Mayans M.C., the newest chapter in Kurt Sutter’s Sons Of Anarchy universe that’s co-created by Elgin James, has flown a semi-full circle in a crow-filled season finale that brought some Sons-entrenched realizations to the forefront while presenting plenty of questions for the series’ renewed second season. The fresh chapter of biker drama was a roaring ratings success as the year’s most popular cable debut of 2018, and leading man J.D. Pardo, who plays prospect Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, is gratefully soaking in the success while looking forward to future seasons.
We’ve covered this series, which lives up to Kurt Sutter‘s usual complex storytelling standards while relishing the depraved aspects of the club lifestyle, extensively on a scene-based level while thinking too much about every universe tie-in. The season finale, however, presented a truly shocking ride, and Pardo was gracious enough to sit down with us in an attempt to piece together that significant cliffhanger. He also got frank with us about the more carnal aspects of Sutter’s work and how he’s dealt with Charlie Hunnam’s legacy of plentiful Jax Teller nude scenes.
Mayans M.C. started with higher stakes than Sons did, and the complexity has only increased. That’s part of why the series is engaging to viewers, but has it been difficult as an actor to keep everything straight when all the characters are making various deals and double-crosses?
The funny thing is, I know how complicated Kurt Sutter’s writing is, so I was pretty much prepared for anything, and I felt like that was going to be a great challenge. It was, but in a lot of ways, it was not easier than I expected, but a little bit more comfortable than I expected. I just really researched the role, had my process down and was just in it, and I was able to go with the flow.
The club members, as individuals, are also so complicated, right off the bat. Coco and EZ, definitely. Do you ever wish there was a standalone episode where EZ could simply … take it easy?
You know, what makes that interesting is that there’s always something to do. Now I had some days off, but with a name like EZ, it’s strange how complicated life is for him, right? In a weird way.
What would he do with a day off? What would he do to kick back?
Oh, I’m not sure. He’s a pretty simple guy, right now. He just came out of prison, so I really wanted to carry that with the character throughout the season, and hopefully in the second season, he can shed a little bit of that. But I don’t know, maybe he’d go to the beach? And just be alone.
EZ, unlike Sons characters, was changed by his prison experience, and he now believes that he belongs in the club. Is he truly comfortable with this decision?
Yeah, I think he’s become comfortable with where he’s at. I think that was one of the themes of the season, and as you mentioned, Coco. Just having that conversation with Coco on the kitchen floor was just mind-opening for EZ in that he can’t really regret or live in the past so much. He’s gotta accept that things happen for a reason, so I think what we see in this finale is that he’s good with accepting where he’s at, and that’s exciting for him. Because with everything, he’s been unsure, but now he’s got a clear path, a path of where he’s going, but then … things happen.
So about that ending twist, and the timeline. We find out that Happy was driving the car with Wildcats sticker, but the flashbacks feel a little fuzzy to me. Do you know if he was a full-on Son during those flashback events (when he killed EZ’s mom)?
Oh, that’s a great question. I never even thought about it that way before, but now that you bring it up, I’m seeing it in my head. And it’s not like he was wearing a cut in any of those flashbacks.
Yeah, so I’m wondering what the implications are, because that could be devastating to the Sons-Mayans partnership.
Or he could have had his hoodie on over the cut, I don’t know. I don’t know! I think it could go anywhere, right? And boy, it’ll be interesting if he was part of the Sons when he did that.
There could be major blowback, unless he was Nomad (UPDATE: Sutter has clarified that Happy was Nomad during this murder, but he still doesn’t know why there was a hit), and maybe even then. And we’ve seen multiple Sons characters so far. Marcus Alvarez, Chucky, Lincoln Potter, and now Happy. Do you have any dream Sons cameos in mind for the future?
Who would be a good one? I sort of already had a tiny interaction with Gemma. You know, I would love to have … Jax, right?
People would go eat that up, but how on earth would that happen?
I don’t even know if that could happen in reality, but far as the character goes, EZ is getting into the club world, and everyone’s always talking about Jax Teller in the Mayans, and when people talk about Jax, they could set it up, and I think it would just be eye-opening for EZ.
So Alvarez refers to making a promise to Jax. Do we know much about that, or should we assume that it’s kind of a general promise to broker the peace?
Yeah, I think that was it, although at the end of Sons, Jax Teller pretty much sets up, hooks people up, sets them all straight before he goes, and I think the Mayans want to honor that, and that’s maybe what Alvarez was referring to.
Going back to the start of the series for a minute, simply representing an underrepresented culture on TV is always a huge responsibility, but doing so in 2018, that adds an extra layer, don’t you think?
Well, I think it adds an extra layer, whether we want it to or not. I don’t think anyone on the cast, listen, we’ve all been auditioning and acting for years, and diversity has really hit, and it’s really become a point in conversation today, and rightfully so, but the actors never went into it with that in mind.
And Sutter was planning the show long before things became so volatile.
Right. We never … we are actors telling a great story, and we wanna be a universal story for everyone, and we feel like we are. It’s a survival story in Southern California, it’s a survival story in America, and that’s what makes Kurt Sutter so great. So of course there’s an added layer because of everything going on, and because we do have to be responsible, so I know that we are all using our position to help out the community in any way we can.
To be a little more trivial, it tickles me that you’d never been on a bike before this role. How’s that going for you now?
Oh, it tickles me too. It’s just amazing, now that you bring it up, I’m actually thinking about it, but when you first get a bike, it’s intimidating in that I wasn’t afraid of it, but I was apprehensive with the bike because I just wanted to make sure I could stop. You know, I didn’t want a wall to stop me, so now, I love it. Now I’m very comfortable on a bike, and it’s definitely a culture, and it feels great. It’s like freedom. You’re riding out there, and I think that’s what I love so much about Mayans is that we can be filming out in Lancaster, [California,] wherever we are, and when we have those shots when we’re just riding, you just enjoy it so much. It’s a beautiful experience.
Do you know ahead of time — in those shots where you’re blazing across the desert — what songs will be playing while you’re shooting that, or does that come afterwards?
That comes afterwards, but I wish I knew. I love music, so obviously, music is a major component of putting it all together and telling a story to the audience, and I’ve been really proud of the music that FX is choosing for Mayans.
You’ve said before that when you first got this role … that people started sending you photos of Jax Teller’s bare butt, right? That’s what Sons fans came to expect, and you’ve gone shirtless, but there’s been a surprising lack of biker butts this season. Do you dread the day when that will happen?
[Laughs] You know there was that the scene in Episode 5 where EZ’s having sex with one of the girls, and I thought that was it. I was nude when we shot it, and so I thought they were gonna show a little more than they actually did in the episode.
So you dread it, but you know, you just do it. I feel like if it’s awkward for me, it’s awkward for everybody who has to be in that room and film it.
I just kind of envisioned you opening the script one day and finding out that’s the day, but it sounds like you’ve already gone through it, so you’re over that hump.
Right, I already went through it! So I’ll be ready for the next one.
‘Mayans M.C.’ airs Tuesday nights at 10 pm EST on FX.