Few of us have ever been in a Latino motorcycle club, it seems.
Fewer have shot a person, much less dismembered one. Even fewer have killed with our bare hands.
Then why is it that we easily relate to “Mayans M.C.,” which starts its second season Tuesday?
It’s all about “the things we didn’t get,” said Kurt Sutter, the show’s co-creator, “whether it’s love, camaraderie or brotherhood or justice.”
At 59, Sutter does seem like someone who got everything. He’s done three series – producing “Shield,” creating “Sons of Anarchy” and co-creating its spin-off, “Mayans”; each has drawn strong ratings and (despite brutality) favorable reviews. He’s been married to TV star Katey Sagal for 15 years.
Still, Sutter said, he relates to outsiders. “I grew up on the outside. (I) was forced to live inside my own head for most of my youth, and it’s not a really comfortable place to live.”
He’s talked in the past about being an obese New Jersey kid, 5-foot-10, close to 400 pounds. He lacked friends or a close relationship with his mom (who became an alcoholic when he was in his teens) or dad. He spent a lot of time in the basement, watching TV and fantasizing action-adventure.
In college, he changed everything around (including his weight) and started the slow path from actor to teacher to writer-producer. And to create “Mayans” with him, he met Elgin James, a multi-racial guy who had experienced the action life Sutter has merely fantasized.
James was arrested at 12 and sent to juvenile hall at 14. He lost a chance to go to college when he was severely beaten on the head with a baseball bat … and almost lost a chance to write the movie “Lowriders,” when he was sent to prison for blackmailing a white supremacist.
He’s been a gang member and a Hollywood writer-producer. Even now, James said, he’s an outsider. “In the Fox building, I felt so uncomfortable. I felt so weird. I was going past everyone in their cubbyholes and felt like I was going to be asked to leave. Or they thought I was going to steal something.”
That can be useful, Sutter told him, if it makes you feel like the outsiders you’re writing about. “He’s like, ‘Bro, you just gotta own that (crap).’ I’m like, ‘I don’t ever want to feel comfortable there.’”
So they created a world of outsiders. EZ Reyes (JD Pardo, shown here), the central character, is an ex-con and a probationary member of the motorcycle club. He’s close to no one; his brother is feuding with him, his dad has dark secrets, his ex-girlfriend is married to the cartel leader.
Even she and her husband feel like outsiders, actress Sarah Bolger said. “They are in a marriage in the most dangerous business in the world, trying to keep a family together.”
Often, this business leads to violence, which upsets some viewers. “It’s uncomfortable to watch sometimes,” Sutter said. “And it’s not being portrayed by pretty white people.”
Well … there are some pretty people involved. “I don’t even like sitting next to JD Pardo, because he is so damn good-looking,” James said.
As played by Pardo, EZ looks like a movie star … and acts like an outsider, desperate to fit into this brutal biker world.
— “Mayans M.C.,” 10 p.m. Tuesdays, FX
— Season-opener, Sept. 3, reruns at 11:17 p.m. and 12:35 a.m.; also, latenight Saturday (technically, Sunday morning) at 12:30 a.m.