From co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, the FX series Mayans M.C. is the next chapter in the Sons of Anarchy saga, now set in a post-Jax Teller world. Fresh out of prison and trying to carve out a new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with big dreams, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo) is trying to navigate what it means to be a prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the California/Mexico border. While figuring out what the next step in his life can be, EZ is torn between his struggling but lawful father (Edward James Olmos), his brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas), who is a full patch member of the M.C., and his childhood sweetheart Emily (Sarah Bolger), who seems to have moved on without him.
While at the FX portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with Irish actress Sarah Bolger about bringing a strong female energy to this M.C. world, how exciting it is to get to play a woman who is a power player herself, how she most connects to her character, what it’s like for Emily to have EZ back in her life now, working with JD Pardo to develop the history between their characters, and having to both get the American accent down and learn Spanish. She also talked about the wide variety of characters she’s been lucky enough to play, as well as what she remembers of her experience making the never-aired Fox pilot for Locke & Key (which is now going to series at Netflix), back in 2011.
Collider: I’ve seen the first two episodes of this, and I was very happy to see some bad-ass female energy on this show.
SARAH BOLGER: I know! Isn’t it great?! And it’s a strong female energy. In terms of ratio, we are outnumbered by men, but in terms of story, it’s an equal playing field. Kurt Sutter writes phenomenal female characters, and Elgin James and Kurt, as a duo, have just written the most dynamic, intriguing, intense characters that I could ever imagine being able to play.
On a show like this, you can’t just be the girlfriend or the wife and actually survive. You have to be more than that.
BOLGER: Absolutely! And we’re not. One of the wonderful things, even from the audition, is that these characters were not written as, “Emily Thomas, girlfriend of,” “Emily Thomas, wife of,” or “Emily Thomas, love interest.” It was, “Emily Thomas, power player.” These are women who are not necessarily attached to anyone. Their story points are their own, and that is incredible. That makes me so proud to be a part of this piece.
Why do you think it’s taken her this long to start to ask questions about what’s going on, in her own life? Why does she want more control of her situation now?
BOLGER: Eight years ago, the love of her life, the person who she thought was going to be the man she would end up with, went to jail. He ruined everything, in her eyes. He messed up everything they had planned. So, when you meet her eight years later, she has to command her own life. The choices she’s now making define her, but define a woman she never thought she’d be. She ends up surrounding herself with people who probably are nothing like the relationship she had before, and who are polar opposite, in terms of demeanor, in terms of power, in terms of financial, and in terms of future. I think she has to erase the past. She has to make choices to secure a future for herself, even though it’s not the woman she ever thought she’d be. I think Emily is creating her new self, as we meet her, and she’s figuring that out, like we all are. It’s going to be a really rocky, beautiful journey.
She also seems like she’s wanted to live in the dark a little bit.
BOLGER: Absolutely! I think we all do that.
But then, you also can’t un-know what you’re made aware of.
BOLGER: I think ignorance is bliss, in a lot of unique scenarios, and Emily’s scenario is unique enough that she’s been told it’s safer to be in the dark. But the thing about Emily is that she’s too bright. She needs information. She craves it. What was maybe romantic or sexy about not knowing the ins and outs is now so much a part of her world. Her world has crashed apart and she needs to know everything. She can no longer be in the dark, she can no longer be naïve, she’s no longer an ingenue. She’s like, “Give me the information and let me deal with that.” That’s the woman she is, innately.
It seems like this world and this character would feel very foreign to you. Especially early on, what did you find yourself connecting with?
BOLGER: I started acting when I was really young. I came to the States and didn’t know anyone, and I spoke with a weird Irish accent. And Emily moved to this Southern California Mexican border town, where she doesn’t speak Spanish, she doesn’t know anyone, she’s super pale, and she doesn’t fit in. You have to change yourself and be a little bit of a chameleon. She learned Spanish. I learned to speak with an American accent. You decide to change yourself so that you can blend in, feel local, and feel a part of something. I, Sarah Bolger, have been a constant nomad, my entire life. I think Emily moved around a lot, and when she settled, it was important to her to feel involved. She was so connected to EZ because of his familial bonds. She probably came from something a little bit more cold and distant.
Emily also feels like she could be an only child.
BOLGER: Exactly! Not that that has been decided on, but I do believe that’s true.
What’s it like to work with a veteran like Edward James Olmos?
BOLGER: He’s incredible. He’s the father Emily never had. He’s such a warm actor. He has this deep baritone to his voice that’s really quite lovely. It’s amazing that she still has this relationship with her ex’s family. She probably feels more connected to his family than anyone.
It wasn’t his father’s fault that all of this happened.
BOLGER: It’s no one’s fault. That’s the thing. Those things are never really anyone’s fault. You get thrown into the wrong situation, and it’s a plethora of things.