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‘Mayans M.C.’ Star J.D. Pardo Talks Us Through A Series Finale More Shattering Than ‘Sons Of Anarchy’

(Obviously, spoilers will be found in this finale post-mortem interview, so don’t yell at me, man.)

Mayhem (even the equivalent of Mr. Mayhem from Sons Of Anarchy) was to be expected to make a final visit in the Mayans M.C. finale. I recently stated the obvious (while noting the death of Hope) and declaring, “[O]ne can expect any final season in this universe to go down with several gut-wrenching, ultra-jarring deaths.” And we sure got them. The final act went down with merciless execution that felt fated to happen.

Heck, the flagship FX series ended with Jax Teller driving straight into a Mack Truck, so it stands to reason that J.D. Pardo’s EZ probably wouldn’t get out alive, either. Of course, this had to happen in a novel way, and it did, with Bishop receiving the tip-off that EZ was “the rat.” So, the club had won the war against the Sons Samdino chapter, and the Mayans patched in Nestor. Everyone was cheering and happy, and the sh*t hit the proverbial fan when Bishop turned on a dime against EZ. The Mayans took turns (and even Angel was forced to go there) stabbing EZ (RIP), and later, as Bishop sat at the head of the table again, the ATF descended upon the building. This was an intense few minutes. I assume that none of the members got out alive, other than Angel, who we later see at the beach with his M.C. tattoos covered up.

Who else made it out alive? Not too many from the original ensemble, but Alvarez and Letty (good news) and Potter (bad news) lived and overall, this finale’s body count was huge. It was a little jarring to witness, especially after how quickly the mood switched during EZ’s death scene. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up, perhaps too many for a finale, but fortunately, J.D. Pardo was once again willing to help me cope with the fallout as a viewer.

J.D. hopped on the phone with me prior to the start of the SAG/AFTRA strike due to last-minute technical difficulties that prevented Zooming, and that’s probably for the best. After all, my habitual ice-breaker of donning a Sons Of Anarchy tank when Zooming with an actor from this franchise (Clayton Cardenas, Charlie Hunnam) would not have been the smartest move this season after the war between clubs.

Heyyy Kimberly.

Hi J.D. Oh, it sounds like one of my dogs says hello, too.

Oh, tell your dog I said hello!

She loves that biker drama. And thank you for doing this with a strike about to be called at any hour, it must be chaotic.

You are welcome. Thanks for having me.

Of course, we are talking because I watched the finale.

Ooooh, what did you think?

My mouth was hanging open for several minutes after it was over. I need a little therapy session, if you don’t mind.

Ahhh yes… too bad we have to do this over the phone then.

Before I forget to mention this: the last time we talked, we were joking around about who you would like as a guest from Sons Of Anarchy, and you thought, even though it wasn’t possible, that Jax would be perfect. Yet in the penultimate episode, you got the next best thing: Wendy. That was a really beautiful scene.

Oh thank you so much. It was great to have her. It felt good. Anytime an actor from the Sons would come onto set, it felt great, and it elevated us, we were all very excited about it. And I was very excited to have that scene with Wendy because of her history and her relationship with Jax. I just thought, especially for the audience, it was gonna be so cool for them to see Wendy and EZ together, and her sort-of talking about life.

Now, about that finale and your death scene. I felt like EZ maybe sacrificed himself for Angel by not fighting death. I also couldn’t tell if he was relieved that it was his time to go, so that was why he was smiling?

You know, that’s an interesting take on it. For me, it was that EZ has known for a long time that death was coming for him. And it wasn’t a matter of if, it was just a matter of when. And for this season with EZ, it was sort-of this ticking clock. Could he finish what he started before he’s killed? There were moments in there that I wanted to sprinkle in, which were moments of “I know I’m gonna die, it’s coming, but like, maybe it doesn’t have to? Maybe there’s hope. Maybe I can be out of this.”

I’m pretty sure that EZ was doomed all along, for sure.

Even with that scene with Creeper, when EZ has Creeper killed inside prison, it wasn’t a moment of “let me see if I can, you know, not meet my end, let me see if I can sort-of get ahead of this, and they won’t discover me, and I won’t die.” It was truly a moment of “EZ loved Creeper, and he loved Creeper all the way through.” It wasn’t anything about hate. It was that EZ, which we all know, is so driven to finish his mission. And his mission was to put that Mayans on top. To finish Isaac. To put themselves above the Sons, and nothing, not not another Mayan, was going to get ahead of that and prevent that from happening. So for us, that end scene with EZ was just the realization, that was where the smile came from. “Oh, it’s now. Death is coming now.” It was something that EZ welcomed because we discussed, many times, Elgin [James] and I, that EZ died when his mother died.

What you just said reminds me of a tweet, which you retweeted, that I was going to bring up. A Mr. “SadCowboysFan,” wrote this: “[T]he kid in Ezekiel died in the meat shop with his mother.”

Yes!

And “He grew up in prison and the man Ezekiel died with Gaby and all that was left was EZ, Mayan.” That person nailed it.

They did, and I was like, “Oh finally, someone hit the nail right on the head.” That’s exactly what happened with EZ. And it was sort-of my secret, throughout all of it: EZ looks forward to death. So, it’s something that we really discovered and talked about. It’s why EZ runs into the fights and doesn’t run away from them. It’s why he can throw his body into a gunfight because he welcomes it. He wants to. Because at the end of the day, death is where he’ll have peace because he’ll be with his mother. And there are these moments where he can feel that way. He can think about that and be okay with it, but I think that what scares us all, is that even if you’re okay with death, is the physical act of death gonna be painful? And I that’s where some of his fear came from is that “it’s scary, is it gonna hurt?” And then going into “how is it gonna come?” And so yeah, in that moment, it’s just, “Oh, it’s right now, and I’m ready.”

And that’s such a contrast from earlier, when EZ killed Isaac Packer, who was crawling along the sidewalk and attempting to escape. He pleaded, “I’m not ready. This can’t be it,” or something to that effect.

Right, exactly. It is the exact opposite of that, and it shows you that one was ready for death, and the other wasn’t.

Another thing about that scene. I was struck by them being in the alley, and EZ shooting Isaac, and there were all these cars driving by in the immediate background like nothing was out of the ordinary.

Right, right! [Laughs]

I once asked Clayton [Cardenas] about that sort of thing, like when EZ killed Gaby, and the police simply didn’t show up, and Clayton had a spot-on response about how that’s just the life that they lead.

Right. And you know what I loved about those moments is that sometimes, it almost felt like all of this was happening in a world of its own, right?

That also says a lot about life, in and of itself.

Like all these things would happen, and life was moving on, with those cars in the background, and here’s this scene between Isaac and EZ and the shooting, the killing. And it’s almost as if the world is not disturbed, and in a weird way, I really love that. It just shows, so much of this is intimate, and it really felt like… this war, between these two clubs, is very serious and very big, and yet, in the whole grand scheme of it all, it’s very minor.

Alright, so what did you think about Bishop making that dig before his turn at stabbing EZ? He said something like, “You’re not the only one who reads Shakespeare, motherf*cker.” That’s possibly the most brutal thing about that scene. It clawed so deep.

Yeah, I think there were two parts to that. Like me, as J.D., when I heard that, I was like, “Awww, I just wanna pick you and start rag-dolling you all over the set.” Because it is, it’s a very spiteful thing to say. Especially after he’s been stabbed. But you know, that’s the story, and that’s Bishop. And that’s how Bishop feels. And he’s gonna make a dig at EZ before he stabs him, and at this point, EZ was gonna get hit with all of it. Elgin had this point where he wanted my body to fall, if you think about a few episodes prior where Felipe and EZ are in the church, and they’re staring up at the cross of Jesus. And that’s really, in a way, EZ looking at his own death. Looking at himself. And Elgin really wanted to make sure that after EZ got stabbed, that he fell with his arms out like the position of Jesus on the cross. And so, in that moment, these characters are stabbing him, and Bishop says something, and EZ’s taking all of it. All of the consequences, all of the love from his brother, and betrayal from others and anger from Bishop, he’s taking all of it. He’s soaking all of it in.

Do you think that people are going to see a Jax reference, too? You’ve been very upfront about pointing out that Jax and EZ are nearly opposites of each other, but do you think people will think about Jax driving into a truck with his arms in the shape of a cross, too?

I’m sure some people will pick up on that. And that’s awesome. Listen, I love that stuff, and when I pick up on things, and I see it, and I can tie it into another piece or another element, that excites me. I feel like I’m a part of this club that knows something that others don’t. And that’s the beauty of what we do. Everybody has their own interpretation, and for those that pick that up, that’s awesome, and I love it.

The fandom seems much more united than other groups that can be toxic. Most fans of Mayans are really fans.

Yeah, it’s really great. I love the social media interaction, you know, and hearing all of it from people. Whether it’s love, support, or hate. Whatever it is, I will tap into that, and I know a lot of it is about playing and interaction, so I’ll play with them. I’ll go in there and play and say things and get their reaction from it, and it’s just all a part of the fandom. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, and even the ones who want to hate on it, you know, they’re hating on it, but they still watch it.

Also, you directed an episode for the first time this season. I don’t know how you balanced that with your heavy load this season already.

You know, it was heavy. I don’t think that I got any sleep during that time with everything that I was doing. And I was in so much pain from the stunt scenes before and after, but I love it. I love all of it. And I think that what I learned… you know, as an actor, you can become very selfish, and rightfully so, you have to be with your character because that’s what you’re responsible for. As a director, you’re responsible for all of it, and I found myself in this space of really being a champion for everybody, all the actors, and wanting to help them to be at their best. And so, as a director, to listen to all the departments and having them take ownership of their department and give their feedback of what they think should happen — they’re all masters. I was surrounded by masters, so I just really want to take it all in. I absolutely love storytelling, and that’s what directing is. You’re telling the story.

‘Mayans M.C.’s full five seasons aired on FX and can now be streamed on Hulu.