Editor’s note: The following includes major spoilers for Season 4 of Mayans MC
After the war with the Sons and war amongst themselves, the loss of club members, the fracturing of relationships, shocking revelations, and shifting dynamics, the Season 4 finale of Mayans MC left scorched earth in its wake and an uncertain future for Santo Padre. EZ Reyes (JD Pardo) and his brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas) will have to figure out how to move on and move forward, and decide where their individual paths will ultimately lead them.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Cardenas talked about Angel’s journey in Season 4, what it was like to lose a cast member with the departure of Richard Cabral, and how Angel processes all the death around him. He also spoke about what he thinks of EZ’s shocking actions, the effects of becoming a father, and what that final moment of the finale could mean, going forward.
Collider: I was emotionally damaged by this finale. I’m now rooting for Angel to just go pick up EZ’s dog and take his son, and then meet up with Marcus Alvarez and his family, and they can all just ride off somewhere else together.
CLAYTON CARDENAS: Let’s just start a Latino version of The Brady Bunch. That’s a whole spinoff. I like that. I like where your head is at.
That will be the Mayans sitcom.
CARDENAS: That’s rad.
Looking back on this season as a whole, it really feels like Angel is the character who’s gone through the most growth. Do you feel that way? What’s it been like for you to take this journey with him?
CARDENAS: From the inception of this show, I was not fully aware. I’m sure the creators and writers were aware, but as the actor, I personally was not fully aware of the arc or where it was heading. I feel like Angel and EZ are both on these trajectories towards their final destination, in a sense. If I was an audience member, I would appreciate this arc of Angel, 100%, to see the “bad boy” gone good. That story is always compelling and endearing and cute. People want to see that. Honestly, this season, I feel like we are seeing the dominant characteristics of Angel and EZ, from a small age. Angel always needed to be loved. From a little boy, he always felt like the lesser than son. He always had EZ’s cloud over him. EZ was always doing so well, and Angel never lived up to expectations, if there were any.
With EZ, EZ has always needed to feel in control and feel empowered. We’re finally seeing these two characters, heading over the hilltop and down the slope to who they’re both supposed to be. From an audience point of view, that’s really cool. That’s the type of TV I want to watch. That’s the type of TV I’m going to come back every week to see because I kind of know what they’re going to do next, but I do not know where they’re headed next. That’s where the money’s at. That’s amazing writing. That’s amazing TV. And by the way, that’s because of Elgin James. I’m happy to see Elgin feel more empowered. I’m happy to see the inside of Elgin James’ mind even more. That’s the really cool thing for me.
And sometimes terrifying.
CARDENAS: Yeah, either / or. It’s a fine line.
The finale episode starts off at Coco’s funeral, which was such an emotionally complex storyline this season. What is that like to not only say goodbye to that character – who’s been there from the beginning – but to also say goodbye to Richard Cabral? What was that funeral like to shoot, as a character, but also just to experience, as an actor?
CARDENAS: As a character, it obviously hurts. A lot of people are equating this to the loss of Opie on Sons and, respectively, it should be. It should be held in the same regard. Coco was somebody that was there from the beginning of Mayans. It was a pivotal character, and he leaned into a lot of different characters’ storylines, so it hurt. It definitely affects our club. It definitely affects power in our club. It definitely affects respect in our club. He was such a respected and feared member that, if we brought him to certain situations, other clubs or other people would definitely fear him, which was always needed within our club. So, it hurts. It hurts to lose a brother. It hurts to lose a comrade. But in this world, that’s not as uncommon as you would think. Losing somebody comes with the territory. In blood and war, that’s what happens in this life.
Now, from a personal perspective, it hurts dearly. It was not planned. It was not something that we all knew was going to happen. There are a variety of reasons why it did happen. I’m not familiar with all of them, but there are reasons why. Richard has been a friend of mine before I even started on TV. I met him in 2013 at Anthony Gilardi Acting Studio. I saw him and I recognized him, and I told him that I was a fan of his. We quickly became friends, and he helped me navigate through the industry. And then, you start growing at different paces. That’s life. That’s normal. So, it sucks to lose a friend. It sucks to lose somebody who I knew from the inception of my career. My first two shows were with Richard Cabral. My very first series was John Ridley’s American Crime on ABC, and we were brothers. And then, the next show that I booked was Mayans MC, again with Richard Cabral. I do not know life without him, as a friend and as an artist. Obviously, it hurts. I wish him the best. I know he’ll always go on to do great things and be successful. It comes with the territory, unfortunately.
There’s been a lot of death this season, from the war with the Sons to Angel’s unborn child, to Coco, to Gaby, to the people that Angel has directly been responsible for killing. Is all of this weighing on Angel? How does he feel, at this point, being surrounded by so much death and being the cause of some of it himself?
CARDENAS: I know it sounds callous to say, but I do not think death really affects him as much as you would think. Death comes with the game that we’re playing. Death isn’t as abnormal as one would think. I think what’s affecting Angel the most is having a tangible family and something to go home to, all the time, and to touch and to feel. At the same time, that’s not involved with the club. It’s these human beings that are outside of that life, that he’s coming home to and that are loving to him. They do not know him as anything other than the baby’s dad and a father. That’s something separate.
The most surprising thing for him is seeing his brother’s ascension into this power and his callousness for life. He’s covering up these horrible decisions. He is using club bylaws and brotherhood to excuse his behavior. Angel is like, “Woah, what is this? Who are you? “That’s the most surprising thing, in all of this. That’s the most hurtful. That’s what’s most foreign to him right now. Trying to navigate having to deal with his brother in this club, and then also having to deal with this life outside of the club, he’s starting to lean more into this family. Maybe he’s envisioning a life that’s far away from the club.
Is it possible that’s why what EZ did to Angel seems to be affecting him more?
CARDENAS: A hundred percent. What surprises him is this callousness towards f — ing humanity. He’s like, “What you’re doing is serial killer-like. You are so intelligent, but you have such a carelessness for human life. That’s serial killer [behavior]. ” The death of Gaby and not caring about Canche’s son, last season, that’s what’s most surprising. Him being this renegade and not caring about anybody, that’s not who he thought his brother was. That’s not who he remembered his brother to be.
This season has been a real rollercoaster for Angel, from thinking that his child was dead, to then Nails being pregnant and the miscarriage, to Leticia, to finding out that his son is actually alive. Has the reality of all of that sunken-in yet for Angel? Up until now, it was just the possibility of what becoming a father could mean, but now he actually has this child that he can hold.
CARDENAS: The episode that best encapsulates that roller coaster is episode seven. That wider range of up and down emotions was in episode seven. As we’re moving into episode 10 and beyond, he’s becoming single-minded on exactly what he wants, exactly what he needs, and exactly what he needs to do. We’ll see what happens.
As the actor, you’re essentially the guardian of your character. How did you feel about some of the decisions that he made this season? As the audience, it’s hard to get on board with him being with Coco’s daughter while Nails is having a miscarriage, and then him coming back and asking what she did. What was your reaction to all of that?
CARDENAS: As an actor, I year for that. Some actors do not like doing that. Some actors want the audience to view them in a certain light, and they want to stay there, as an actor. If I can make you love me, hate me, want to sleep with me, want to spit on me, want me to meet your mom, and want to murder me, I feel like I’m doing my job. That is something, in my career, that I will always yearn for. I hate playing one note, or even two notes. I love keeping you on the edge of your seat. As an actor, I love that.
Elgin and I had a conversation before the season, regarding a lot of things that you saw. He asked me, “Hey, how do you feel about this?” Right away, I was like, “No, the audience will hate me.” He was like, “I do not know, man.” He said a bunch of other poetic [stuff] to me that I did not listen to after he told me this thing that I disagreed with. But I sat on it for a day, and I was like, “You’re right. Elgin, you’re right. And shame on me, for even disagreeing with you, in the moment. ”
Elgin, our amazing showrunner, writer, and director, is phenomenal. He is poetry in a human being if ever anyone could be. So, I had to let go and let Elgin be. He knew exactly what was going to happen, and how the audience would hate, love, [or] hate and love. That’s where, as an artist and as an actor, you want to keep your fan base. That’s just as the actor, Clayton. As Angel, that was such a journey for him. It was almost this bipolar feeling he was running through. I always feel sympathy for him and empathy too. If you know Angel’s past, you wouldn’t really be judging what he’s doing, currently. You would have more of an understanding. That’s what I hope came across, as Angel and as Clayton, the actor.
Especially after the last moment in the finale, with the drug warehouse being burned down, where do you see things going next? What are the repercussions of that? How do things move forward?
CARDENAS: I do not see how it does move forward. That was their last lifeline, this heroin from Galindo. I do not see how they move forward from this. I will say this, if you know the Santo Padre Mayans, they’re from the scraps. They always survive. They’re the freaking scum that you just can not get rid of, whatever you do. Whether you want to burn them, try to clean them out, or try to eviscerate them, somehow you can not. They’re so strong to their core that they will always last. I do not know how they do it. I do not know who takes leadership. Somebody could surprise you, out of this group. One could be the leader now, but someone that you think is at the bottom of the barrel could be the leader, next week. I admire the strength in this unit. I admire the strength in this club. I admire the strength in Santo Padre. I guess you have to keep watching.
Which is why I’ll come back to my campaign for the Mayans sitcom with Angel and Marcus.
CARDENAS: If you want to put out a press release for it, I’m down for that.
Mayans MC airs on FX and is available to stream at Hulu.