'Mayans MC' star Antonio Jaramillo says spinoff will be "spicier" compared to 'Sons of Anarchy'
The much-awaited spinoff to FX's 'Sons of Anarchy' will premiere on the network on September 4 at 10 p.m. ET.
September 3, 2008, marks an important day in the history of FX. It was the day 'Sons of Anarchy' premiered, forever changing the network's landscape concerning television programming and setting new and higher benchmarks for what constituted a successful series. For the crime drama, Kurt Sutter fabricated the town of Charming, and set in California's Central Valley, it would be the setting for the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club. The show starred Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller, initially the vice president and then later the president of the club, and Sutter's wife Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller Morrow, Teller's mother.
'Sons of Anarchy' would prove to be the television series equivalent of a late bloomer. Despite premiering to largely positive reviews, it caught fire beginning its third season which managed to attract an average of 4.9 million viewers and made it the network's highest-rated series. The premieres of the fourth and fifth season went on to similarly become the two highest-rated telecasts in FX's history, and despite continuing to go strong, closed out after season 7. When asked why Sutter said he wanted it to end "in a blaze of glory." But for disappointed fans, the creator had a surprise up his sleeve: a spinoff.
Talks for a prequel set in the 1960s kicked off as far back as 2013, though little came of it and rumors flew around suggesting Sutter was distancing himself from the project that was tentatively titled 'The First 9.' But in November 2016, close to two years after the series finale of 'Sons of Anarchy,' the good news broke that FX was developing 'Mayans MC' at the network.
Set in the same fictional universe as its predecessor, 'Mayans MC' deals with the Sons' rivals-turned-allies, the Mayans Motorcycle Club, and takes place two-and-a-half-years after the events in 'Sons of Anarchy.' Focusing primarily on Latino culture, the series' protagonist is J.D. Pardo's Ezekiel 'EZ' Reyes, who is a prospect in the Mayans MC charter on the California/Mexico border. Accompanying EZ on his journey of retrospection and vengeance will be a talented ensemble of actors and actresses, each with a pivotal role to play as the story unfolds.
One amongst this vast crew in Antonio Jaramillo, who will be portraying the role of Michael 'Riz' Ariza in the spinoff and will be a critical piece of the puzzle as 'Mayans MC' attempts to establish itself as one of television's must-watch shows. I caught up with the actor with an interview to talk about his role, the similarities between 'Mayans MC' and 'Sons of Anarchy,' and what viewers can expect when the series premieres on September 4.
So, who is Michael Ariza, I ask. "He's the secretary of the club," Antonio says. He tells me there's not much he can reveal about the character without spoiling it for those who have been expectantly waiting for its release, but adds, "He watches the money. Whatever comes in, whatever goes out, he keeps an eye on it."
Surely, it must have been fun to act in a show that involved a motorcycle gang, I ventured. "I think it's one of the coolest shows I've ever been a part of," he says proudly. "To go to work and ride a motorcycle, I think that's super awesome. Usually, you go to work and you have a computer and a desk. I got to go, put on a leather jacket, and ride on a motorcycle!
"That's a pretty exciting day, don't you think?" he says. Being a big fan of motorcycles myself, I can't help but wholeheartedly agree.
However, I wondered aloud whether portraying such a rule required him to undergo any training. After all, riding one of those two-wheelers at break-neck speeds could not have been the safest thing in the world, despite how thrilling it may have feen. "Training for action stuff? No, no, no. We had a stunt coordinator on the show, so if something is too difficult for you to do, he takes over," he clarifies.
"I like to do stuff on my own. Nothing like Tom Cruise and stuff, however," he laughs. "Jumping out of airplanes and all that, no, no, no. That's too much, no, no, no. But I do like to get my hands dirty. I like to do stunts. Hit 100 mph on a motorcycle? Probably not. But the job we're doing is still dangerous, and we need to have the discipline to be able to do what we need to do and then allow the professionals to do their part."
While from the outside, 'Sons of Anarchy' may have seemed like a story about a group of outlaws who went about pillaging and looting everything in sight, the drama also explored themes of brotherhood, loyalty, vigilantism, government corruption, racism, and redemption. Antonio says because the two series share a common creator in Sutter, audiences can expect more of the same. "The world Kurt created continues with 'Mayans MC,' and you can expect some of the things you saw in the predecessor," he explained. "But you can also expect more because it's a different group of actors and this club is a different motorcycle club, though in a similar situation."
And while it's easy to paint these gang members in a negative light, more often than not, there is a level of public misconception over what constitutes these men and women. Antonio agrees. "These are some disenfranchised people trying to make their own way in the world," he insists. "They feel like they don't belong to society and that they cannot follow the norms of society, so they have to find their own way and do things their own way."
Antonio also addresses the fact that crime rates amongst these motorcycle gang members are startlingly high. "Yes, sometimes they will do questionable things," he continues. "I guess it involves a bit of corruption, maybe some criminology and some things like that, but in the end, they're just human beings trying to find their place in the world."
Since the news broke that 'Mayans MC' would follow-up on the popular 'Sons of Anarchy,' Sutter has proclaimed that the show needs to stand on its own without a heavy reliance on the latter. While he says that does not mean it will be devoid of any references, they will be few and far between because he wants to avoid previous storylines from getting in the way of new subplots.
Curious how the series will shape up to be and how it's explicitly different, I asked Antonio what fans can expect from the upcoming show. "I can tell you that it will be spicier," he says. "Because we have an entirely Hispanic cast, you can expect a little more salsa, a little more dancing. But I think it's up to the fans to see the differences. This is a motorcycle club that feels the same disenfranchisement as 'Sons of Anarchy,' and they're similarly trying to find their own place in the world. They have to deal with a lot of things, whether it's corruption, whether it's loyalty, or whether it's self-respect and other such subject matters."
What was unique about 'Sons of Anarchy' was that it had the advantage of having an insider perspective to give the series a more realistic sheen. Real-life Hell's Angel David Labrava served as a technical adviser and also played one of the main characters, Happy Lowman. Would 'Mayans MC' follow a similar formula? Antonio candidly admits he's unsure but is confident in his assertion that creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, and director/executive producer Norberto Barba will do the series justice.
Having worked on the sets of the show for what I assumed was months, there was surely someone the actor grew close to, I asked. Antonio immediately mentions Edward James, who will be playing the role of Felipe Reyes. The 71-year-old has been a pioneer for more diversified roles and images of Hispanics in Hollywood and the U.S media in general, and it's clear that Antonio holds him in reverence. "I've always admired Mr. Edward James," he says. "He's royalty in our industry and just to have him on our show is a beautiful thing. It's a joy to see him on set every day."
But Antonio ensures he doesn't forget to give a shoutout to his other colleagues as well. "We also had Emilio Rivera from the original 'Sons of Anarchy,' Danny Pino, and some young up and comers. It was pretty cool [to work on the show] and they were a great bunch of people."