While Kurt Sutter has envisioned expansions for the Sons of Anarchy world, he was not without reservations when it came to setting Mayans MC in that same universe because of the pressure it would come with.
"There's always hesitations because you don't want it to suck," Sutter told Xfinity at San Diego Comic Con last month.
Sutter said it helped to bring in Elgin James, a former gang leader who established a music and film career after a stint in prison, to provide the show with another voice.
"The idea of transitioning from one mythology to the next is my responsibility and bringing in Elgin to co-create it with me, to really allows it to have another voice other than my own, I think that allows it to be its own thing," Sutter explained. "So I'm not worried about so much about it ultimately feeling derivative or familiar."
Mayans MC is the first TV series James has worked on. He previously directed the 2011 film Little Birds, starring Juno Temple, and wrote the 2016 film Lowriders with Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker.
As a relative newcomer, James has felt the pressure of working in the Sons of Anarchy world.
"It was a terrifying sandbox to play in," James told Xfinity. "There's a lot of pressure."
However, James understands that Sutter has given him and actors Richard Cabral and Joseph Raymond Lucero an unprecedented chance to tell their stories.
"What's great about it is what Kurt's given — the opportunity for people like me and Richard Cabral, Joseph Lucero, people who were in gangs, were in prison. We can tell our story for the first time," James explained. "This is our summons from the inside out and the outside in. So yeah, there are a lot of responsibilities."
During the Television Critics Association press tour panel on Friday, James said Mayans MC has given him the opportunity to explore the "damage" inside himself.
"I do know that I have these stories that I have to tell," James told reporters. "I have this damage inside me that I have to get out. And I don't want any nice people who are worried about what I'm going to do for society to tell me I can't tell my story."
During the same panel, Sutter said it was important to bring James in to help create nuanced characters who felt authentic.
“I was very aware that a white guy from Jersey shouldn’t be writing a show solely that takes place in a Latino subculture and it’s not because it wasn’t politically correct. It was about what made the most sense creatively," Sutter explained.1comments
Mayans MC picks up about three years after the events of Sons of Anarchy and stars J.D. Pardo as Ezekiel "EZ" Reyes. Edward James Olmos, Jacqueline Obradors, Sarah Bolger, Emilio Rivera and Danny Pino also star.