During a virtual press junket for the new season, Collider got the opportunity to chat with co-stars JD Pardo and Clayton Cardenas about how these brothers are navigating things, focusing on the heart of these characters, getting to dive deeper in the backstories, working in a COVID world, what co-creator Elgin James is bringing to the series, and whether these brothers will be past redemption by the end of Season 3.
Collider: I’ve watched the first four episodes and pardon my language, but the Mayans are royally fucked this season.
JD PARDO: Thank you.
CLAYTON CARDENAS: That’s a nice way to put it.
I tried to come up with a nicer and more suitable word, but there just wasn’t a good substitute.
CARDENAS: No, you can’t say anything better than that.
This season, loyalty and family are both fracturing. How would you say that EZ and Angel are both coping with that, as brothers and as part of the MC?
PARDO: They’re navigating it the best that they can. What’s so beautiful about the writing in the show this season is that it’s very human. These characters are flawed. They have dreams and they have great hearts, but they’re trying to survive and they’re flawed. They’re haunted by their past experiences and fear of the future. And so, you see EZ, Angel and Felipe branching out and exploring that, in their own ways. For EZ, specifically, he’s getting comfortable with the club. He’s a fully patched Mayan now, so these are now his brothers. He has a seat at the table and he’s involved in those conversations, in dealing with the issues that pertain to the club and their survival. And then, he’s also trying to navigate and explore this relationship with Gabby, which comes along at a time where you get to see his romantic idea of love. At the same time, dating a person who is just so removed from the Mayan MC culture becomes this balancing act that he’s really struggling with. That’s a journey that’s gonna be really fun for the audience to go on with EZ.
Clayton, clearly Angel sees women less romantically than EZ does. How is he dealing with things this season?
CARDENAS: The loss of Adelita and his baby has sent him in this downward spiral to where he doesn’t know how to cope with the fantasy of that, so he’s redirecting his energy into women and alcohol. But with Angel, the club comes first. He’s fully immersed in the MC and now that his brother’s fully patched and immersed in the MC, it’s gonna be fun for the audience to watch these two brothers, who are closer than ever now, go down this journey. With this writing from Elgin James, it’s so nuanced and compelling that we can take these brothers anywhere. Always, the club comes first for Angel. Hopefully, down the road towards mid-season, he gets an opportunity to maybe reconnect with that old fantasy. We’ll see what happens with that.
Every season, the show really gets deeper and darker than the season before.
Are you surprised with just how deep you’ve really gotten to go with this show and these characters?
CARDENAS: No, thankfully. The fans wanted to dive deeper into the backstory of the rest of the MC members and we’re finally getting to see that. We’re finally getting to hear their stories, and not just EZ, Angel and Felipe. It’s so interesting because you get to really have an understanding of why one of these guys joined the MC, or why they’re acting the way they’re acting, or why they’re on the trajectory that they’re on. Diving deeper into their stories is more interesting for everyone involved.
JD, we’re getting to see more and more of EZ’s time in prison. Is that backstory that you previously knew or has that surprised you?
PARDO: It’s a part of EZ’s backstory that we definitely want to explore. What makes Elgin so special is that he’s writing from his own experiences, and this is a very, very relatable reality for people out there. I’ve always been interested in this side of EZ. A lot of times on TV, with other crime shows, people go into prison, they come out, and it was just another day, but not with EZ. It wasn’t who EZ was supposed to be. He got thrown in there and it completely changed his life. And so, to be able to play that mental and emotional trauma of being an inmate and losing opportunities and trying to find your place in society and seeing how that affects your relationships is so powerful. I’m so thankful that I get to play that and have a voice in that.
Even with EZ doing burpees, that’s what they do in prison. Elgin was very specific to every single detail of how he wanted it to look because it meant. How you do that would show the world where exactly you served time. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me who served prison time, who have responded to the way it looks and the reality of it. From the shoes to the shorts to the socks to the towel in the front, it’s a routine that people in prison have to do to keep themselves sane. To be a part of that and to show that in its detail is beautiful. Hopefully, should we continue to move on, we are going to definitely explore that side of EZ because it’s a world of its own.
This is the first season that you’ve done without the presence of Kurt Sutter, Elgin James is fully taking the wheel, and you’re also having to work in a COVID world now. Have you felt any major changes, being on set? Has it been weird to adjust to things, or are you just rolling with it the best you can?
CARDENAS: With the whole COVID thing, the restrictions were for daunting, in the beginning, because you just didn’t know how things were gonna work, logistically. By the way, Disney did an amazing job with their guidelines parameters and making you feel safe. Making the artists feel safe was their first and foremost goal, which they accomplished. With us feeling safe, we were able to give our best performances and work, and not get shut down, like a lot of other production did. The COVID restrictions have definitely made it a more intimate environment, which I prefer. It’s challenging sometimes when you’re acting on set and you have a hundred people in your eyeline. I’m trying to stare into JD’s beautiful eyes, and there are people eating sandwiches and throwing back Cokes in the back, and that’s challenging sometimes. With that being said, I love it. I’m so appreciative of how Disney and FX have been taking care of us. And as far as the whole Kurt Sutter and Elgin James thing, I’ll just say that I feel empowered as an artist having Elgin James at the helm now. I’m so appreciative of having him there. With that being said, everything has happened for a reason and I just hope that everyone sees the effort and the details that Elgin James has done with Mayans M.C.
PARDO: What’s been impressive for me is that, despite all of the issues that we’ve had to face, from our health and safety to the transitioning of showrunners, is that the crew and the actors and everyone came together. We were just like, “What do you wanna make? Why are you here?” I think that you can see that in the performances. I think you can see that in the frames. I think you can see that in the writing. It’s our heart. That’s what we had. Wee each gave a piece of our heart to the season. It’s a full display for everyone to watch and to feel. I’m just so proud of everybody for how we’ve come together to make this beautiful season, which I think is probably our best season to date. I’m very honored to be a part of it. The cast and crew talk, every day, about just how blessed we are to be able to still be supported, not just by the fans, but by Disney and FX. It became a responsibility and a sense of pride to be able to show up every day and say, “Let’s create something magnificent for the world to see.”
Because things do get darker every season, with where they’re headed and where things will likely end up, by the end of this season, would you say that these brothers will be past redemption for what they’ve done, or is there always a chance for change?
PARDO: What’s beautiful about this show and these characters is that they have beautiful hearts and they’re very flawed and they live in a very dangerous world. Anytime you’re dealing with the criminal world, anything can happen. It’s ruthless, it’s passionate, and it’s scary. Sometimes you see good characters do bad things, and sometimes you see bad characters do good things. That makes us ask ourselves questions, as an audience. This season, I think that we do a really good job of getting into each character, getting into their heart and into their soul, and seeing the struggle and the conflict. Sometimes life just isn’t pretty. It’s tough. It’s good to be a part of that.
CARDENAS: To answer your question, are they past the point of redemption? I don’t know. With this type of culture, there’s always gonna be some thing happening. That just comes with the territory. There’s possibly an opportunity for redemption, but as far as that succeeding, I don’t know. This writing is so nuanced and compelling that it just keeps you on your toes and it keeps you guessing. That’s what keeps the audience members coming back. They continuously ask themselves that question and they have to see that on screen, so it draws you in. I think it’s cool. I think it’s gonna open up our audience even more and we’re gonna touch an even grander scope of people, which is awesome. Everybody is in for a good surprise.
Do you feel like there’s an episode this season that’s a real turning point for each of your characters?
PARDO: I think every episode because every episode leads into the next and it’s like a roller coaster ride. When you start off, you’re building up and building up, and you’re curious about where it’s gonna go and how far it’s gonna go, and what’s the consequence of that? And there is a consequence. It really keeps you on your toes and almost feels like a thriller. It’s a haunting piece. The Mayans feel like they’ve been dealt some blows and they’re responded to it, but they could not have predicted the consequences, and it’s gonna affect all of them. That’s all you’re gonna get out of us.
Mayans M.C. airs on Tuesday nights on FX, and is available to stream on FX on Hulu.
KEEP READING: ‘Mayans M.C.’ Showrunner Elgin James Gets Into Season 2’s Incorporation of ‘SOA’
The 10-episode show hails from creator Lee Sung Jin, whose TV credits include ‘Silicon Valley’ and ‘2 Broke Girls.’
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