'Mayans MC' Star Reacts to 'Sons of Anarchy' Twist: "I Was So Happy"

JD Pardo speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about the season finale's shocking ending for EZ Reyes.
Prashant Gupta/FX

[This story contains spoilers for the season finale of FX's Mayans MC, "Cuervo/Tz'ikb'uul."]

At long last, EZ Reyes (JD Pardo) has found his mother's killer — and he's not exactly Happy about it.

The first season finale of Mayans MC, "Cuervo/Tz'ikb'uul," written and directed by creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James respectively, ends with a big gut punch for EZ and the audience alike, especially for viewers who were fans of Sons of Anarchy. The man who murdered EZ's mom is none other than Sons mainstay Happy Lowman, played by David Labrava in all seven seasons of the initial FX biker series. Happy's reasons for the lethal act remain unclear, but there's no doubt that it forever changed EZ's life, sending the young man on a vengeance quest that landed him several years in prison and a new life as a member of the Mayans motorcycle club.

Beyond coming face-to-face with his mother's killer, EZ's final ride through the first season of Mayans was turbulent on a number of levels. In order to free himself of his legal troubles as well as his ties to the DEA, EZ was tasked with killing his former handler, cousin Kevin Jimenez (Maurice Compte), as assigned by the vicious Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon), yet another Sons of Anarchy alum. EZ did as told, along with help from his brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas), but not without collateral damage: Jimenez's own boss and fellow DEA agent Larry Bowen (Curtiss Cross), killed in the crossfire. When EZ checks back in with Potter, he learns that his slate has indeed been wiped clean, albeit with one new smudge on the record: a favor he now owes Potter, displeased with having to help EZ cover up the murder of a second agent.

In the aftermath of the bloodbath, Angel, furious with EZ over his secret deal with the DEA, which was hidden from everyone except their father Felipe (Edward James Olmos), tells his younger brother to leave the Mayans and leave Santo Padre forever. Never one to do as he's told without thinking for himself, EZ rejects Angel's demands. Indeed, he digs in deeper to the club, going directly to charter president Obispo "Bishop" Losa (Michael Irby) and asking for his support in an effort to become a full patch member of the Mayans. It's a dangerous decision, but it's one that EZ feels is his first true choice since leaving prison behind … and roughly five minutes after making the call, EZ and his photographic memory positively identify one of the Mayans' visiting and oldest allies, Happy Lowman, as the person who killed his mother. A complicated situation just got a whole lot worse.

Despite all the troubles facing EZ Reyes, the actor behind the role is more than pleased with the story thus far: JD Pardo, a self-declared Sons of Anarchy fan from before he started working in Mayans MC, and therefore just as fired up as anyone to see ferocious adversaries like Happy and Potter swimming in Mayans waters. In the interview ahead, Pardo speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about how he reacted to the final Sons of Anarchy twist, what he's hoping for next season and much more.

How did you learn the twist about Happy's role in killing EZ's mother?

I found out that week, probably. We were going to start filming the episode, and that's when I found out. When you're putting it all together, everything is moving so fast and you're all over the place, so it was all on the go. I didn't find out until we started filming, and as a Sons fan myself? I was completely excited about it. I was so happy to see Happy. (Laughs.) I just couldn't believe it. You know what it is? It's the same thing as bringing Chucky [from Sons of Anarchy, played by Michael Ornstein, into the Mayans universe]. I'm just a fan of Sons of Anarchy. Bringing them on brings a different level. It feels like we're really honoring the Sons actors and characters. I was really shocked and really happy about it.

What were some of your first thoughts when you considered playing out the inevitable next steps between EZ and Happy?

I was talking to Elgin and Kurt about this, especially with the last moment of the season. It's funny. It seemed like EZ finally gained some perspective about where he's supposed to be. He's not going to run anymore. He's going to honor where he's at and live there in that place. For the moment, it seemed like EZ was excited about it, right? Then, all of the sudden, he sees Happy — and it takes him all the way back to the guy he chased, who killed his mother, and he snaps out of it. He's looking around and he sees his Mayan brothers hugging the Sons of Anarchy brothers. "But that's the guy who killed mom!" I have no idea what that means. Maybe he's thinking they need to face off. Maybe he's thinking he needs to accept that this is the world he's now a part of. There's so much gray. Who's good? Who's bad? It was a lot to process. We really wanted to create this moment of being lost in that memory and when we come out, we're lost in the present: "Where am I? What did I sign up for?"

Do you think there's a scenario where this is a case of mistaken identity, and Happy didn't kill EZ's mom? Although it's hard to picture, since EZ has the photographic memory…

Yeah. No way. It's Happy.

Were you trying to puzzle the mystery out while filming the season?

I had no expectations whatsoever. Knowing Kurt, I think the safest place for me is to honor the pages and stay in the present. I have no idea what Kurt, Elgin and those great writers are going to bring. Also, I felt there was a different responsibility here. I really watched and studied Sons. Jax Teller, played by the incredible Charlie Hunnam, was the [vice president of the club] right off the bat. He was the prince of Charming. There's this fantasy element to the show, I felt like. With Mayans, I thought it was a little more grounded and realistic in a way. I don't know if that has more to do with the fact that I'm from Los Angeles and I'm a Southern California guy myself, but it felt more grounded. 

Since EZ is a prospect and was never supposed to be a part of this world, Kurt and I felt like it would be best to not study bike culture and not do my research there. It was almost better if I was the lens for the audience. They're prospects themselves, as they learn about this world and this club. It really felt like an introduction. I wanted to really be truthful to who EZ is. He's a guy who was never supposed to be part of this world. He's a super intelligent young man. He goes to prison through this unfortunate circumstance. How does prison shape his life? That's what I focused on: a guy coming out of prison, still in survival mode, carrying prison with him. It's changed him. How does he find himself? That's what I wanted to focus on.

In the finale, EZ makes the choice to dig in deeper with the Mayans — not for any reason other than his desire to be in the club.

Well, it's almost like EZ lost his family before he went to prison, and then he goes to prison, and when he comes out, he doesn't have a family, so he's searching for a family. In his mind, when he was at rock bottom, it was clear to him: he needed to do this job for the DEA, and then get out. He doesn't want to be around his brother, his family, the club, this town … he wants to leave and do some soul-searching or try to get his life back in some way. As he goes through that process, and I think he says this in episode two, is he didn't expect to feel the way he feels about his brother, Angel. He missed that. He missed his family. What you get to see throughout the episodes, the more he's doing with the club, he's transforming a little bit. He's found something for himself, in a way. 

I love what they wrote for EZ in the last episode, when Angel is so pissed off: "You can't stay. You have to leave." And EZ says, "No, I'm not." The crazy thing for him is that when he was in prison, it was all about himself, all about survival and what he needed to do for himself. Since he's been out, it's been all about the DEA, all about the club and Angel and his father. He doesn't even know who he is anymore, but he knows he's not supposed to run. He's not a runner. He's going to face whatever he's going to face. I love it when he points to his patch and says, "This? I earned this. You don't get to take that away from me." It's like someone coming into a job and maybe not liking it at first, but then deciding, "I want something for myself." It's pride. 

When you're inside — and I know I'm going off on a bit of a tangent, but I've done so much research into prison, and when people go inside, you're judged by your reputation and your actions. Outside, you're judged by your material things. You don't have a lot. When EZ comes out, he doesn't have anything. He lost his girl, he lost everything. But at the end of the season, he finds out that he has this club. He's going to honor that. He's earned being a prospect. He's earned his cut. He's going to respect it. I think that's part of EZ's code, too. He's really passionate and has a different code about things.

For Jax on Sons, there was an element of destiny to his role in the club. For EZ in Mayans, as you note, he wasn't born into this world … and now, he's choosing to stay in it. Do you think it's a tragic choice? 

I do think it is tragic, in a way. You know, in Kurt Sutter's world …

It does not end well, for pretty much anyone.

No, it really doesn't. (Laughs.) And that's the thing I love about Kurt's honesty. If you live by the sword, you're going to die by the sword. It's like fighting. You're top dog for a little bit, but sooner or later, you're going to run into a fight with someone who's going to get you. It's the nature of the beast. I do think it's tragic. It's not what EZ wanted. If we go back to the kid in ourselves and the dream of what we wanted, this isn't what EZ was planning out for his life before he went to jail. But now, his options are limited. What does he have? He's just not going to run. It's a survival thing. It's a pride thing. And it's also a little bit intriguing, being there in the club with those guys, having that protection, having that brotherhood and feeling that cut. Man, as an actor? When you put on that cut, you're a different animal. You walk around a little differently. You can't help it.

Aside from Happy, EZ and another Sons of Anarchy fixture crossed paths this season: Lincoln Potter, played by Ray McKinnon. After EZ kills an additional agent during the hit job assignment, Potter reveals: "You owe me one." You can't feel good about that moving forward.

Yeah, because that's exactly it, plain and simple: "You owe me one." It just … it just sucks so much for EZ. (Laughs.) I don't know what else I can say. I wish there was a different word or a more eloquent way to describe the feeling, but it just sucks! Here's this guy who is doing everything he can to clear his name, and he's finally told — through Potter — that if he does this, then [his prison record and legal obligations are wiped]. Then, lo and behold, there it is: "By the way, I only wanted one guy to be gone. You did two. It helps! But there's collateral damage, so you owe me one." There's this feeling EZ has that it's never going to end. It'll never end. I think that's another reason why he's probably not running. It's not over. He doesn't want to be chased. He's going to stand his ground. As a side note, when I read that Potter was coming back, I was in my bed reading the script, and I immediately screamed: "Yes!" And then it was quickly followed by, "Oh, no! What's he going to do?" (Laughs.) Because that guy? He will just twist you up. But [McKinnon] is such a joy on set. I love that man.

What are your hopes for season two? For example, are you hoping for more flashbacks, potentially from EZ's time in prison?

I don't know. It was important for the season to show how EZ got there, how this guy who was never supposed to be in the club ended up in the club. It was also a device to show how his memory works, how he holds onto things. It's very important for him. Going on into season two, I have no idea what Kurt is going to bring. I have no idea if the story is over. Is there more information to learn in prison about Happy? In [the first episode], we saw EZ in prison, and Gemma [from Sons of Anarchy, played by Katey Sagal] was there, visiting somebody. EZ was there, too, with Emily, and then fighting with the guards. Who was Gemma visiting? That's where my mind goes. It could have been anyone. It could have been Otto, Jax, Clay [played in Sons by Sutter, Hunnam and Ron Perlman, respectively] … I don't know! I honestly have no idea what's planned. I'm just as curious as you are. I'm sure I'll be just as thrilled when we find that answer out together.

Follow THR.com/LiveFeed for more Mayans coverage.