‘Mayans M.C.’s Clayton Cardenas Helps Us Process An Emotional Finale And Shares His Dream For Angel’s Future

Mayans M.C. keeps on riding, long after Sons Of Anarchy‘s final rodeo saw Jax Teller greet The Reaper. Spinoff co-creator Elgin James is firmly carrying out showrunner duties (and those of writing and directing while inspiring Danny Pino to follow suit in that last category) as the show finishes its fourth season this week. The ensemble series now sees JD Pardo‘s EZ Reyes calling the shots for the Santo Padre chapter (as VP) and pushing the club to war with the Sons after sending a message to Charming. It’s been a bloody escalation so far, and there’s no indication of any form of peace on the horizon, especially with Kim Coates’ Tig returning to the franchise in the season finale.

Alongside EZ would be his wary brother, Angel, portrayed by Clayton Cardenas in an increasingly layered way this season. Don’t get me wrong, though: Angel’s always been multi-faceted, at once helping to pioneer a rebellion while also taking time to crack morbid jokes about a decapitated head. This season, however, Angel’s journey feels amplified. His complicated personal life (including the Nails business) sprouted more wrinkles with Adelita’s revelation that their child is still alive. And Angel, who helped his little brother join the Mayans, is now witnessing EZ’s transformation in a different way.

It’s all a recipe for explosive turmoil, and a very uncomfortable brotherly confrontation (after the devastating death of a beloved club member) helped close out the season. Clayton was cool enough to help us process all the fallout and give us some levity on where he’d love Angel to go from here.

I wasn’t sure if we were on camera or not, but I wore a Sons of Anarchy shirt to see if I could start a rivalry here.

Well, let’s see it! You’re gonna piss me off already.

Am I on? This is going to be war, I know it, and I’m also messing with you. The real truth is that I only have Sons shirts, no Mayans shirts yet.

[Laughs] We’re gonna have to send some stuff out.

We are already off the rails, so let’s keep on rolling. It feels like only yesterday when we were all waiting for Mayans to begin. It’s already been four seasons, do you stop and marvel at that sometimes?

Of course! I still, specifically, remember with JD, when we were at Salton Sea. Well, we did two pilots. The first pilot in early 2017 and in late 2017, but I remember the first pilot, there was a picture of us. It was the first picture that we ever did together, and it was not eerie but really comforting to have this feeling of, “Wow, we’re in this together.” We don’t have brothers in real life, but there was this instant bond of brotherhood. Me and him really circle back to that moment. You never saw it as part of the pilot, but we documented it on our own. It was really cool.

Speaking of JD, I can’t figure out, between Angel and EZ, who has changed more over the show so far?

I think it’s fairly even. I’m not aware these arcs being known from the inception of this. You’d have to ask the creators, so a lot of it was new to me. I know a lot of it was new to JD as well, but I think what we really see, in this season in particular, is the dominant characteristics of each individual. With EZ, we see his need to always feel empowered and feel in control. With Angel, it was always (from childhood) the need to feel loved. And to see how these two have met in the middle, and now, the apex of where they’re headed to in life? It’s fairly even. It’s different, obviously, but the same.

Clayton Cardenas Mayans MC

Angel began the show as a pioneer of the rebellion, and now, well, he’s got a complicated personal life. He’s a freaking dad who’s talking about lactation. How do you balance all of the sides of him?

I don’t know if it’s as much of a struggle as the audience sees it. What we’re seeing now is Angel morph into this person that he’s always yearned to be. I think when he saw his brother join the club, he saw bits and pieces of reasons to want to move on and grow beyond the club. I think with having a family now, it’s kind of like a justice to the means now. Like a reason to lean into the life that he yearned for, with Felipe never being the father that he wanted. That’s kind of his path now, being the father that he never had and having a life and Adelita and his son that he always wanted, quite honestly.

If you had any advice for Angel right now, what would you say to him?

With Angel, it’s all heart with how decisions are made. I would tell him to take his time and have a little bit of trepidation. I would tell him to slow down and to try and circle back to his father and try and mend the relationship. It isn’t broke, it’s definitely scarred, but I feel like we’re always needing a father figure in life. It doesn’t have to be a father necessarily, but that figure’s needed. I’d like him to circle back on that.

Would you say that his relationship is EZ is broken?

No, I don’t think that relationship’s broken, but it’s just misunderstood now. I feel like if anybody’s gonna be in EZ’s ear and have an effect, with where Angel sees EZ going, it’s gonna be his brother. That’s the only person who knows all his secrets and knows him at his best and his worst. He’s known him since his inception. Those kinds of people that we have in our life, there’s this tight bond that cannot be broken, no matter where we are in life, no matter how far away we are from one another. That will always be there.

Angel began the episode in an emotional way while reacting to Letty’s speech at Coco’s funeral. Other than the obvious, what was that about, do you think?

Besides the obvious, I think the big moral mistake was to sleep with his dead brother’s daughter. Beyond not wanting to disrupt what was going on, Angel’s absolutely torn up inside about doing what he did, but also, I don’t think he ever got to say his last words to Coco. There was never a resolution to it. There were definitely apologies needed for not being there when Coco was hurt and needing help. There was a scene where, when the two of them were together, I think that Angel was more in disbelief by what Coco was saying. He didn’t get to say the words that needed to be said, and I think that’s what’s running through Angel’s head because, coming up when Angel was getting patched in, Coco was his best friend. Coco was there with him every day, in flashbacks, they were tight-knit, and I think when Angel started to see him go down this path of drugs, he had to step back and take care of himself. He didn’t know how to help his friend, and I think he feels remorse and regret.

A lot of fans compared Coco’s death to Opie from Sons.

100%! These are two monumental characters in each of these storylines, and they both have huge fandoms, and they both meant a lot to the story and meant a lot to the leads of both shows. They both had resounding effects and trickle down from each of those. Of course, it’s hard not to compare the two, I think that only one would respectfully have to. It’s somebody that we, obviously with the cast, know that Richard [Cabral] is an amazing talent, and he’ll go on to do great things. But you know, in Mayans and in Sons, nobody’s safe. That’s what makes our show so riveting and compelling to watch because you never know how it’s gonna go. And people that you think have important storylines can be killed off right away, and it’ll shift right into somebody else’s storyline. That’s through the beauty of Elgin James’ poetry. You never know what you’re gonna get, but everything will always be [justified].

Well, if you had a way to write Angel’s ending in this show, whether he makes it out alive or not, where would he go?

[Smiles] I would write Angel running off into the sunset. I’m from these types of neighborhoods, this culture, and because you’re born into something, or at a formative age, you start leaning into this group of people because you think that’s what’s cool and right and where you think you want to be in the future, sometimes you outgrow yourself. And I see that with Angel. I see him viewing the club as not what he thought it was anymore. He’s maturing, and I think he sees the future differently than his brothers do. I could see him running off into the sunset [gestures] and having a farm.


Yeah, man! A nut farm. Oh man, I love nut farms. Angel loves nut farms. Sunflower seeds! He’d be growing a nut farm with Adelita and his son. And they have animals around. I could totally envision that for him. Something total polar opposite from what we’re seeing right now, I could see him living that life.

Mayans MC Clayton Cardenas

If you could have him run off into that sunset and join another TV show, though, where would you want him to go?

Oh my god. If he had a British accent, he would be on Peaky Blinders.

That would work. And the final season is on Netflix now.

I’m on episode 4 now, and they do great work over there. And there’s a variety of shows, but that’s the latest one right now. I could see him on Snowfall, too. I could see that drug world crossing over into the Mayans culture, especially the bike subculture and pushing drugs to the border.

Gonna get a little dicey with this next question, but from what I’ve seen, fans are zeroing in on one criticism: where is law enforcement when trouble goes down, say, during the hospital scene? Does this jibe with how you see this subculture operating at the border, or do you have to suspend belief?

I hear the same thing. Let’s keep in mind that this is television and not reality, but through the lens of reality, I’ll play with it. In some of these small border towns, there isn’t a large abundance of police… let’s just run through the hospital. I know it looked like it was 20 freaking minutes long, but in reality, it was probably 5-10 minutes max. Granted, there’s security there, but let’s just say that we do have police at the end of the scene coming in there. But I hear people saying, “Oh the police would be there in a second, and a SWAT team.” Hey, in Santo Padre, we don’t have SWAT. We have, two hours away, it’s Calexico. We have to have them come down. I understand that the fans want a sense of realism, but hey, that’s real, man. These aren’t metropolitan cities we’re talking about here. These are underprivileged towns that don’t have what you would think as the amount of firemen, police, and just public resources as a whole. So I understand it, and we are definitely conscious of the realism involved here.

People do love to have opinions and quibbles in forums.

People want to create a conversation, and they want to debate, and hey, we’re up to it. You guys wanna debate small little tidbits in our show, we’re all here for it, but my point here is that I don’t want it to be overlooked that the creator and writers of our show aren’t aware of those things. They’re fully aware of it. It’s something that’s talked for hours. It’s not that we’re overlooking it, but we’re playing along the lines of television and reality. It’s a fine line, but we’re always trying to lean on the side of realistic for sure.

It’s about time to say goodbye, but real quick here: I recently talked with Danny Pino about the episode he directed.

Danny Pino? [Grabs his heart.]

Oh yes. Do you have any aspirations to do the same?

Of course. I would love to move into directing, I think that’s probably the most realistic transition and something that I want. Obviously, there’s a lot of work that I need to do to move forward with that, but watching Danny? Oh my god. He was phenomenal. He was probably — I’m gonna hear a lot of sh*t for this — after Elgin James, Danny Pino is probably my favorite director of the season for sure. And here’s the reason why: Danny is a well-seasoned, respected actor in our industry, so there’s many times that Danny would say just one little thing, and I knew exactly what he meant. With other directors, there’s sometimes a freaking 20-minute conversation trying to get a point across, and a lot of times when you’re working with a variety of directors on the show, that’s half the job. Learning their language, learning what they mean, that takes 50% of your time. But Danny Pino, he knew what to say to me and he knew exactly when to say it, and when to lean in.

He’s so humble and gracious, so I can imagine he was great as a leader.

I’ll tell you a real quick story. At the end of Danny’s episode, we had a very emotional scene with Carla [Baratta], and everyone’s moving onto the next scene and set, but I’m still emoting, and I’m sitting on the edge of the bed, and Danny Pino — he has the next thing to shoot and needs to move on — but he sees me there, emoting. And everybody’s left where I was at. And he just comes right over and sits next to me on the bed, and no words were said. We’re both just staring at the wall. We had this beautiful nonverbal communication. And it was literally for about 10 minutes, but in this nonverbal dialogue, he was saying, “Thank you, I hear you, I know what you did. I know what it takes to get there.” It was the most beautiful, unspoken poetry that I’ve heard in my life. And I commend him for that and respect him so much for that and I love him for that, and I told him the story recently in Miami, and we both got emotional. Love him to death.

FX’s ‘Mayans M.C.’ is currently streaming the entire fourth season on Hulu.