From co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, the FX series Mayans M.C. is the next chapter in the Sons of Anarchy saga, now set in a post-Jax Teller world. Fresh out of prison and trying to carve out a new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with big dreams, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo) is trying to navigate what it means to be a Prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the California/Mexico border. While figuring out what the next step in his life can be, EZ is torn between his struggling but lawful father (Edward James Olmos), his brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas), who is a full patch member of the M.C., and his childhood sweetheart Emily (Sarah Bolger), who seems to have moved on without him.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Michael Irby (who plays Bishop, President of the Mayans M.C. Santo Padre Charter and cousin of Founder and National President Marcus Alvarez) talked about being excited to get the opportunity to be a Mayan, why Bishop is a beautiful character, working with and learning from Emilio Rivera, who was originally on Sons of Anarchy, putting on his M.C. cut, what makes working with this cast so special, and how he can hold his head up and be proud to be exactly who he is.
Collider: When this came your way, was there immediate interest from you, or were you hesitant about, how this show would live separately from Sons of Anarchy?
MICHAEL IRBY: I don’t think about those things. I don’t think about how something is gonna connect or not. The character is beautiful. When you’re fishing, you have no idea what’s out there. You just bait your hook, make sure your knot is tight, and you put it in the water. Sometimes acting is a lot like fishing. When I got the call for this, I was nothing but excited. When the opportunity to be a Mayan came up, after watching Sons and knowing the whole magic of what Sons was, it wasn’t until after I got the job that we were like, “Wow, I wonder how the fans of Sons are going to react to the Mayans, with our whole political climate.” At the end of the day, I’m responsible to my craft, I’m responsible to my Gods, and I’m responsible to my family. As far as what people think of the Mayans, I’m not responsible for that. We’re not role models. Maybe Michael Irby is a role model because I pursued my dreams and my career, and I went out and succeeded. That is a story of perseverance. But I don’t know if Bishop is a role model. I’d like to hang out and drink whisky with him, but I don’t know if he’s a role model.
He’s the guy you’d want at your back.
IRBY: Totally! You definitely want him at your back. You don’t want him in your face. Bishop is all about the brotherhood, at the end of the day, and his relationship with his cousin, Marcus Alvarez. Family plays such an important part in this show, and I think that’s gonna resonate. In the Latino culture, it’s all about family. That’s how I grew up. My grandmother lived two houses down the road. My tía lived in the house next door. It was all about family. I moved all the way to New York, and my mother told me that it broke her heart. I didn’t realize that. I knew that, but I never really recognized that the family is what it’s about.
If you’re going to join this show, there’s no better way to do it than being connected to Marcus Alvarez. What’s it like to have Emilio Rivera around, especially knowing that he’s the bridge between the two shows?
IRBY: I get to learn from him, not only in his way, but I get to learn all the stories of Sons. After I got this, I binged Sons and was like, “Wow, this is so Shakespeare and leather and motorcycles. Oh, my god, I would die to play this part!” For the character of Bishop, it’s frustrating because he can’t really spread his own wings and go his own way. He knows there’s loyalty connected to that. That also creates a safe space for him to flex that muscle and learn who he is, as a human being. Watching all of the Mayans, we’re all still in that process of learning who we are as human beings. His character saved my life, without question. If he didn’t tell him to come up to northern Cali and live with him and his family, Bishop would probably be dead. There’s so much that he owes to him for that, that he could never turn his back on him, even if he’s asking him to walk down the alley of knives and guns and blades. He knows that he’s doing it for the right reasons. That’s their relationship, and I think you’re gonna see it play out, throughout the season.
At the same time, as the head of this M.C., how hard is it going to be for him to learn that all of these guys have secrets that he’s not aware of?
IRBY: I’ve gotta tell you, I really hope Bishop never finds out because I don’t think any good could come from it. But at the end of the day, it’s family. You’ve seen that mother who loves her son, even though he’s committed murder, and you’ve seen that father who still has his son or his daughter’s back, even though they could be on the street because of drugs. That love you have for family, be it unconditional, sometimes lets you look past things. It’s gonna take a re-building process to earn his trust and loyalty again, but I don’t think it has to end in murder.