Mayans M.C. returns for a third ride this week, and this time, things feel different. For one thing, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has left the building, and co-creator Elgin James took up showrunner duties. For another thing, sh*t is even darker than it was at the end of the second season finale (with a dead SAMCRO member). Front and center amid all of the fallout is Danny Pino, who portrays drug lord Miguel Galindo, who managed to get his hands dirtier, even while the cartel side of the show took a breather during Season 2’s last few episodes. Pino’s still steadily chipping away at his former TV persona (portraying detectives on Law and Order: SVU and Cold Case) while technically inhabiting bad-guy territory. Nonetheless, Miguel remained convinced last year that he could succeed where The Godfather‘s Michael Corleone ceremoniously failed.
The last time we spoke with Danny Pino, we discussed how Miguel even namechecked the Corleones while the show distanced itself from “Godfather karaoke.” and these days, Pino is no less perceptive. He was cool enough to speak with us about where Mayans M.C. goes from here and how it roared back to life despite the world’s current situation. As always, Pino isn’t even attempting to contain his gratitude surrounding this show and how entertainment can bring us all so much relief during trying times. Miguel’s got a lot on his plate this season — his mother’s killing, a business deal going seriously bad, and even more drama at home — and Pino is here to help us wade through that mess.
With all that the world’s going through, how did it feel to leave quarantine life and head into biker-drama land again?
First of all, it’s fantastic to be able to talk about a new season of Mayans M.C., especially given the reality of what we’ve all lived through for over a year and the massive losses our friends and families have suffered. It seems incredibly trivial to be discussing a piece of entertainment juxtaposed alongside the heroic efforts and sacrifices our doctors and health care workers have endured for months. Not to mention, the pressure to innovate and engage in a time of distanced learning for our teachers, administrators and educators. Thank you for the opportunity to express that and put my gratitude and focus on those who’ve shouldered the brunt of this pandemic including food service workers, truckers, mail and package carriers, etc. Now, on to entertainment. Much of my time has been spent watching film and TV; binging series, watching films and being transported outside of the well-tread four walls of my house. I’ve always known our industry to be a haven for escapism, but quarantine has brought that into focus like never before.
How is life on set with COVID protocols, and what’s the biggest adjustment made on set?
The biggest adjustment on set has been the separation from the crew. The cast is largely isolated from the crew to prevent shutdowns in production due to contact tracing. Our crew is made up of not only inspired artists and experts in their respective crafts, but fun, intelligent and engaging people to hang out with. Not being able to spend time with them, as in previous seasons, has been the biggest adjustment. Additionally, the awareness and focus to maintain those protocols for the safety of the cast and crew and our families and the longevity of our production is a constant priority that runs parallel to our storytelling now.
How did you feel about all the fans theorizing about Miguel being EZ and Angel’s brother, as well as the developments on that subject late last season?
I love reading what our fans have to say. We, as cast members, theorize, analyze and hypothesize as much, if not more, than our fans. It’s indicative of the bond created between the characters and the viewers. Even when the episode is over, our fans carry the characters with them, mulling over the relationships, considering the innuendo of a given line or the meaning of a loaded look. As far as Miguel potentially having two half-brothers who are outlaw bikers, I’m all in. Especially if that means working with J.D. Pardo and Clayton Cardenas more often. I respect and love both of them as men and artists.
This season’s darker than the previous two installments. How would you describe that thematic shift, both for your character and the show as a whole?
The co-creator of Mayans M.C. and new showrunner, Elgin James, has described Season Three as a “Reckoning,” where the sins, transgressions and debts of the last two seasons come due. Our characters will have to account for their actions, or inaction. Although the first two seasons were dark, indeed, Season Three is much more character-driven, making the darkness deeper, more personal and emotional. The writers [who are] pushing the characters center stage give agency to our ensemble cast to swing for the fences and mine the depths of the people we’ve been portraying for two years. Some characters will reveal unanticipated perspectives and others, who’ve been players in our story from the beginning, we’ll finally get to know.
Miguel will obviously carry a heavy emotional burden after Dita’s death. You previously told us that you try to get into his brain as much as possible. How do you prepare for a huge emotional lift like this?
Indeed, we will see a Miguel unlike the man we knew in previous seasons. He, too, will reckon with his choices, his actions and his guilt. In terms of preparation, I use anything at my disposal to put myself in the mind and given circumstances of my character. There are many ways I try to ground Miguel and immerse myself in his reality. Every actor has their own technique. What helps me is to research as much as I can about what the character would know, what he would be going through and what perspectives he would have. That research often includes reading books and articles, watching documentaries, films and television episodes, building character-influenced music playlists, or often times building a photo album filled with paintings, images and personal photographs to scroll through. However, once I’ve built that three dimensional world, I let it go and play on set. Paralysis by analysis is a real thing and I try to leave enough oxygen for the character to breathe, react, and be spontaneous. All that being said, when you have the foundation of a fantastic script, trust in the writers and the trust of the writers, most of the work is done for you, frankly.
The personal drama between Miguel and Emily (and all the Potter and Adelita developments) don’t look like too much fun for Miguel, to put it mildly. How do you think Miguel unwinds at the end of a really rough day?
While the personal drama doesn’t look like fun, I assure you Sarah Bolger (Emily), Ray McKinnon (Lincoln Potter), Carla Baratta (Adelita) and I revel in the opportunity to play these characters and find that exploration some of the most fun we’ve had in our careers. As for how Miguel unwinds at the end of the day, especially now that his marriage is fragmenting, I believe the magic elixir is referred to as “tequila.” Also, Miguel may be making unsolicited trips into Mexico behind Emily’s back. Even Miguel needs a sanctuary.
The last time we talked, you also mentioned that Miguel was putting his promise to his father (to legitimize the family) into action. How’s he doing with that dream going into Season 3?
Without giving too much away, Miguel will find hardship in most facets of his life entering Season Three, and his father’s dying mandate to “legitimize the family” is not spared. The grand plan of Galindo Enterprise’s Santo Padre Agra Park Project saving a migrant town from disaster will seem like an ancient fairytale.
Everyone always asks you if Miguel will ever ride a bike, and there are no signs (so far) that he’ll do so. If you could ever envision Miguel riding, how would that go down?
Well, I did earn my CM1 Motorcycle License recently. So, I suppose it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But, as far as Miguel trading in his Maybach and getting on a hog, only the inventiveness and imagination of our writers could do justice to that transition. Personally, I’d accept it with open arms, and a lot of leather.
Who was your favorite Sons of Anarchy character, and why?
That’s easy, Marcus “El Padrino” Alvarez (Emilio Rivera). His quiet command, stoic strength and grounded pragmatism make him powerful and valuable in the world of Sons of Anarchy and Mayans M.C. Additionally, there has only been one character to spawn a Sons spin-off; we wouldn’t be doing this interview without Emilio Rivera’s Marcus Alvarez.
Let’s get weird. If your Law and Order: SVU character could give any advice to Miguel, what would you think it would be? Could Miguel possibly offer *any* advice to Nick Amaro?
I think it would be one hell of a chess match between the two. Nick would see through Miguel’s external armor of legitimacy, but Miguel would clearly discern Nick’s attempts to befriend, intimidate or coerce him. It would likely be a game of attrition, and neither of them loses gracefully. Leaving any advice moot.
In closing, what’s the one thing you look forward to most when the pandemic is over, both at work and at home?
Travel. I haven’t been back to my hometown, Miami, in over a year. I look forward to seeing my family again. Additionally, being Cuban-American, a hug is tantamount to a handshake. I miss the physicality of expressing that bond with friends and family.
‘Mayans M.C.’ airs on Tuesday nights at 10:00pm EST on FX.