah this one was a classic. In the movie Bajo la Misma Luna, Kate plays a desperate mother working illegally in the U.S. white trying re-unite with her 9-year-old son, making the dangerous journey from Mexico to the U.S. on his own. Anyone who didn't know who Kate was in the U.S. market got to know her in this amazing role where she showcased her acting chops past beyond playing a "hot wife" or "beautiful female lead." It also marked the first time Kate was in a relatively big budget film outside of Mexico.
6. Weeds (2009)
There was no bigger, badder bitch than Pilar Suazo when Kate played her in a guest role that spanned at least two seasons on Weeds. She went toe to toe with Mary-Louise Parker and gave orders to powerful men like it was all in a day's work. Kate being on a series on Showtime was a big deal. Not many actresses who got their start in Mexican telenovelas have successfully crossed over, much less had the exposure of award-winning series' like Weeds.
7. La Reina del Sur (2011)
Here's the biggie. The hugely-popular 2011 telenovela La Reina del Sur put Kate del Castillo back on the telenovela map in a major way. This is probably the most demanding role she's played to date, depicting drug lord Teresa Mendoza. This is also the series rumored to have been watched by El Chapo during his latest great escape. Kate plays the 23-year-old girlfriend of a rising member of the Sinaloa cartel who's murdered. She flees after getting a tip and goes on to become the most powerful drug trafficker in the south of Spain, making her the "Queen of the South." With a $10 million budget, it famously became the most expensive telenovela Telemundo has ever produced.
8. Killer Women (2014)
Kate guest-starred in a never-aired episode of the ABC television series Killer Women where Sofia Vergara shared executive producer credits. It was based on a crime series in Argentina called Mujeres Asesinas. The season finale episode was appropriately titled "Queen Bee" and featured a character named Esmeralda Montero, the leader of a drug cartel who kidnaps someone close to the show's protagonist. Hmmm. Wonder what role Kate must play in this crazy scenario…
9. Jane the Virgin (2015)
Kate had a guest appearance on the CW's mega-hit Jane the Virgin last year. She played Luciana Leon, a telenovela actress who broke Jane's father's heart, played by the still dreamy Jaime Camil. Luciana is back after being cast in the same telenovela as Rogelio, Jane's dad, and that can only mean one thing: trouble.
10. Telenovela (2015)
Kate graced NBC's new comedy starring Eva Longoria, Telenovela, as a character with the same name who just so happens to be Eva's character's arch nemesis. Carlos Ponce plays the genetically-perfect other half of a hot shot power couple that hosts a popular and sexy cooking show. The 43-year-old actress can still sport a tight, leather get-up like it's the early '90s. The episode aired mere days after the El Chapo story broke, including news that Kate had helped broker the interview between the drug lord and actor Sean Penn.
BONUS: Did you know Eva Longoria and Kate del Castillo were in a 2011 movie called Without Men, in which they share a love scene that starts with this really intense kiss? You're welcome.