'Mayans M.C.' Co-Creators on Telling Authentic Latino Stories in Trump Era
Even at the risk of being political, the co-creators and executive producers of 'Mayans M.C.,' Elgin James and Kurt Sutter, are not afraid to address border living in their story.
“We're not a political show, but we're of the people,” co-creator and executive producer of FX’s Mayans M.C. Elgin James told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet outside of NeueHouse Hollywood on Wednesday night.
FX hosted a season one screening for the Emmy-voting Television Academy members. James walked the red carpet alongside show castmembers J.D. Pardo (Ezekiel "EZ" Reyes), Clayton Cardenas (Angel Reyes), Edward James Olmos (Felipe Reyes), Sarah Bolger (Emily Thomas), Danny Pino (Miguel Galindo), Antonio Jaramillo (Michael "Riz" Ariza) and Joseph Lucero (Neron "Creeper" Vargas).
While co-creators Kurt Sutter and James agree the show is not political, they want it to be authentic. The majority-female and Latino writers room set the characters in current times, presenting them with challenges that viewers face in real life. “The writers tapped into the truth of the Latino culture when it comes to the motorcycle community,” Lucero told THR, creating a story about Mexican thugs who find friendship and family while engaging in a dangerous motorcycle club. Sutter, who cast legitimate ex-gang members for his show, said he often jokes, “My cast has more jail time than screen time.”
The show tells universal stories that aren’t just for the Latin community, Cardenas said. “Pain understands the pain. Heart understands the heart.” The show explores themes of love and family in a character-driven, chaotic world that takes place all over Southern California. Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Glendale are just some of the set locations that Pardo listed on the red carpet.
“One time we filmed on O'melveny in Pacoima. I was born and raised in Panorama City,” Pardo told THR. “We shot there for one of the school scenes, and it was really surreal. It was a moment [for me] to realize, my dreams are coming true.”
Pardo likes filming all over L.A. because, as he puts it, the show is for the fans. It gives fans the opportunity to spot them on location before running after them with their phones. Another location is along the border of Southern California and Mexico.
“Obviously with Trump being president that has presented an energy around living on the border,” Sutter said. “It would also be inauthentic not to address that energy. That energy never becomes a story, but always influences story and character point of view.”
Jaramillo said filming on the border was a memorable experience. He plays Riz, who gets punished in season one for using the club’s money to help girls sneak across the border.
“I grew up in an orphanage in Mexico and then I was a teenager in San Diego. So for me to be on the border, there [are] so many mixed feelings, not only because of all of the political unrest that we have now,” Jaramillo told THR. “To be between the two worlds, this country and our heritage — bringing the two worlds together — it’s a crisis of identity.”
For James, there has never been a better time to tell this type of story. “We’re all so divided, and we’ve lost that sense of family,” James said. He wants people who normally would not watch a show about brown people to be able to watch this, empathize and realize that what we have in common is way more than what divides us.
After the screening, guests gathered on the NeueHouse rooftop for a Mexico-inspired buffet of chicken, steak and soy chorizo tacos. A Carniceria Reyes-inspired bar served drinks next to the Gastro Garage stand where cooks used blow torches to make gourmet donuts.
Mayans M.C. season one will be released digitally and on DVD on Aug. 20.