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Why Mayans M.C. Season 3 (And Coco's Storyline) Mean So Much To Showrunner Elgin James

angel and EZ in the desert on Mayans MC season 3
(Image credit: fx press)

Spoilers below for Mayans M.C.'s double-episode Season 3 premiere, so be warned!

When Mayans M.C. returned to viewers for its long-awaited third season, it came without co-creator Kurt Sutter, whose planned exit was usurped by his eventual termination. Now, showrunner Elgin James is riding solo at the head of the creative pack as EZ, Bishop, Felipé, Miguel and so many other characters suffer through the aftermath of their violent acts at the end of Season 2. And fans can be absolutely sure that knows just how important this season is for Mayans M.C.'s future, with Richard Cabral's storyline as Coco standing out as a more personal tale for James to tell.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Elgin James after the battleground-setting Season 3 premiere aired, with some of that conversation is too spoilery to share now, and he talked about this being something of a make-or-break season for Mayans M.C. now that it's no longer living in the direct shadows of Kurt Sutter and Sons of Anarchy. To that end, James had the show's cast and crew go all out in case Season 4 doesn't come to fruition. In his words:

We knew this was our shot, this could possibly be our only shot ever. We don't know what the world's gonna think of the show, we just don't. We left it all out in the field. We knew that this was our shot, and we were all going to take it. I told everyone, 'I need you to bring it. This may never happen for us again.' I'm like, 'I want every scene to be like a heavyweight bout. If it's a love scene between the two of you, it should be like heavyweight bout. Everybody needs to bring it. In front of the camera, but definitely behind the camera.' And everybody has. Those actors went to places I never could even imagine. So yeah, we took our shot, and we'll see what the world thinks of it.

While Mayans M.C. will possibly always be compared to Sons of Anarchy to a certain extent, the follow-up series continues to set itself apart from the flagship drama, even as it builds upon connections to SAMCRO members in Season 3, which J.D. Pardo previously hyped as the best one yet. I'm as guilty of anyone viewing Pardo's journey as EZ through a Jax Teller-shaped prism, though without ever thinking the two characters are overtly similar in personality. It's hard to tell whether Mayans M.C. is working with an advantage, a disadvantage or otherwise by releasing at this point during the pandemic, considering TV audiences have been shifting so much, usually in negative directions.

For everyone who keeps tuning in, though, either on FX or on Hulu, Elgin James promises that Season 3 will bring a lot of reckoning for many Mayans M.C. characters, saying:

That's what happens, right? We all make horrible life decisions; I make and I've made terrible life decisions, so many terrible life decisions. And these are the repercussions that we finally get to watch. I mean, our guys have been making some pretty bad life decisions for the last couple seasons, but now the chickens come home to roost.

Viewers have already witnessed some of the mental toll that Edward James Olmos' Felipé is dealing with in the wake of EZ favor-murdering Dita, while Clayton Cardenas' Angel is using rebound sex to bury his sorrow regarding his child with Carla Baratta's Adelita. Danny Pino's Miguel is having his own emotional reaction to Dita's presumed suicide, which involves murdering anyone close to her who didn't see it coming, which is everyone, since she didn't actually kill herself. Then there's Michael Irby's Bishop, who is eagerly burning bridges before he even has time to cross them, and the list goes on and on. Which brings us to Coco...

coco scoring on meth mountain on mayans mc season 3

Why Coco's Story Is So Meaningful To Elgin James

In the first two seasons of Mayans M.C., Richard Cabral's Coco went from something resembling comic relief to one of the biker drama's most fractured characters. That dissolution is absolutely on full display in Season 3, too, as Coco is extremely deep in the throes of addiction to Oxycontin (among other things), which is affecting both his behavior and his physical appearance in pretty heinous ways. And it's through that character's twisted storyline that showrunner Elgin James is able to work out some of his most volatile personal demons, in part because he and Cabral have similarly dark pasts. James explained:

I've been saying this, it's like, Richie and I know things. We grew up on other sides of the country, but we both know what it's like to hear your mom being attacked when you're a little kid and there not being anything you can do about it. Right? We both know what it's like to grow up terrified. We both know what it's like to find yourself with your brothers in a gang to find a family, you know, to find safety on the street when you couldn't find it in your home. We both know what it's like to be in prison. So then to be able to tell these stories together, it's like, oh man. For me to be able to dump out whatever heartbreak, whatever, shame, whatever brokenness I have in me on the page, and then for the give it to all of them, each one of these vessels. So then you pour it into Richard, and where he takes Coco is something I could never even imagine.

To be sure, Coco came to some pretty overwhelming realizations in Season 2 that sent him down a drug-abusing path, though by the end of Episode 2, it didn't seem like he'd be able to go down any paths in the near future. Coco made the completely irrational choice to attempt a robbery from the assumed top dog within a drug community known as Meth Mountain. Nobody should be doing anything at Meth Mountain besides "getting the hell out," but Coco went and probably made himself a new set of enemies by trying to impulsively hijack a bunch of Oxy and other pills. Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures.

While Coco's storyline might come off as too much in another actor's hands, Richard Cabral really plays into Coco's depravity and addiction-fueled desperation in completely humorless ways, to the point where he's not even able to have functional shit-talking conversations with other members of the M.C. The actor was intent on bringing the authenticity to the performance, regardless of how likable Coco was throughout, and Cabral's dedication to the role in Season 3 actually had Elgin James worried about his health and safety. According to the showrunner:

You know, there's two things I asked Richie this season. One is private between the two of us, and the other one was just to stay alive. There are moments – I'm not even like being hyperbolic – that I was scared that he wouldn't actually stay alive. Like he went someplace really, really scary, and dangerous, and also incredible and it's all on the screen. He left it all out on the field. . . . In every scene, you're just like, 'Oh my god.' But there was one point where I was like, "Bro, lift up your shirt,' and it was terrifying, what I saw. I was just begging him to eat, I was begging him to eat. Yeah, he went someplace, because he knew [how important it was].

One can presumed that Coco isn't dragged into a swamp and eaten alive by cannibal meth-heads, but it'll be interesting to see how the character's suddenly hectic journey in Season 3 plays out, considering how far down the rabbit hole he already is with his pill fixations. Can he possibly make it over the hump and into a recovery state without Bishop or any of the other Mayans discovering his transgressions? I doubt it.

With a lot more mayhem and excitement on the way for the Reyes brothers and beyond, Mayans M.C. airs Tuesday nights on FX at 10:00 p.m. ET. It's probably time to start putting bets down on which main character will be the next one to be killed off.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.