Kurt Sutter on How He’ll Make ‘Mayans MC’ Authentic: ‘Get The White Guy Out of the Room’

The outspoken Sutter also bristles at the idea that the "Sons of Anarchy" spin-off might dive too deep into current events: "I should not write political shows."
MAYANS MC -- Pictured: JD Pardo as EZ Reyes. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
"Mayans MC"
Prashant Gupta

“Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter’s latest series, “Mayans MC,” is a spin-off of sorts from his landmark FX series. But he hopes in time that the show will be measured on its own — and that’s why he admits, the quicker he gets out of the writers’ room, the better.

“My goal is really to get the white guy out of the room as quickly as possible,” he said Friday night at the ATX Television Festival. “I knew I wanted to do this project and I wanted to bring in a voice that was real and that was not a white guy.”

That’s where Elgin James and Noberto Barba come in. Barba is the director and executive producer, while James co-created the show with Sutter.

“I knew a white guy from Jersey shouldn’t be writing solely about the Latino culture,” Sutter said. “Even though it was in the world of motorcycle clubs, which I was very comfortable with and very familiar with. ‘Sons’ was about working class white guys. And even though I didn’t grow up in a motorcycle club, I grew up in a working-class white guy neighborhood. So I always felt I could honor that world and not be full of shit. For me, I knew I wanted to do [‘Mayans MC’] and I wanted to bring in a voice that was real and that was not a white guy.”

“Mayans MC” has been given a 10-episode first season order by FX, and focuses on the Mayans motorcycle club from “Sons of Anarchy.” The show features a predominantly Latino cast, and includes a focus on the drug trade along the U.S./Mexican border. It’s a bit timely, given the current political climate, but Sutter said he doesn’t consider it a “political show.”

“I do not write political shows, I should not write political shows,” said the notoriously outspoken writer. “But the same way ‘Sons’ was a fictitious club and family in a real world, the real world always impacted that show. The whole storyline with the white supremacist was based on the 45 percent uptick in white supremacy groups when Obama took office. We never mentioned that, it was never a story point, but that was the reality of that world.

“This is not a show that will deal head-on with those issues, but it is a show that takes place on the border, and it’s a politically charged and emotionally charged part of the world,” he added. “That stuff will have to bleed into the storytelling or it won’t be authentic.”

As for Sutter’s role on the show, he said he’s focused on making the “transition from the mythology that myself and a lot of talented people spent seven years creating and honor that. Because we want to acknowledge where we came from, and those fans. And then balance that with having a show that’s original and different and doesn’t feel like a show that is the Latino version of ‘Sons of Anarchy.’

“So it’s my job to creatively handle that balance and then so that the Mayans can become what its supposed to become. ‘Sons’ will always be there, but it will no longer be the show that came from ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ it will be its own thing.”

The writer behind creating that new world is co-executive producer James, who first made a name for himself in Boston by creating a multi-ethnic street gang that targeted neo-Nazi skinheads and drug dealers — before turning to filmmaking.

“I met with Elgin and I don’t mean to speak out of school here, but ethnically Elgin represents a little bit of everybody in this audience,” Sutter said. “And I love that. And also if you know anything about Elgin, he’s the real deal. He understands the mind of an outlaw and he understands survival. And any other writer that I met with couldn’t hold a candle to any of that stuff. A lot of writers who come in and say they know the life are full of shit. This guy knows the life.”

Sutter also called Elgin “the smartest person in the room. If there’s any secret to my success, it’s that I just hire people who are smarter and more talented than I am. And that is definitely the case of Elgin and Noberto.”

Edward James Olmos, JD Pardo, Sarah Bolger, Clayton Cardenas, Richard Cabral, Michael Irby, Raoul Trujillo, Antonio Jaramillo and Carla Baratta star in “Mayans MC.”

“The thing I love about this cast, and I say this with such pride, is a good deal of my cast has more jail time than screen time,” Sutter said. “I gotta tell you, it’s a different fucking energy on set. To show up with these guys who know in their hearts that they shouldn’t be there, they should be someplace else and doing something else. And the level of gratitude and love on this set is beautiful.”

“Mayans MC” will premiere on FX later in 2018.

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