It’s not every premiere where you see a pack of motorcycles flanking the red carpet.
Fans of the FX franchise will find the “Sons of Anarchy” spirit firing on all cylinders as “Mayans” undoubtedly picks up the torch. Departing from the northern California town of Charming, we find the Mayans gang in Santa Padre on the California-Mexico border.
“The impact of Jax’s last day still has a residual effect on the the outlaw community, and that definitely does for the Mayans,” said series co-creator and executive producer Sutter. “That’s the reality of the ‘Sons’ legacy.”
“It expands on what that world is from a completely different perspective,” said Edward James Olmos, who plays Felipe Reyes in “Mayans.” “It’s been adapted not only in sociological ways. Also it’s deeply into politics, religion, and in a lot of issues that really weren’t touched in ‘SOA.’”
Now, 10 years after “SOA” debuted, “Mayans” arrives in a far different political climate, while the location evokes interpretation of the current administration’s stance on immigration. It’s something Sutter contends is a storyline that unfolded after “Mayans” was already in the works, yet something he will dutifully tackle as the show progress.
“The original idea for this I wrote a couple years ago,” he said. “It’s set on the border, it’s a fictitious town, but I’m playing the current climate we live in.”
“It’s not a political show, but to keep authentic, I can’t avoid what is,” Sutter added. “I just know that there’ll be people who view this and go, ‘Oh, they’re doing it down there now with everything that’s going on.’ Who the f— could have predicted what’s happening (now) two years ago?”
Series co-creator Elgin James points to the ability of the show to offer a voice to a culture that is underrepresented.
“What we’re trying to do is tell the story the from the inside out,” he said. “We have to write it from the people that actually live on the border.”
“It’s not about politics,” James added. “It’s about survival.”
Ezekiel “EZ,” Reyes, played by JD Pardo, rides into Santa Padre and must work his way up the ladder of the motorcycle club. “You’re being told a story through the eyes of EZ, who’s a prospector,” Pardo said. “He has to be an observer and he has to be very careful.”
Aside from highlighting the exploits of this rough brotherhood of the bikers, “Mayans” dives deeper into exploring the relationships that bond the band of outlaws.
“It allows you to experience the subculture within the culture,” Olmos said. “It’s like giving water to someone in the middle of the desert. I don’t care how dark it is, people are going to be very grateful to see their own cultures going through storytelling.”
Sutter and company doubled down on authenticity, as much of the “Mayans” cast brought actual street rather than stage experience. Or as Sutter affectionately puts it, they brought “more jail time than screen time.”
James, who also found himself on the wrong side of the law at one point, credits Sutter for wanting that perspective to embolden the character of the show.
“He’s still the father of this and it’s his universe,” James said of Sutter. “But he’s been able to give us our voice in it as well. I’m someone that wouldn’t be able to get a job, as a violent felon, in like Costco or Walmart, but here I am, on a red carpet for a TV show. For a lot of our cast, it’s the same way.”
“What you start to see right away is relationships and situations,” said Clayton Cardenas, who plays EZ’s brother and fellow Mayan, Angel Reyes. “Colors and demographics go out the window.”
“The writers (Sutter and James), they don’t want this to be a brown version of ‘Sons,’” he said. “It’s possibly going to take some adjustment time for the ‘Sons’ fans.”
“We want to honor those actors from ‘SOA’ with our work,” Pardo said. “We don’t take this for granted. We’re here cause the series was a monster and it’s a monster fanbase.”
As for those looking for the return of original characters from Charming, Sutter is quick to dismiss the need to look back.
“I like just leaving that mythology where it is and the way it ended, especially with our primary characters,” Sutter said. “So that any decisions people have made about how it continued or what happened next; I really want that to sort of live in their imagination.”