It’s one thing learning to ride a bike. It’s another being part of a biker gang who thrive on beers, brawls and breaking the law.
Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014) and its spin-off little brother Mayans MC (2018-current) are burning rubber on the Showmax catalogue and they’re biker dramas that focus a bit… okay at least 30%… on bikes and a lot on the drama, action, fights, betrayals, code of honour and everything else you can imagine about chopper riders who’re tattooed and rough around the edges.
The original series follows Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), a second-generations member of SAMCRO (Sons Of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original) – his late dad founded the club and his stepdad Clay (Ron Perlman) is now president. Jax finds his dad’s manuscript recounting the formation of SAMCRO, what he saw it becoming (a crime gang) and more worryingly: that Clay and Jax’s mom Gemma (Katey Sagal) can’t be trusted.
Jax in Sons of Anarchy: “A real f***ing outlaw”
“I was drawn to Jax before I knew that. He has an amazing presence about him. When we talk about him, people often say they don’t make guys like that anymore. He was like an old-school outlaw, cowboy, f***ing badass gunslinger. But modern day, you know? A 22-year-old fearless kid,” explains Charlie.
The characters are based on real-life bikers, who the actors spent time with before filming. And like Jax, the real-life guys left a mark on Charlie.
“They used to say he [the unnamed guy Jax is based on] put his gun in his belt before he put his shoes on, like he was just a straight f***ing outlaw. He ended up getting killed the week before we started shooting. And so I got this necklace to wear as a memorial for him. But also the whole aesthetic of that character, literally Jax wears the jeans and the shoes he wore. I just thought I couldn’t find someone that would be more prototypically perfect than this kid. So I based everything on him.”
That tortured-soul personality drove Charlie in his portrayal of his conflicted character, revealing that by the end, Jax was part of him.
By day, Jax works at his family’s bike garage. On weekends, he’s a regular young man chasing booze and babes. But by night, he’s torn in two: the man he has become working for Clay and Gemma as a Son Of Anarchy, and the man his father wanted him to become.
That tortured-soul personality drove Charlie in his portrayal of his conflicted character, revealing that by the end, Jax was part of him. “I loved playing this guy for seven seasons. There’s going to be a moment of kind of depression and having to re-explore identity when it’s done. They’d let me onto the set [close to the end] and I’d just walk around at night because I wanted to be in that environment and go through a personal process of saying goodbye.”
Jax realises that as much as he has done bad things, bad things have been done to him. Unfair things. “Things that he needs and wants to get revenge for,” explains the actor. “I’ve had experiences with really tough guys and they’re totally gentlemen because there’s not very much to prove. There are real repercussions and you have to think really carefully before you think and before you act.”
EZ Reyes in Mayans MC: “Nobody is going to touch what Charlie did as Jax”
Mayans MC follows a similar storyline, set two years after Sons of Anarchy ends. It focuses on the Mayans Motorcycle Club, on-off allies of SAMCRO, and one of their prospects (a rookie biker who wants to join the club but goes through an “internship”).
“What’s attractive to me is that what’s planned for EZ, hopefully if we get to seven seasons like Sons, is that he’s a completely different person.” – JD Pardo, who plays EZ
“What’s important to us is that we don’t pretend to be Sons,” explains JD Pardo, who plays prospect EZ Reyes. “Nobody – nobody is going to touch what Charlie did as Jax. That was incredible. It’s a legendary character and one of the best I’ve ever seen on television. I don’t want to touch that. My challenge wasn’t to make a karaoke [cheap rip-off] of that. Karaoke is fun, but nobody cares for a karaoke version, right?”
There are similarities between the two, and fans of the original will find solace in the spin-off, adds the actor. Jax wanted revenge and to right the wrongs against his dead dad – but he had a very hands-on, in-your-face approach. EZ wants his dues for his family’s destruction and going “undercover” in the motorcycle gang is his way of getting there.
“EZ gets sponsored by the president of the Mayans. Jax didn’t need that. EZ’s journey is going to look a whole lot different. What’s attractive to me is that what’s planned for EZ, hopefully if we get to seven seasons like Sons, is that he’s a completely different person. Kind of how Jax was when Sons ended,” explains JD.