J.D. Pardo talks the Mayans M.C. season 5 premiere and why EZ is focused on "survival at all costs."

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Mayans M.C. season 5, episodes 1 and 2, "I Hear the Train A-Comin'" and "Lord Help My Poor Soul."

Turns out being el presidente isn't as easy as EZ Reyes thought.

In tonight's two-episode premiere of Mayans M.C., we see that EZ (J.D. Pardo) is still scrambling to save his club from extinction, and his biker brothers are beginning to lose faith. Last season, someone set fire to a giant warehouse of heroin that the club was going to sell, and now cartel queen Soledad (Selene Luna) is icing the Mayans out of the drug trade. The timing couldn't be worse: With no source of income and no protection, the club is even more vulnerable to attack from the Sons of Anarchy San Bernardino chapter, led by the maniacal Isaac Packer (JR Bourne). This leads to the attempted murder of the Mayans' incarcerated brother, Creeper (Joseph Raymond Lucero) — which, by the way, was facilitated by a gang made up of corrupt corrections officials and cops called Iron War.

As their list of enemies continues to grow, the Mayans — including EZ's brother, Angel (Clayton Cardenas) — can't help but doubt if EZ was right to go to war with the Sons. And even after Iron War thug Cole (Branton Box) threatens Angel and his baby son, Maverick, EZ doubles down on his aggression, vowing to take on Soledad and the club's longtime cartel foe, Miguel Galindo (Danny Pino). Explains Pardo, "At that point what he's faced with is, do I continue to question myself and start finding a way out of this, or do I just step on that gas pedal and go even harder? And that's what we're going to see EZ do."

Once you've watched both episodes, read on for more from Pardo about why EZ is taking such an aggressive approach, whether meeting his nephew will make him think twice about all the potential bloodshed, and how his ego might be clouding his judgment.

“MAYANS M.C.” -- "I Hear The Train A-Comin" -- Season 5, Episode 1 (Airs May 24) Pictured (L-R): Clayton Cardenas as Angel Reyes, JD Pardo as EZ Reyes, Michael Irby as Obispo "Bishop" Losa, Frankie Loyal as Hank "Tranq" Loza. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
J.D. Pardo (center) in 'Mayans M.C.'
| Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Things are not going well for EZ right now. He's clearly putting on a brave face, but the club is starting to doubt his leadership. How will this affect him going forward?

J.D. PARDO: It's definitely affecting everyone. EZ is in control of the Mayans and he has a great plan — or he had a great plan until someone burned down the warehouse, you know? There's really only so much you can do when you have saboteurs in your midst. But what I love about EZ is that [when] something blows up in his face, he just turns and goes another way. He doesn't stop. He sees the goal. I go back to EZ's experience in prison: When it comes to survival, there is no good or bad, or right or wrong. There's only survival. So EZ has this mentality of "We're in a war, we are going to win the war, and that's all I'm focused on. And yes, we're going to have casualties, but we will get there." EZ really takes the punches and just waits for that one moment to take the club to the top.

Nestor gives him a copy of On War by Carl von Clausewitz. Were you familiar with that book?

I started to go through the book when it was given to me. It's very interesting because it speaks to EZ in a lot of ways, and I believe he finds comfort in that material. It goes to leadership, right? It's like, "This is going to hurt everybody, but I will will fix it. You might not understand it, but we're going to get through it." I feel like that's where EZ is as a leader, and it really rubs people the wrong way. There is a time where it has to be democratic, and everybody has to have a vote. But there's an element to it where he's like, "I only trust myself, and everyone is freaking out and getting emotional about all this stuff. I'm not going to get emotional. I'm gonna win."

Clausewitz wrote that military campaigns could only be planned up to a point, and that leaders must be able to make smart decisions under pressure due to ever-changing circumstances. This seems to be EZ's approach, even though the club doesn't love it.

Yeah, they don't. The funny thing is, it even goes back to last season, when they oust [Emilio Rivera's] Alvarez. It's because they're about to enter war. And when you are going to enter a war, you have to have a certain mentality, and if your [focus] isn't on winning and survival at all costs, then what's the point? So there is this element to EZ where he believes they're going to get on top, and that's all his focus is on. It's very scary. It's one thing for everyone in that group to say, "We choose war, we want to go to war, we want to fight for our brothers." But do you really know what you're saying? You're saying that we are all willing to sacrifice ourselves to win.

That's what makes EZ special. There's almost a disregard for his own life, you know? He's willing to take the hits, he's willing to sacrifice his life and himself, because he's not at peace. He just wants to make sure that the Mayans are on top and that they survive and that his brother is okay.

Speaking of Angel, in the premiere he surprises EZ with the news that he's an uncle. Angel wants EZ to realize that he has family to live for beyond the club. How will meeting his nephew, Maverick, affect EZ's outlook on waging this war?

It definitely creates conflict within him, because it's easier to fight when you have almost nothing to lose. It's the person that has nothing to lose and who is also willing to give up everything that will win. And to the other point [about having a plan], even Mike Tyson said it famously: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Plans go out the window, and then you just fight.

That's the mode that EZ's in, and when his brother shows EZ his nephew, it triggers him. EZ wanted a family. The two loves of his life are Angel, his brother, and Emily [played by Sarah Bolger]. And as we've seen by now, in season 5, he really doesn't get over that. That was his first life, that was the dream. So just the presence of his nephew creates this conflict within EZ, and the question is, is it going to make him pull back or is it going to add more fuel into his drive to protect this family?

MAYANS M.C. Season 5, Episode 1 - Clayton Cardenas as Angel Reyes, JD Pardo as EZ Reyes, Michael Irby as Obispo "Bishop" Losa
Clayton Cardenas, J.D. Pardo, and Michael Irby in 'Mayans M.C.'
| Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Based on what happens in the second episode, it seems like he's taking the latter approach. Angel calls an emergency meeting of the Mayans after Cole breaks into his house and warns that bad things will happen to his family if the club doesn't stop trying to take back the drug pipeline. Yet EZ's response is to double down and say, "We're going to take out the cartel." Is he not worried about the threat to his brother's family?

It rightfully concerns everybody — especially Angel. It's one of those moments where, like I said, EZ take the punches. He's like a feral animal. He's trying to find the way out, and this was that one piece of information that he needed. EZ uses his brain. He's very calculated, and he really watches and observes and takes in all that information, and he always has an answer.

What has been so confusing to EZ this whole time is who burned down the warehouse, and who is aligning with each other [to sell the drugs]? Where is this alliance? How is it that no matter what they do, they keep getting pushed back and they keep losing? So [at that meeting], he figures out, "This law enforcement gang is using the prison system [to sell drugs]. They're side-stepping the Mayans." EZ has learned the structure now. It's a little bit about his ego in that one specific moment. Because he could look at Angel and say, "You know what, brother? I hear you, man, I don't want you to get hurt." But instead, he takes that information and he's like, "This is the piece I've been waiting for. We can do this." And everyone's screaming like, "No! We can't. We're gonna die!" And he's like, "I'm not going to listen to you guys. I'm going to push forward."

It's interesting that you mention ego, because in the premiere, when Galindo said the club was being "left behind," it really seemed to get under EZ's skin. How much of EZ's plan to take out the cartel is the result of him acting out of pride rather than what's best for the club?

I think the two are sort of intertwined, and that's where the lines get blurred. The Mayans club is his brotherhood. And last season, the way we leave it is [EZ saying], "We are no longer Southern California — we are California." EZ is looking at that legacy, like, "One day we will all be gone, but we will have placed the Mayans on top." So it's almost as if he's working toward this promise of this great future, whether he sees it or not. He gets really caught up in that, and it becomes a moment of "Can I deliver?" rather than, "I've got to make sure my brother's safe." He very easily goes to, "We can protect you, Angel — if we go get them," rather than, "Let's get out of this and protect you."

In the season premiere we meet the Broken Saints, an off-the-grid club made up of all women. While the leader (Caitlin Stasey) didn't give the Mayans a very warm welcome, the Saints and the Mayans have a common enemy in Iron War. Is there a possibility for the club to align with the Broken Saints down the road?

Absolutely, there's a possibility of an alliance. What you find in the opening of this season is that the Mayans are desperate and they're looking for answers. There's already an alliance going on [between the Iron War and the cartel], and the Mayans are being left out of it. So In fear of losing their position and losing their power, they're going to try to make their own alliances — but that creates an opportunity for a bigger fall.

“MAYANS M.C.” -- "I Hear The Train A-Comin" -- Season 5, Episode 1 (Airs May 24) Pictured: Danny Pino as Miguel Galindo. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX
Danny Pino as Miguel Galindo on 'Mayans M.C.'
| Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Meanwhile, things are not looking good for poor Creeper after he was stabbed in prison — and this is just what the club was worried about. Bishop (Michael Irby) and EZ almost come to blows over the whole thing when EZ is beating up the crooked corrections officer to get information about the pipeline. How is EZ going to keep the trust of his club when they all seem to be losing faith in him?

That's really the question throughout this season. I've always felt that for EZ Reyes, this season was a race against time. He knows the consequences are coming, and it almost becomes a race to see if he can get in front of it. Or can he put the Mayans on top before the consequences come?

This is a very serious situation on a lot of levels to have Creeper inside right now. It can open a case against the Mayans. The Feds are involved. Creeper's such an important piece for the Mayans. He's a brother. We've fought together and he's always been down for the club. What the club sees is like, we have a brother in there who's in trouble, not only for his life, but it's also going to cause a lot of problems for the M.C.

In that moment where Bishop and EZ almost come to blows, we see for the first time EZ's frustration, when he's going off on that guy. He's ready to beat him to death until he gets the answer. You really get to see in that moment just how distant EZ is from the club, because it's a moment where they are trying to get answers, but they don't even like him doing that to that guy. They're like, "What happened to you, man? You're going off the deep end."

EZ reaches such a low point that he goes to see Alvarez — the man he ousted in a coup last season. What do you think EZ was hoping to get from that visit?

I think EZ needed somebody to talk to — whether it's [to get] an answer, support, or just understanding. Ousting Alvarez wasn't because EZ didn't like Alvarez. EZ looks up to Alvarez. But EZ put him out because he felt that knowing what the war was going to take, there was no way to be half in and half out. No one really knows [what a war costs] other than Alvarez, because he was in his own war. What I love about EZ is yeah, he knows that Alvarez wants to kill him, but he's still willing to go see him because he respects him so much.

You do get to see the respect between the two in that moment. Here is EZ saying like, "I just need someone to talk to. I just need to be around somebody who understands what I'm going through." Without even saying it, you almost kind of get the message that Alvarez is like, "I get it. I get what you're going through. And by the way, don't come here again or I'll kill you."

True, but it is a pretty brutal rebuff from Alvarez. How hurt do you think EZ was by Alvarez's reaction to his visit? Do you think he regrets the coup in that moment?

I don't think he regrets it. When you're winning, everything feels good. When you're losing, everything feels bad. What I love about EZ is that he doesn't buckle. He's sensitive, but he's not overly sensitive. Yeah, he gets rebuffed by Alvarez, but he's like, "Okay, I came here looking for some sort of support and this is what I get, and you're right. This is what I deserve from you." At that point what he's faced with is, do I continue to question myself and start finding a way out of this, or do I just step on that gas pedal and go even harder? And that's what we're going to see EZ do.

At this point in the season, we don't know who set fire to the warehouse full of drugs and ultimately destroyed EZ's plan. What can you tease about when and if we'll learn the identity of the culprit?

Yes, we discover who burned down that warehouse, and all I'll say is that it's been very hard to look at this person in the face and be around them. [Laughs] I really try not to get caught up with things like social media and stuff like that, but there were these moments where you hear the fanbase say like, "Oh, EZ can't do anything right as a president." And I'm like, "Somebody burned the warehouse down! Are you kidding me?" Like, his plan was working, it was all working. Don't say that none of his plans work out. If we didn't have traitors in our midst, then everyone would be in a better place. [Laughs]

Mayans M.C. airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.

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