Sons of Anarchy fans have been hoping for a spinoff for more than three years and today that moved closer to reality as FX ordered scripts for Mayans MC. During a 2014 panel at San Diego Comic-Con creator Kurt Sutter had said he wanted to let the mythology rest for a few years, but confirmed that he was at work on an idea focused on the Mayans, a recurring cast of supporting characters from a rival gang to the SoA.
He did also leave room for crossover, so some of the favorite SoA characters could show up (but not Jax, sorry, dead is dead):
“It’s the same [biker] subculture, but it’d be interesting to see the influences of [Hispanic] culture and how it impacts the subculture we already understand. I would do a contemporary piece, not a prequel, and place it far enough away from Northern California that it wouldn’t step on the mythology that’s already been told. It doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be some cool, ironic crossovers with familiar characters as the series progressed. I wouldn’t want to set it too close to the world we already know, and step on that … My intent is, over the hiatus I’ll initiate a script for the pilot and take it from there.”
Sutter may have been waiting for the right partner, which he seems to have found in director Elgin James. “I wanted to find a strong, unique Latino voice. Because I didn’t think a white guy from Jersey should be writing about Latin culture and traditions. Elgin is that voice.”
Variety named James one of their 10 Directors to Watch in 2011 for his debut film Little Birds, starring Juno Temple and Leslie Mann. And while Mayans will no doubt display his directorial talents it may be his unique background that sets the show apart.
James was bounced around in New England foster homes until he landed in the care of political activists, where seeing drug and alcohol abuse helped him form strong anti-substance beliefs. He became heavily involved in punk subculture it’s “straight edge” movement, which eschews mind-altering substances in favor of extreme self-control. Though first arrested at age 12 and sent to juvenile hall at 14, James still attained entrance to Antioch College to study pre-law. A gang fight soon left him with a serious brain injury.
Settling in Boston after his recovery, James helped found an anti-racist street gang to roust out embedded skinheads. He also played in local punk bands and used money robbed from drug dealers to make straight-edge propaganda films. In 2008 he was accepted to a fellowship with the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, which led to the production of Little Birds, a semi-autobiographical story of young people trapped by circumstances.
The film elicited strong, though divided reactions. James’ comment to the New York Daily News was simply, “My goal is to take the wreckage of my life and turn it into something beautiful. Hopefully, ‘Little Birds’ accomplishes that.”
During the production, James was arrested on previous charges and saw actors including Ed Harris and Robert Redford, the founder of the Sundance Institute, speak out on his behalf. While serving his prison sentence he was hired to write a screenplay for Brian Grazer and Universal. That film, Low Riders, is in post-production.
Little has been released about the Mayans series James and Sutter will oversee. FX calls it a dark, visceral family drama that takes a new look at the most American of icons, the 1% outlaw, this time reflected through a Latino lens.
In a time where diversity is a hot topic of conversation Latinos are still struggling to break Hollywood’s celluloid barrier. Stereotyped characters and whitewashed casting mean one of America’s largest minority populations is underserved on screen.
A 2014 report from Columbia University found that relative to the population Latino’s are avid consumers of media, spending more at the box office than any other ethnicity. While they form 17% of the population, in 2013 there were no Latino actors in leading roles on TV, though 3% of male supporting roles and 67% of female supporting roles were Latino.
Mayans may help impact those numbers. SoA ran for seasons and is the highest rated show in the network’s history, and judging by Twitter reactions fans are ready for more of Sutter’s magic:
@sutterink You've got built in fans. Waiting with great anticipation! Woot Woot
@sutterink I am excited to see any of your work!
— robin mcgowan (@teddy315317) May 11, 2016