Mayans M.C., the Sons of Anarchy spinoff co-created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, has so far earned splendid ratings, making it 2018’s most-watched cable premiere. Sutter recently spoke with Uproxx about several subjects, including the two strong female characters who are navigating through a very dangerous and male-dominated world. One of those women, Adelita, has been organizing and leading an underground rebellion against the ruling Galindo cartel. Her actions are inspired by real-life events ongoing not only along the U.S.-Mexico border but throughout Central America.
Carla Baratta, a Venezuelan actress, plays Adelita, who (as a child) watched her own family be murdered by the cartel that now refers to her as the “rebel bitch.” As a character, she depends on no man and chooses to take matters into her own hands while protecting hundreds of children who are orphaned as a result of cartel violence. Baratta was happy to chat with Uproxx about Adelita’s “nickname” and other topics, including her ever-evolving experience on the FX series and her growing optimism about inclusion in Hollywood.
The early episodes of Mayans are about establishing EZ (played by J.D. Pardo) within the club while Adelita’s rebels, who have been stealthily operating in the background, suddenly spring into action against the cartel. How long has the group been plotting up to this point?
These rebels started a long time ago. Two or three people, and then more and more people started to band together with them. They’ve been planning these things for a long time, especially for the last four years, the cartel has been doing all these things near the border. So maybe about four years.
Your character is tasked with representing a whole culture while avenging the deaths of decades of victims. How do you get into the right mindset for this challenge?
When I first got the audition, I connected with Adelita because I’m from Venezuela. And we have a lot of issues happening right now, and we have a lot of problems with the government. They were killing students who went out to protest on the streets. And so I’ve watched how violence works in a closed environment, and I think that gives me the mindset to just change that. And also, I get a lot of inspiration for Adelita from the Mexican Revolution, and it’s just a matter of finding that inspiration for the things that trigger you to become a new person.
I had wanted to ask about how you’re from Venezuela, and how that’s sort of a paradise lost. Have you witnessed any of the injustice there?
Yeah, for sure, and a lot of it has happened over time, maybe ten years ago, and it’s growing and growing and growing. I studied at a public university (architecture), and we would see a lot of injustice happening while people were protesting. I even saw that one of the students at my university get killed in a protest. I think we all, especially in Latin America, we all live surrounded by violent environments. Even if you don’t live in a dangerous place, still, that violence can come to you. And now is such a really sad time, the violence has also turned to a social and economic crisis. People cannot find many things and food, so more than violence, the crisis is taking over the country.
How much collaboration do you have with the writers, including Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, for your character’s ongoing development?
They’re always there. We have a writer all the time on set, paying attention, and if we have questions, he can help us through that. And especially for Adelita, Elgin helped me a lot with her because it’s like he kind of created her, so he’s involved with the whole process. And Kurt too, they both gave me what they thought about Adelita and what her soul and vision should be. So anytime I had a doubt or a question, I would ask them, and they would give me the biggest and richest answer ever, so I will be super prepared for the next episode.
What’s it like to play such a strong woman, who doesn’t depend upon men, in such a male-dominated world?
It’s been amazing. It’s been an incredible opportunity, and also having all these guys. They’re the sweetest guys, but when you see them onscreen, they just bring all this power. So I get a lot of inspiration from them, how they transform their characters. But I think it’s great to be with all of them, they’re amazing, and I love each one of them.
She doesn’t depend on any men, but she does have a relationship with some Mayans members. Can you reveal any more about that yet?
I can’t say much about that yet because it would be a major spoiler, but I can say that she knows what she’s doing. She plans everything.
Adelita protects hundreds of orphans. She was also an orphan, right?
Yes, her family died in the hands of the cartel when she was a little child. So she had a very tough time, and she struggled growing up. So now she wants to protect all these kids, and she wants to stop the things that happened to her from happening to them.
The cartel calls Adelita the “rebel bitch.” Do you find that to be more of an insult or a compliment in the context of the show?
I think neither a compliment nor an insult. She wanted that — not to be called a rebel bitch — but she wants people to know that she’s there to fight and cause trouble, so it doesn’t matter what you call her. She [tells EZ], “You may call me Adelita,” but you can call her any name because she’s everyone, and she’s nobody at the same time.
Do you feel that diversity is making overall advances in Hollywood, beyond Latino inclusion for franchises like The Fast and the Furious and shows like Mayans M.C.?
From what I can see, and what I can feel, and from watching TV and movies, I think now is the time, we’re moving toward the time for everyone, not just for Latinos, but we have the movie about Crazy Rich Asians, and I love to see that. I had been talking one day with a friend who’s Asian, and he told me that he [in TV and film] saw a lot of Latino representation and a lot of inclusion, and he said, “I don’t see a person who looks like me.” So it’s not just about getting Latinos onscreen, it’s about getting everyone, to show everybody. So I think we’re getting somewhere with this, and especially with Mayans because it’s not just the actors who are Latinos, you can see writers and behind cameras and wardrobe. I mean, a lot of people in different positions working there, and I really like that.
What do you see as the biggest driving force in inclusion — actual inclusion riders demanded by actors, or is it more about what audiences ultimately want to happen?
It has to be both things. We first have to have the studios or independent producers who want to show these stories, and then we have to have the writers who are willing to write these stories. I know there are a lot of them out there, and then finding the right actors to tell these stories when they’re connected to it. Yeah, there’s a lot of people that should be included, and it’s amazing to see any production that has a multicultural cast, and I think people are willing and wanting to see that in TV and movies.
Mayans M.C. is currently airing on FX on Tuesday nights.