With a resume of credits that includes legendary pop culture films and television projects including Blade Runner, Stand & Deliver, Miami Vice, and Battlestar Galactica (to name a few), it’s clear that legendary actor Edward James Olmos has an eye for choosing not just the right roles, but also for choosing impactful work. The fact that he’s involved with Mayans MC, the Sons of Anarchy spinoff that focuses on the Reapers rivals/allies, says a lot about the quality and substance of the series. Mr. Olmos actually confirmed this when we spoke with him about his character on the show and what drew him to the project. He revealed his hopes for the series, his deeper thoughts on the state of Latinos in TV and film, and what it’s like telling emotional stories about the unexplored universe of biker gangs.
‘LL: Mr. Olmos, it’s a real privilege to be able to chat with you. As we start things off, can you share your thoughts about Mayans MC and how you got involved with the project?
I think this is a very powerful piece of work. Now it can be very dark at times and it is certainly not for everyone; but if you were a fan of Sons of Anarchy, then this is going to be better. As far as what drew to me to the series, one big factor was getting the opportunity to work with [Executive Producer] Kurt Sutter, who I am a big fan of. This project is really one-of-a-kind and there is not a role in my past that I can really compare it to.
‘LL:Speaking of the role, can you share a little bit about who you’ll be playing?
I play Felipe Reyes, the father of two of the members in the Mayans MC. In the first season, you’ll find out a little bit about me and I’m sure they’ll expose even more as we get into the following seasons. I basically play the patriarch of the family. It’s pretty intense all of the time and an emotionally driven piece of work.
‘LL:Sons Of Anarchy obviously has a pretty big fan base. Would you say Mayans is similar in tone?
There is a lot of motorcycle action for sure, but there are also a lot of human and emotional elements that will definitely appeal to both males and females. It’s going to be interesting to watch it grow and see if people latch on to it. It’s definitely a world that has never been explored before.
‘LL:What about behind-the-scenes? Have you been able to gel well with the writers and your fellow actors?
There are some really strong performers in this and it has a very strong story line. The writing is very well done. Mayans is all very story-driven and I’m very grateful to be a part of these stories. In my opinion, this material will be one of the most memorable of the new TV season.
‘LL:The fact that Mayans is led by a Latino cast also makes it a standout of the season. Do you feel like we’ve made a lot of progress on film and TV since you began your career?
I still think we have a long way to go, but I’m grateful that we’ve been able to sustain and continue moving forward. We are over 20 percent of the U.S. population, yet we’re less than 4 percent of the images that you see on film and television. African-Americans are 12 percent of the population and hold 17 percent of the images we see on film and TV. So you see the disparity between the two groups. The Asian-American and indigenous people are even further behind than we are. Unfortunately, it’s still very hard.
We certainly applaud the work that Edward James Olmos has done to further that progress and are excited to see this new project come to life. Mayans MC debuts on FX September 4th and you can keep up with all of his happenings by visiting the official Edward James Olmos website.