After last night’s finale, “Mayans MC” has just wrapped up its third season on FX. But if you’ve been watching the series since the beginning, you know that Season 3 is a milestone for ‘Mayans,’ as it shed its “Sons of Anarchy” spinoff title and became something…else. Something much better. And a lot of that praise is due to Elgin James taking over the sole showrunning duties.
James recently sat down for an extended interview on The Playlist Podcast, where he talked about the massive changes that happened in Season 3 of “Mayans MC” and goes deep into his overall goals for the series now that co-creator Kurt Sutter is no longer involved with the production. And since we also share a common love of punk, hardcore, and the straight edge movement, we also talk quite a bit about how that culture has affected his storytelling in “Mayans.”
A spinoff of “Sons of Anarchy,” “Mayans MC” recently wrapped up its third season and tells the story of a Southern California Latino motorcycle club that deals with all the drama of being outlaws combined with the family trauma from their home lives. And Season 3 ends with quite a cliffhanger. An ending that James joked about not knowing how to recover from.
James said, “If you have any idea how I can get out of [the cliffhanger], give me a text or slide into my DMs because we’ll have to figure it out. [Laughs]”
As mentioned, Season 3 is the first with James as sole showrunner and it’s a huge departure in nearly every way from the first two outings. The filmmaker said he wanted to go big because he thought, “We had our one shot [with Season 3].”
And he ended his one shot in a way that is going to make fans absolutely desperate to know what happens next. It’s a bold move to not offer complete closure, and in the interview, I mention that it shows his storytelling “integrity.”
“It’s integrity or it’s another ‘i’ word—oh, ignorance! Maybe it was that! [laughs]” joked James.
Whatever ‘I’ word it is, the storytelling in Season 3 points to James’ upbringing and the effect that punk rock has on his life as a child. It gave him the motivation and honesty that has been a hallmark of his work in film and TV.
“Punk rock, that’s my culture,” he explained. “It wasn’t until ‘Mayans’ when people started calling me a Latino filmmaker. I’m just like, ‘Wait, that’s just one part of my 23andMe.’ In that way, I’m also an Irish filmmaker, an African-American filmmaker. They just try to put you in this box.”
He continued, “And growing up, being mixed, no one accepted me. I was too light. I was too dark. I don’t speak Spanish. I was always an outsider. It wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 and I first discovered punk rock and hardcore, and I’m like, ‘This is my culture!’ That’s who I am. I’m a punk rock filmmaker. That’ll always be me.”
But as you might expect, it wasn’t always cool for a punk rock guy living with 4 other people in a Boston apartment to obsess over auteur filmmaking. And in his younger days, he had to keep that auteur love to himself.
“I discovered Terrence Malick because ‘Thin Red Line’ had just come out,” he explained. “It was this whole private thing for me. And I’d think, ‘Those are the stories I want to tell. I want to be a storyteller. I want to make movies.’”
Of course, that love of film didn’t immediately pay off. It wasn’t until much later in life that he was able to make the bold decision to pack up and leave his life on the East coast and move to LA.
“I was in my mid-30s. I was a loser. I was in a gang. At that point, there were five of us living in a house. I had nothing,” he explained. “And I was like, ‘I have nothing to lose. I’m going to go do this.’ I didn’t make my first film until I was 40. Then I went to prison.”
For more on his life and how he got to become the showrunner of an FX series, you can hear my full interview with Elgin James below:
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