LOS ANGELES – Emilio Rivera says “Sons of Anarchy” changed his life.
Before the hit series landed on his resume, he was a utilitarian actor, appearing on more television shows than most people can name.
Then “Sons” creator Kurt Sutter cast him as Marcus Alvarez, president of the Mayans M.C. Oakland Charter, and his fortunes changed. “It made it a lot easier for me to get work,” the 58-year-old says.
Now one of the few actors to turn up in the spinoff, “Mayans M.C.,” Rivera gets a chance to see what life is like off the bike. As a key figure in the Galindo drug cartel, he’s wearing suits and enjoying a bit of the good life.
“It’s different, but I’m digging it,” he says. “He’s cooler with a suit.”
In the first season, Alvarez was concerned with bringing EZ Reyes, a one-time golden boy, into the motorcycle club. At the end of the season, he chose the cartel over the club, which could spell big problems for the character.
In real life, Rivera says, his old “Sons” buddies were happy he landed a recurring role in the spinoff. “They said it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” He smiles.
At various comic conventions, he says, he’ll see his former castmates and, yes, they do ask about the new series.
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Both shows have a lot in common, Rivera says. “The only difference is the brotherhood happened much sooner with ‘Mayans’ than it did with ‘Sons.’ We became a family in the first season.”
Because it had the built-in interest created by “Sons,” “Mayans” didn’t seem as intense as the original show. “There was pressure,” he says. “But we didn’t start (from scratch).”
Because Sutter had such clear cut vision for “Sons,” Rivera didn’t worry about its prospects. “I knew it was going to run,” he says. “You know why, man? There hadn’t been a show like that. When I was a kid, when the bikers would come down the road, my mom would say, ‘Oh, look at them!’ You didn’t know what they were going to do. But now (with ‘Sons’), you could actually see how they lived – in the safety of your own home. Like ‘The Sopranos,’ I knew it was going to be a hit. It’s just ‘Sopranos’ on wheels.”
Now playing many of his scenes with Danny Pino and Sarah Bolger (as the first couple of the Galindo drug cartel), Rivera says it’s like being in the theater. “Their way of working is a trip, man. It’s like going to a master class.”
With the “Sons” co-stars, it was like being in a fraternity. “(I’ve) never been to college but that’s what it seems like. Everybody’s playing around and then they say, ‘action,’ and we get real.”
Most of the “Sons” cast reunited in June for the wedding of Mark Boone Junior, who played Bobby Munson.
“I was invited, but I wasn’t able to attend because I had to be at something else,” Rivera says.
Too busy? That’s what happens, the Texas native says, when you’re on something as popular as “Sons of Anarchy” AND “The Mayans M.C.”