“I’ve been looking forward to showing my comedic side for a long time,” says actor Michael Irby, who played Bolivian mob boss Cristobal Sifuentes in Barry, Bill Hader’s HBO series. “I really had no idea what to expect there, but it turned out great, the response has been overwhelming and I’m really excited to go back and knock out season two.” Irby doesn’t know any spoilery details about Barry season 2, of course, but considering the show’s many Emmy nominations, it’s bound to be worth the wait. So too is Mayans MC, the upcoming Sons of Anarchy spinoff from co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James, in which Irby plays the motorcycle gang’s leader, Obispo “Bishop” Losa.
Michael Irby talks Sons of Anarchy spinoff Mayans MC
Photo by Getty Images
“I told Kurt, ‘You know, I don’t really ride motorcycles but I’m not afraid of it,’” he laughs. “I learned how to ride a motorcycle in a couple of days and the rest is history, my friend.”
Irby is personable, friendly and quite willing to discuss his work, despite the fact that the phone call was preceded by a particularly grueling late night shoot. His demeanor also provides a significant contrast to his “Mayans” character Bishop, whose starker approach to life is as cold as it is necessary in order to survive the criminal underworld portrayed in the show.
“I know him as a human being. We all have things that make us tick. Bishop is extremely loyal to his family,” explains Irby. “Bishop is always trying to do the right thing. Sometimes you have to make some really hard choices to do the right thing, but at the end of the day he’s very fierce. He’s very loyal. I think he does everything he does with a huge heart.”
“But at the end of the day,” he reminds me, “it’s all about the club. It’s all about the family.”
Irby credits the harder aspects of Bishop’s character to the fact that, within the world crafted by Sutter and James’ story, his parents were nowhere to be found in his early life. As a result, the future gang leader “ended up going down the wrong road.”
Again and again, the actor comes to the point that the family the Mayans create and nurture, as well as the flesh and blood families whose members occupy its membership, are what matters most in Mayans MC. This, Irby notes, was purposefully written into the stories by Sutter, James and director and executive producer Norberto Barbara, all of whom were dedicated to telling an authentic and representative story about the Cali-Mexi border.
“When you’re talking about the Mayans, you’re talking about a culture that has not only been misrepresented, but underrepresented,” he says. “As a minority actor, you search out and try to create opportunities where you can change the conversation and allow for growth, or for a better understanding of people. This was one of those.”
Mayans MC premieres Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 10 p.m. on FX.