On the FX drama Sons of Anarchy, Emilio Rivera stars as Marcus Alvarez, the Founder of the Mayan Motorcycle Club, and the President of its Oakland Charter. This season, the Mayans and the Sons are getting tighter than ever, running drugs for a Mexican Cartel and having to rely on each other to survive by battling common enemies.
During a recent interview to talk about Season 4 of the popular series, actor Emilio Rivera talked about his surprise with the direction his character is taking, that he hopes his character will get to stay alive for awhile longer, how things will get crazier and crazier throughout the rest of the season, that the show is one of the best things he’s ever done in his life, and that he recently did an episode of The Mentalist and has a number of films coming out. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: Because Alvarez started as quite an adversary for the Sons, were you surprised at how much they’re working together now? Were you surprised at the direction the character is taking, and might take in the future?
EMILIO RIVERA: (Show creator) Kurt [Sutter] is a really smart man and he follows what’s going on in the outside world and incorporates it to the Sons of Anarchy world. He keeps it pretty tight. It wasn’t really a far-fetched thing. I was hoping it would happen that way, so I could probably stay alive longer. I hate it when I get in trouble with the Sons because I don’t know if they’re going to put a bullet in my head or what. But, right now, as long as we’re friends, I think I’ll be alive, so I’ll see what happens. I’m happy we’re friends, though. We’re sure stronger as a team, like that.
Will viewers continue to see the friendship between the Mayans and SAMCRO?
RIVERA: I hope so. I really don’t know how they’re going to go with it, but I hope so because, as long as we’re friends, I hope to stay alive longer, unless one of them takes me out. It’s cool because I know that when I’m working with them, as actors, I get to hang out with [Ron] Perlman and Charlie [Hunnam]. It’s really cool.
Are there going to be any more consequences for the Sons or your gang?
RIVERA: Yes, starting from last week and through the rest of the season, it just gets crazier and crazier and crazier for me. I think this is the best season of all and, from here on out, you don’t want to miss nothing. You can’t miss anything because it’s just going to be crazy. It’s a crazy ride.
Will you be getting revenge on who shot you?
RIVERA: I can’t say.
With your history with SAMCRO going back a long way, was Alvarez approached by Clay (Ron Perlman) to kill John Teller?
RIVERA: I can’t say. I can’t say nothing about none of that, when we talk about the show. I love my job too much. I’ll just plead the fifth on that one.
Has anything been particularly challenging for you this season?
RIVERA: No. I appreciate the work. I eat it up. Give me whatever you want to give me because it just gives me more stuff to do. I get to go to different places in my memory bank, and I dig it. I love it. I’m glad Kurt gave me the opportunity to do some things this year, and we’ll see what happens. I don’t know how the season’s going to end and I’m just hoping I stay alive. I don’t know if I got picked up in the fifth season, so I’m hoping I’m around for the fifth season.
Having done a lot of different projects in your career, what’s it been like to stay with a character and one show for four years now?
RIVERA: I love it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s really great. The fans are great. I ride motorcycles, so I do a lot of events, and the fans give us a lot of love. I’m having a great time, I really am.
How did you prepare for this specific character?
RIVERA: It’s like I go into this little mode. I do it with anything I do, and once I’m in, I stay there until they say, “Cut.” I’m a sociable guy, but when it comes to work, when I’m on set, I just become him. I feel I’m him. He’s not really much of a joker, but I am. I like to kid around, and Alvarez is more like a serious business type guy. And then, when they say, “Cut,” it’s time to go home. I don’t have to say much, then I can have fun again, like I usually like to do. I’ve just played this guy for a long time. He’s easy to get to now because I’ve been doing it for so long, and I’m digging him. For that, I went back somewhere in my life. I don’t want to say where I went, but it was somewhere in my life, where I was this guy. You go to different things in your life. He’s hard, but he’s got a heart.
Is it true that you auditioned for another character before being cast as Alvarez?
RIVERA: No, in the original pilot, I was actually a character named Hawk. I was a Sons guy, but the role because Tig later on, which went to Kim Coates.
How has playing Alvarez changed your personal views?
RIVERA: As far as the biker world, I really got into it more. I have a lot of respect for the bikers, which I’ve always had. I didn’t really pay attention to them because they’re just always around, but now I really see what they’re about, and they’re really no joke. They’re not going to be taken lightly. I like what they do for the people. Just don’t cross them. Just like anybody, they’re really out there just to have fun, to enjoy themselves, and to share a comradery. They do a lot for the people, but just don’t mess with them, or like in the show, you’ll face the consequences.
Did you learn to ride for the show, or did you already know how to ride?
RIVERA: I’ve been riding for 36 years. I started when I was 14-years-old. I was one of those crazy guys, riding wheelies up and down the streets, all the time. I love riding. It’s in my blood.
What kind of motorcycle do you ride?
RIVERA: I have a few. I have a Deluxe, all choppered out. It’s pretty gangster. Then, I have a Heritage soft tail, made 1940s style. And, I just had a new one built for the show, that’s a Road King. It’s a real pretty bike. I ride five days out of the week. In fact, I take my bike as much as I can, especially with L.A. traffic. You want to get in and out, all the time.
Do real bikers ever come up to you and talk to you about the show?
RIVERA: All the time, bro. Before the show started, I hung out with real bikers, anyway. I had a lot of biker friends, and even more so now. Everybody loves the character. They love the show. Everybody’s trying to put in their own ideas of what we should do and what we shouldn’t do, but pretty much everybody loves the show. It’s good, and it’s good that we have the real guys digging the show because then you’re doing something right.
What is the chemistry like between actors, on and off set?
RIVERA: It’s like a brotherhood. On screen, we have to pretend we hate each other, or dislike each other, or don’t want to talk or listen to each other, but off camera, it’s just one big happy family. We hang out off the show and we play cards together and go have dinner together. It’s really a good time. We can talk about some of our own problems that we have as friends, which is nice. We see each other as friends, but also as co-workers. They’ve got stuff to say, even from life experiences, so it’s a little bit of something from everybody. It’s really nice.
Are there any traits that you share with Alvarez, or is there a major difference between the two of you?
RIVERA: He is very serious, and I like to have fun. I joke around a lot. You can’t mess with Alvarez, as you can mess with Emilio. He loves his family. Every time things go down, he’s always saying, “Go take care of my family.” He watches his family, and that’s the way I am with my family. It’s family first, all the time.
Have you learned anything by playing this character, or is there any part of this experience that you’ll take with you, through the rest of your career?
RIVERA: He’s a tough guy, and I’ve played tough guys, pretty much all of my career. He’s a different guy, though. What I like about him is that he’s always in control. You have not seen Alvarez lose control once, if you think about it. Sometimes he wants to, but he holds it in. I love Alvarez. He’ll be with me, for the rest of my life. As long as I ride motorcycles, which God willing is another 50 years, I’ll always have Alvarez in my heart. I’m hoping for 10 seasons of Sons of Anarchy.
Did you always want to be an actor?
RIVERA: Yes, since I was a kid, but then I got side-tracked with gangs and drugs for a long time, so that really put a big hold on me. But, the stuff I learned from the streets, I carry on to what I do nowadays. What you see up there is really real stuff that I draw from, that couldn’t be taught in school, but I learned it in my upbringing, which I don’t approve of. I don’t say, “Go do this and that, to do what I do.” It’s stupid, but that was the way it worked out for me. I get to put it up on the screen now.
Even though you’ve been acting for years, do you still get nervous when you walk onto a new set?
RIVERA: I still get nervous Sons. I hope I never lose that. That’s the whole fun part of it. I did stage for many years before I did the TV and film thing, and to me, that’s my high. When they say that the camera is rolling and my stomach is going and I get into it, then I’m not nervous no more. But, before I go on, I’m always nervous, and I hope I never lose that. That’s my high. I really dig it.
What are some of the things that you had to change about yourself to make your dreams come true?
RIVERA: For me, I have 21 years, clean and sober. I know that, if I was still doing what I did before, I would never do what I’m doing now because I wouldn’t really listen to anybody. I thought nobody could tell me what to do. I was just a hard-headed guy. I got clean and sober, 21 years ago. That, for me, was a big plus, in doing what I do right now.
Do you have any other roles coming up?
RIVERA: I sure do. Actually, I just did an episode of The Mentalist on CBS. And then, I’ve got about seven movies coming out, and I’m working on three right now. It’s been crazy. The show has done so much for me. Some of this stuff was already booked, but it’s good stuff. I’ve got four movies that open next year. I’m not a serious regular on the show, so I’m able to book stuff in between Sons.
What do you think the key is to working so much?
RIVERA: I always try to go in prepared and am nice to everybody. You’ve got to hang out with these people 12-14 hours. And, a lot of times, work just brings you more work, especially in a small circle. I worked with Kurt [Sutter] before on The Shield. If I look back on my resume, a lot of work has been with people like Spike Lee and Steven Soderbergh. It’s all been with the same people, over and over again, or people that they know, so it’s cool.