As Kurt Sutter makes his return to FX with Mayans M.C. (on Tuesday, Sept. 4), the newest chapter in his biker-drama universe, he does so with ten years of perspective from his Sons of Anarchy showrunner debut. Prior to those seven seasons of success, Sutter moved up from staff writer to executive producer of The Shield, and after pulling the plug following one season of The Bastard Executioner, he hopes to extend his most beloved mythology in a post-Jax Teller world. Expectations and pressure are both running high as hell, but the notoriously filterless storyteller is keeping it all in perspective.
Sutter was gracious enough to speak at length with Uproxx about his hopes for Mayans, which (from the looks of the first part of the season) is a worthy followup and, in many ways, a more advanced chapter of the saga. During the discussion, he tells us why he’d never erase his past mistakes, why there can be no Gemma in Mayans, and the surreal experience of making one of the most bonkers and depraved scenes in Sons of Anarchy history.
What advice would season 1 of Mayans M.C. Kurt give to season 1 of Sons of Anarchy Kurt?
Let’s see. You know I had the experience of The Shield going into Sons, but I never ran a show before then, so I was driven by a lot more fear, and a sense of feeling like a lot was out of my control. And obviously, I stumbled and made mistakes and set fires and blew shit up, but the reality of it is — and not to sound esoteric — but all that shit shaped the show. It shaped my growth within the process, so I would be afraid to give myself any advice for fear that I would undermine any ugly and sort of clumsy process I may have had.
What I learned from Sons in hindsight is that when you’re beginning a project, and you don’t know what it is, and how it’s going to be perceived, you’re only driven by the sense of needing to tell a story. And in hindsight, you can look back and say, “Oh, the show was successful because of X.” Strong female characters, dark sense of humor, whatever, right? All that shit is a result of not having those parameters and those boxes where you think you need to check off to be successful. And coming into Mayans, which is a similar world, a similar process, it’s difficult to not look at the things that worked in Sons and go, “Oh, I should do that.” And I learned in that process that it’s a continuing sense of education in that, “Wait a minute, I didn’t know any of that shit” going into Sons. And because I didn’t know any of that shit, that shit happened.
So I really have to create that environment for myself in Mayans, and not necessarily think in terms of what I had to do to make it work. I had to put myself in that same sort of naive mindset, creatively, so I didn’t think in terms of what I needed to achieve. Like I could just tell the stories I needed to tell, and then trust that at some point, I could step back and say, “Oh, that worked.”
It feels like a returning audience can be a blessing and a curse.
Oh yeah, absolutely.
Given that comparisons between these two chapters are necessary and inevitable, how do you deal with the pressure from existing expectations?