‘Mayans MC’ Creators on Giving Latinos a Platform on TV – Albeit a Criminal One

TCA 2018: “I have this damage inside of me that I have to get out” says co-creator Elgin James

'Mayans MC' on FX

“Mayans M.C.” co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James addressed their reason for using the all-too-common trope of depicting Latinos as gang members on television.

“It’s something that I said that I never want to do once I became an artist, and then realizing that it was exactly what I have to do as an artist as opposed to pretending it doesn’t exist,” said co-creator Elgin James, who said he grew up in a world rife with gangs and violence. “I have this damage inside me that I have to get out.”

The “Sons of Anarchy” spinoff follows Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo), who is fresh out of prison and a prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the California/Mexico border. Now, EZ must carve out his new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with the American Dream in his grasp.

“The stories I like to tell and the characters I like to create are damaged, right? And they live outside of the parameters of perhaps the norm or what is expected,” said Sutter. “As a result of that, there is a rogue component, an outlaw component. And obviously that’s the case here, right? But I never write these guys or these women from a point of view of them being dangerous or bad. I write them from the idea that they’re human beings with complex feelings, complex external pressures and complex relationships.”

James added that, for the crew, this is a story that hit very close to home.

“A lot of the people on ‘Mayans M.C.,’ both in front of the camera and behind the camera, actually grew up in the cycle of poverty and violence and then incarceration,” he said, adding that as a kid all he saw were “one-dimensional” depictions of people of color on TV, especially ones who become criminals. “This is the first time we can tell our own stories from the inside out.”

He also doesn’t care if people consider the show good or bad for society, arguing that he’s just telling his own personal truth.

“I don’t want any nice people, who worry about what I’m going to do for society, to tell me that I can’t tell my story,” he continued. “I don’t write stories for society. I make art for the consumers that society rejects.”