Mayans M.C. was in the works as a Sons of Anarchy spinoff for years before it finally premiered on September 4, and all signs already point towards the spinoff honoring the original series' legacy while still going in its own direction in a whole new location. The first episode only featured a couple of cameos, and Mayans will be able to stand on its own even for viewers who may not know everything there is to know about Sons. The first episode as it aired is actually the product of an entirely reshot pilot with a number of original cast members replaced.
Well, in all honesty, it was a little daunting. Especially because he was the president, so as we speak about loyalty, we talk about those things, there was already some connections that were made. There was already some loyalty that was earned and garnered, and to come in as the new pres, it definitely, I felt like there was a bit of a testing ground. Not in a bad way, not in a negative way, but I definitely felt like I needed to kind of win the boys over so they can all get behind me and I can get behind them. They had already been deep into their relationships. Not clique-y, not in a negative way. I could see that I was being welcomed. But it wasn't without eyes on me, wondering, 'Is this guy the right guy?' In a great way.
When Michael Irby joined the cast of Mayans M.C. for the second pilot, he wasn't stepping in to play a background biker or henchman. He was playing Bishop, who is the president of a club with close bonds, some of blood and some of earned brotherhood. The group of actors who had been together for the first pilot with John Ortiz playing the president had already developed connections and a dynamic. Naturally, another actor playing a tweaked version of the character couldn't just slide into Ortiz's position and the relationships Ortiz had earned. For Irby, needing to earn the loyalty and trust of the rest of the cast was a good thing.
Mayans M.C. might not have worked if the cast couldn't 100% sell the tight bond and investment between the men in the club, and that's not necessarily something that actors can just manufacture with each other. Michael Irby had work to do to fit in as the president of the club, and his co-stars were waiting to see whether or not he would be a good fit. This was clearly a positive for Irby and the cast, as viewers could tell in the footage that has aired so far. The Mayans feel like brothers who have been through hell and back together. They may not always get along, but there's a deep bond there. It feels like family.
Michael Irby went on in our chat to say this about the results of his efforts to earn the loyalty of his fellow stars:
When you step into a situation like that, where you feel like you've got to prove yourself, some people crumble and some people step up. I believe now any of these boys would go into the fight with me and I would go into the fight with them. It's been a beautiful relationship. They're all my brothers now. But I think that was the hardest thing in the beginning. And it was probably my own thing, it was nothing they were doing. When you go and start playing on a new team, you know as an athlete that these guys need to trust you and believe in you also.
The bond between the Mayans is now strong behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera. Even if the prospect of stepping into an established group to play their president was daunting at first to Michael Irby, he was able to build a beautiful relationship with the other stars. The connection and loyalty between the actors can only serve to make the show more believable as these men go through the fire for each other. We can undoubtedly look forward to even more of the bond being showcased as the first season of Mayans M.C. progresses.
Naturally, viewers may wonder how Michael Irby's Bishop differs from the Mayans president originally set to be played by John Ortiz. When I asked if Irby was told how the character had changed that he was a better fit for the reformed role, he had this to say:
Yes, I was told. I love the actor who played the original president, I think he's amazing. I don't know how much the character changed. I believe the dialogue was maybe the same, but they knew that I had a lot of military-type training, a lot of military-type shows, and I know they wanted to make Bishop have that task, which is going to play out as you see in leading these men down these different avenues of life. So I wasn't really told why, but through some different interviews that I've read, between Kurt [Sutter] and different press, I started to understand more why it was. They just needed a little bit more edge and a little bit more aggressive kind of tendencies. And I like to fight. It's kind of been my deal as a kid even, as a soccer player. I don't like to lose, for better or for worse. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes that's a bad thing, but I just know they needed a little bit more edge and I gave it to 'em. Even though I'm a sweetheart, I can play badass.
As an actor with credits on shows like The Unit, Taken, True Detective, and SEAL Team, Michael Irby certainly went into Mayans M.C. knowing how to tackle militaristic roles that are heavy on the action as well as the acting. Given that Bishop is a veteran as well as a president, Irby should be uniquely qualified to deliver the ideal performance to bring Bishop to life. Is he exactly the same as Bishop in real life? No. But that's not a bad thing, especially considering some of the lines Bishop will be crossing on Mayans M.C.!