It's been a few years since the men of Sons of Anarchy said their gruesome goodbyes, but later this year FX will launch a spin-off of the popular drama series that is centered around SAMCRO's frenemies, the Mayans Motorcycle Club. The show, which is halfway through production, still has no premiere date, but creator Kurt Sutter and the cast offered raucous fans a first look at the anticipated Mayans M.C. at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, on Friday.
Set approximately three years after Jax Teller's (Charlie Hunnam) death, Mayans M.C. flips the outlaw script to tell its story from the perspective of a prospect. EZ Reyes (J.D. Pardo), whose seemingly charmed life was derailed by cartel violence, has recently been released from prison at the start of the series. He's already joined the local chapter of the Mayans, of which his brother is also a member, when the show kicks off.
The first 13 minutes screened for the audience found EZ joining the Mayans on a ride that eventually goes south. It's clear from the start that the series will feature the same sort of explosive, high-octane drama that helped make Sons of Anarchy FX's highest-rated series. However, because the Mayans are a Latino club, and because the action is set on the California/Mexico border, it's very obviously depicting a different world than that of Charming. The issues causing trouble for EZ and his family, which also includes his father (Edward James Olmos), are different from the issues that the white working class men of Sons of Anarchy faced. But as executive producer Norberto Barba pointed out during the Q&A session that followed the screening, the show is really dealing in universal themes.
"There's so many stories that are universal within this world that I'm hoping that folks will find that they can, regardless of color, understand that situation or understand that emotion or understand that conflict and be attracted to it," he said.
Although we'll have to wait at least a few more months to really dig into EZ's life as a prospect, here's what we know about Mayans M.C. so far:
A Mayans spin-off has been in the works, in some form or another, for a while: FX first approached Kurt Sutter during the middle of Sons of Anarchy's run about doing a potential spin-off, but initial talks didn't pan out. "The first discussion about doing a show based in the world of the Mayans happened in maybe Season 3 or 4 of Sons," Sutter said during the panel. "The network was potentially getting into business with a Spanish-language station and studio, and they were looking for some Spanish-language content. ... I don't think that collaboration ever happened, [but the idea] was sort of there and sort of brewing a bit, and then as Sons was coming to a close, it was doing very well for the network, and they were looking at how to potentially keep the IP alive. That's when the conversations began again."
"I knew I didn't want to sort of just jump into the same thing, albeit a different culture and a different world culturally," Sutter continued. "I was sort of burned out a little bit, so for me I needed to sort of do something else and different. ... When I came back from [filming The Bastard Executioner in] Wales, that's when the process began."
Jax Teller and the Sons of Anarchy are gone but not forgotten: When asked, Sutter wouldn't confirm if Emilio Rivera, who Sons of Anarchy fans know as Marcus Alvarez, the president of the Oakland chapter of the Mayans, would be the only person from the original series popping up in the spin-off. However, Sutter said the series will honor Sons of Anarchy because Jax's actions changed the fabric of Northern California before trickling down south through the connections of the clubs. But although Mayans M.C. will acknowledge the events of Sons of Anarchy, Sutter stressed he wants this show to stand on its own.
"We want to acknowledge where we came from and the fans and balance that with having a show that is original and different and doesn't feel like the Latino version of Sons of Anarchy," he said. "It's my job to creatively handle that balance and then Mayans can just become what it's supposed to become. Sons will always be there, but [Mayans M.C.] will no longer be the show that came from Sons of Anarchy; it will be its own thing."
The cast is made up of men who know and understand this life: Sutter has smartly chosen to surrounded himself with knowledgeable people who are not only Latino, but who also truly understand the life that the characters lead. He even noted that "a good deal of the cast has more jail time than screentime," which doesn't necessarily sound like a good thing, but could actually be an asset in this instance.
"Sons was about working class white guys, and even though I didn't grow up in a motorcycle club, I grew up in working class white guy neighborhood. So, I always felt I could honor that world and I wasn't full of sh--," Sutter said. "I knew I wanted to do this project and I wanted to bring in a voice that was real and that was not a white guy. I met with a lot of writers of mixed race [and who were] Latino. I met with [co-creator] Elgin James ... and if you know anything about Elgin, you know he's the real deal, and he understands the Mayans and outlaw [culture]. He understands survival. ... This guy knows the life."
The series is set on the California/Mexico border, but it's not a political show: Because of the show's setting, there will certainly be political issues that come into play, but Sutter promised the show won't be bogged down in said politics. "It's not a political show; I do not write political shows," he said. "[But the show] takes place on the border, and it's a politically charged and emotionally charged part of the world. That stuff will have to bleed into the storytelling or it won't be authentic."
Mayans MC will premiere this fall on FX.