Landing the lead role in FX's big Sons of Anarchy spinoff had to be a daunting one for actor JD Pardo, previously best known for Revolution and East Los High. In taking the part of Mayans M.C.'s EZ Reyes, Pardo was essentially being set up for and endless line of comparisons to Charlie Hunnam's Sons of Anarchy badass Jax Teller. The actor doesn't take the responsibility lightly, and aims to respect Jax's legacy without any carbon copy performances.
The Mayans M.C. star spoke with CinemaBlend during the Television Critics Association's 2019 summer press tour, and I asked JD Pardo if he thought EZ was filling his own boots this season, as opposed to walking in someone else's. The actor's answer:
I believe that I have started to. I believe I've started that now. Look, nobody...nobody...is gonna touch Jax. Nobody is. What Charlie Hunnam did with Jax was incredible. At least for me, it's a legendary television character, and probably one of the best roles that Charlie Hunnam has ever taken. So in my awareness of that, and my respect for that, I didn't want to touch it. What I wanted to do, I had to find an in, and my challenge was, how do I not make a karaoke version of Jax? Nobody likes...I mean, karaoke's fun, but you know, nobody cares for a karaoke version, right?
His point is entirely germane, even for anyone out there who self-identifies as a karaoke fanatic. There are lots of songs out there that comprise all the right elements for a killer karaoke performance, but that doesn't necessitate an audience of listeners who readily want to hear only the amateur version. There's generally a reason why big-named entertainers rake in the moolah, while second- and third-rate singers are relegated to bars and shower stalls.
Also, is everyone else also now picturing Charlie Hunnam and JD Pardo facing off in a literal karaoke contest? Perhaps with each singing Curtis Stigers' "This Life," which served as the Sons of Anarchy theme song.
Moving away from the musical side of things, JD Pardo spoke to how he was able to approach the role of EZ Reyes from a different place than where Charlie Hunnam was coming from when entering Jax Teller's life. Pardo sees EZ's life as perhaps a part of Jax's history that went unseen on Sons of Anarchy's TV show, given its lack of flashbacks. Here's how the Mayans M.C. star put it:
When I compared the two, I saw that Sons, for me, was a bit more like a fantasy television show. In that your lead was already the VP, he was already the prince in this kingdom. He got the girls. Almost like no worries to start off, and it was just strictly club business. What I love about EZ is that EZ wasn't a part of the world. His life was supposed to be something completely different. When you look at Jax, right from Episode 1 he's a VP, and you wonder, 'Okay, he seems very confident. But was he always that confident? How did he start? He didn't just start as the VP, so how was he brought up?' I think what the audience really relates to is that here's a character in EZ that wasn't supposed to be a part of it, but decides he's gonna be a part of it, and he's surviving through it.
With his time on Mayans M.C., JD Pardo aims to give viewers an insight into how how hard certain club members, especially those with dark skeletons in their closets, have to work in order to rise up the ranks. The prospect life is not just about washing and waxing Bishop's bike, or making sure the clubhouse is cleaned up. (As much as those things can suck in general.) It's about EZ proving both to his brothers and to himself that he's got what it takes to wear the Mayans cut, among other goals.
JD Pardo spoke to that point in our conversation, saying that Season 2 is where EZ gets to really start proving himself to the MC, without Kevin Jimenez's DEA agent on his back anymore. Sure, Lincoln Potter's chaos is no doubt imminent, but he won't specifically be EZ's biggest headache, so the younger Reyes brother will have time to think about getting back in Angel's good graces as they unravel their mother's murder. Here's Pardo talking about EZ's journey, and his hopes for it.
In Season 2, he's still a prospect, but he's a true prospect. It's not one foot in, one foot out. He says no, this is my life. I'm gonna go forward. I have my sponsor now, who's the President of the M.C. And what does that journey look like? What does he learn on the way? What's attractive to me is, hopefully we'll go seven seasons, and then people are just blown away by who he is in Season 6 and Season 7, and people are like, 'Man, you gotta watch Season 1 and 2, because he wasn't like that.' That's what I love.
JD Pardo was definitely referring to Charlie Hunnam's Jax Teller there, at least in part. Even though Jax was already the Vice President of SAMCRO whenever Sons of Anarchy started, and even though he was led by Ron Perlman's less-than-virtuous Clay Morrow, he was only a shadow of what he would become. Jax was more of an organized criminal in those early days, and only later (d)evolved into someone capable of permanently clipping the family tree's most poisoned branches.
In contrast, EZ has only gotten his feet wet within the Mayans' criminal dealings. (Granted, they're completely soaked and bloated and will never be dry again.) So fans will get to watch his complete immersion into the club life, and that's exactly the kind of thing that JD Pardo is excited to dive into with Mayans M.C. In his words:
So what I want to do is, I too want to create a legendary television character, but in my own way, from the dirt. Because that's where I feel like EZ is from. He's from the dirt, he's from the street. He's surviving using his mind. He's using everything that he can, his physicality, to become this animal. And just taking the audience on a ride.
It's a ride that a lot of audience members are pumped to go on, too. Mayans M.C. earned some solid ratings in its first season, often doubling its viewership numbers when going from Live + Same Day stats to Live + 3 and Live +7 tallies. It was often a top performer in cable in delayed viewing, and its live airings were also in the Top 5 cable telecasts for each night new episodes went live. And if Mayans is anything like Sons of Anarchy, that crowd is only going to get bigger with each season.
Tune in to watch JD Pardo's EZ Reyes continue making his mark on Mayans M.C. when Season 2 kicks off on FX on (Teller) Tuesday, September 3, at 10:00 p.m. ET. While waiting, check out what another Mayans M.C. star had to say about filling the shoes of former Sons of Anarchy characters.