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‘Mayans M.C.’ Star J.D. Pardo Gives Us A Therapy Session After This Week’s Gut-Wrenching Episode

Warning: Major Mayans M.C. spoilers will be found below, so here’s your last chance to ride out of here if you’re not caught up.

This week, Mayans M.C. (the second installment in the Kurt Sutter-created Sons of Anarchy universe) launched what’s arguably its most shattering episode to date. There’s simply no way that the at-home audience didn’t launch a cascade of curse words after a fiery ambush may have blinded a beloved member of the club (Coco) and apparently killed another (Riz). Before that happened, Agent Potter completely lost his cool in front of the Reyes brothers, and EZ hardcore-confronted Emily while seeking truths about the death of his mother. The fallout from this episode will be immense, to say the very least, and I honestly required a bit of a counseling session after a screening.

J.D. Pardo, who plays EZ and spoke with us after last season’s finale, seemed to sense that he was needed during this trying time, so he phoned us for another discussion. Coincidentally, FX announced Kurt Sutter’s firing a few hours after this chat, which leaves Elgin James fully taking the showrunner reins. So, we obviously didn’t get the chance to broach that subject, but J.D. was swell enough to talk out all of this week’s biker drama with us.

I’m pleased that we’re doing a post-mortem right now because I really need to talk about this episode with someone, and that person is you.

Good, good. Well, I’m here for you!

Lucky you! Lots of tangible trouble abounds right now, and only last season, EZ was most worried about betraying Angel and the effect of that horrible tattoo.

Right, that snake tattoo. I think it’s like a mark, kind of like The Scarlet Letter, you know; it’s sort-of a reminder of his life. It doesn’t matter that he was caught in the middle and that he was trying to manage that deal with the feds while keeping the club safe and his family safe. In the outlaw culture, he’s a snitch, a rat. EZ wasn’t born into this life, so he’s learning along the way about this culture. For him, the tattoo is a reminder, and for me, as an actor, it’s great to have because it doesn’t matter where he goes, I can always look down at that and recall the past. I think there’s something very beautiful and tragic about it at the same time. As much as he tries to escape the past and move into the future, it’s just a battle for him.

FX

All the mounting tension evokes your recent tweet about the way that EZ holds his cut. It’s almost like he’s grabbing onto a security blanket?

Yeah, absolutely. I try to make decisions as an actor that are personal, and I try to use a character’s history and find little nuances. For me, this was twofold. One, I feel like prison changed EZ’s life, and I’ve never seen anything like that on TV before, even with Sons. They seemed to just walk into prison and walk out, and so you didn’t really see the effect that I wanted to show and be as real as possible. To me, the effect that prison has is “survival,” right? You have to protect yourself constantly, and that’s why I loved that he didn’t talk so much. I wanted him to communicate with his eyes, and so I figured if he grabbed the cut that way when he was standing close to people, it’s a way for him to already have his hands up, just in case something went down and he has to protect himself. I wanted him to always be prepared. The second part of it is that he lost his mother, and that changed the course of his life. It shattered his dreams, and it haunts him, that loss of a parent, of a mom, and it’s tragic. I feel like he holds himself like that in situations where it’s hard for him emotionally, and when he’s remembering his mother. It’s like he’s comforting himself.

I was actually wondering if there was an emotional component because when we saw him talking to Emily this week, he kept gripping that cut even tighter.

There’s definitely an emotional component. I think that Emily also represents that loss, and it’s something that’s very lonely for him. If we go back a couple of episodes, he was talking with Angel, who said that it must have been hard, doing that time in prison, and yeah, it almost killed him. There’s that loneliness that he will always have, so yeah, and it’s very uncomfortable with Emily. There’s a lot of history there, and it represents loss, so you’re right.

In that particular conversation, EZ lodged some pretty serious accusations against Miguel: that he could’ve been the one to put a hit on EZ’s parents. He may or may not be on the mark, but we really don’t know that, right?

EZ is piecing things together, and it doesn’t mean that he’s spot-on right, but as he gets closer to [the truth], he’s becoming a little more desperate. I feel like what he picked up from prison is this ability to observe, to listen, to watch. There’s so much that’s being said without it being said verbally, and he is stuck, resolving things and trying to put together a puzzle. He’s throwing out these accusations, and he’s a little bit open on what he suspects. I don’t think it’s very smart because I don’t trust Emily, and I don’t think EZ should, but that’s what you do sometimes when you’re confronted with the person who you used to love and have a relationship with.

It certainly doesn’t shine a flattering light on Miguel, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Oh, I promise you, you’ll find out.

To make matters worse, Potter antagonized the brothers again and threatened to deport their dad. EZ kept Angel in check, which says a lot about their relationship.

Oh, Angel doesn’t think, he just reacts. When he gets called out by Coco for throwing Riz under the bus, it’s just like he doesn’t think. He’s very emotional, and he reacts, and one thing that I really wanted to show in that moment with Potter was that EZ’s analyzing Potter and breaking him down. He’s looking for a weakness, and Felipe brings it up to Angel — he even says that Potter is a man, like anyone else, and he’s sloppy. For me, what served in that moment was when Potter loses it because he’s always been confident and covered his bases, so he can’t be touched. For the first time, this has really affected Potter, and how that will actually manifest itself, we’ll see. But for me, that made EZ stronger in that moment, and EZ’s motivation for pushing back and saying, “let’s wait” … that was very Godfather-esque, right? There’s a right time for it, and EZ wants to get to a checkmate. He wants to catch Potter.

That’s an interesting reference because EZ has suggested that Miguel actually wanted to be Micheal Corleone, and EZ added that he doesn’t want to be Fredo.

Yeah, I don’t wanna be Fredo!

No one should want to be Fredo, ever.

[Laughs] Although as a side note, John Cazale is one of my favorite actors of all time. His depth! He’s so impressive, his performance was also beautiful and tragic.

Indeed, and to get even more referential, we saw a murder of crows flying this week, and then some Sons actors showed up. How did the on-set dynamic change when Tommy Flanagan re-entered the scene as Chibs?

It’s great. Look, we always wanted to come from a place where we knew where we coming from. As Mayans, we knew that everyone in Sons of Anarchy were the ones to start this, and they held it down for seven years, exciting ones. It’s important to honor those actors and respect them. I want to grab that baton but have it passed to us to take to new heights, and to have Tommy show up on set, it was an exciting time. We’re doing it for us, and we’re doing it for them, so it was a very beautiful moment.

As you know, the final scene this week may be soul-crushing to an audience that’s emotionally invested in both Riz and Coco. How did you react to learning what happens to them?

You know, it’s tough because on-set, you are a family. You become each other’s family in a way that’s a way that’s more intimate in that moment than your own family. So it’s always hard because — even after reading it — you don’t know what’s gonna happen. There’s always the question: “So what does it mean?” This or that, and then when the next week happens, it’s like, “[Sighing in relief], we’re great.” But at the time time, listen, we know what we signed up for. This is a world where you live by the sword and die by the sword. When I first signed up for Mayans and after my first meeting with Kurt, I said, “Whatever you do, please let me have a good death.” And that’s not to say that EZ would die, but that just shows that I know the world that I’m entering. I know that I’m gonna be thrown upside down emotionally, in all sorts of deep, dark places, so I know it’s always a possibility, being taken out.

The great thing about what you just said is that Emilio Rivera told us that he had the same discussion with Kurt about Marcus. He told us that Kurt told him, “Your death will be a good death,” so he thought he’d be dying pretty soon!

Yep, that’s the world that we’re in! I think that’s what we all want, to go out in a great way. So we’ll see how people react to this episode. We all try to live-tweet, which gives us a chance to engage. It will be interesting.

No matter what happens, EZ will hopefully get patched into the club soon?

Hopefully, that happens. There’s where it’s all heading towards. There’s a club issue going on right now that they have to handle first, but from the end of the first season, EZ has shown that he wants to stay. For his brother, his family, he needs that in his life, something that’s real after he’s been through so much. It’s also a journey because he always thought life should be a certain way from him, but sometimes you’re meant to be someone else, so with this journey, it’s step-by-step and realizing that he’s capable of things that are a little scary and frightening at times, but he ends up being kind of good at it, so we’ll see where it takes him.

Well, much gratitude to you for breaking down this very traumatic episode for us.

Aww, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.

‘Mayans M.C.’ airs Tuesday nights at 10 pm EST on FX.

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