Mendez is best remembered for a memorable scene in the 1997 biopic Selena, as the character credited as “Second Cholo.”
During a scene from the film, when the singer’s bus gets stuck on the highway, Mendez’s character, riding in the passenger seat of a convertible, says “Pos, órale, rewind!”
“First Cholo” concludes the scene with the famous line “Anything for Selenas.”
Mendez was in critical condition last week. His family started a GoFundMe to cover Mendez’s expenses, which included life support, though the cause of death has not been announced. The GoFundMe has been updated to request funds for Mendez’s funeral expenses.
Madison Shepard, who is a successful stand-up comedienne and television writer in Los Angeles, and a student of Mendez’s in her native Dallas, first made the announcement of the actor’s death on Twitter on Sunday.
“Frank Mendez was my middle school film teacher,” Shepard tweeted. “But he was also the actor in the iconic Selena scene ‘Anything for Selenas.’ He passed away last night & his husband needs help covering his funeral expenses. Please RT his gofundme.”
Frank Mendez was my middle school film teacher. But he was also the actor in the iconic Selena scene “Anything for Selenas”. He passed away last night & his husband needs help covering his funeral expenses. Please RT his gofundme. https://t.co/zgilytRMD7 pic.twitter.com/58sudkNisz— Madison Shepard (@MadisonShepard) October 4, 2020
Shepard says Mendez was her after-school film club teacher at Dallas' Raul Quintanilla Middle School for three years between 1999 and 2001. Through Mendez’s guidance, Shepard says she and three other students won a short film prize for Panasonic’s Kid Witness News program “that gave low socioeconomic schools film equipment.”
Shepard says as a result of that prize the students were flown into New York City two years in a row and a photo of the students was put up on Times Square.
“Imagine,” Shepard says, "kids from Oak Cliff with their faces in Times Square!”
“He also did a lot of good for my family,” Shepard adds, explaining that her family once had “beef” with another local family. "And Frank got us and our parents all to apologize and forgive each other.”
Shepard remembers Mendez as a “great actor” who gave her “innumerable rides” and encouraged her to make several short films, some of which went on to win awards.
At Sunset High School in Dallas, she says, Mendez "worked in the program that helped kids who were at risk for dropping out and helped them graduate high school."
"He mentored hundreds of kids in the Oak Cliff area and did a lot of great work for the community," Shepard says. “He’s the reason I write professionally today and work in entertainment still. He was pretty incredible.”
In 2017, Mendez told Corpus Christi Caller-Times that one of the founders of Dallas’ Theatre Three had encouraged him to audition for Selena, which was shot in San Antonio and propelled Jennifer Lopez to stardom.
“I lucked out that it’s so memorable,” Mendez told the publication. “I woke up at 3 a.m. so I could get tattoos drawn on me for an hour, and we filmed from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 that night.”
While most of his lines in the film were scripted, the word “rewind” was a bit of accidental improvisation, Mendez shared in the interview.
“I was supposed to say ‘reverse,’ but in my head, this guy was kind of an idiot,” Mendez recalled. “We made up a story where they had gone to a house party the night before. It was such a ball and was nice to ad-lib.”
Chris Sapphire, a cast member on popular Netflix series The Circle, says Mendez was his drama teacher in W.E. Greiner Middle School in Oak Cliff.
“A great mentor and friend of mine, Frank Mendez, passed away today,” Sapphire tweeted. "He played one of the hilarious cholos in the Selena movie. ‘Orale Rewind!’ I will forever treasure the memories I have with him. If you can help out in any way, it's forever appreciated.”
A great mentor and friend of mine, Frank Mendez, passed away today. He played one of the hilarious cholos in the Selena movie. "Orale Rewind!" I will forever treasure the memories I have with him. If you can help out in any way, it's forever appreciated. https://t.co/LLj1AiXnc4— Chris Sapphire (@ChrisSapphire) October 4, 2020
Selena was Mendez’s only film appearance, but a second GoFundMe organized by Favian Herrera, says that Mendez had acted in several plays with Theatre Three.
“Mr. Mendez served as a mentor for a lot of young people in the Oak Cliff area,” Herrera wrote. “From Quintanilla Middle School to Sunset High School he was very much looked up to and liked by many. His talents were evident and he openly shared them throughout the DFW theater community.”