Bad boys and tons of violence are a given for any TV program rooted in the cryptic lure of American biker gangs. But have you ever wondered what fuels the glowering actors onscreen?
According to actor Gino Vento, who stars in the Sons of Anarchy spinoff series Mayans M.C., it's healthy snacks. "They have these green apple slices covered in peanut butter and granola... as soon as those things come out at craft services, they're gone," he shares, joking, "They’re like currency on set. You take a couple and you can trade them later for cigarettes."
Mayans M.C. is a relatively new series, having premiered in September, but it has already earned a cult following. Garnering what FX network President Nick Grad called "breakout ratings," the cable program was renewed for a second season mere episodes into the first. Hotly anticipated by die-hard fans, the Mayans M.C. season 1 finale airs Tuesday, November 6.
"Just get ready to pick your jaw up off the ground," says Queens-born, Miami-raised Vento of the upcoming episode. The actor plays Nestor Oceteva on Mayans, head of security for the Galindo cartel. Vento describes his character as a "badass."
"Nestor is a loyal dude... who will stop at nothing to protect the family and the cartel. He’s a guy who you really don’t want to mess with."
No kidding. In one of Nestor's most ruthless scenes, he roughs up a nun.
In real life, Vento has little in common with the antihero. "The quality that we share is that love; the brotherhood that I have for my close friends is the same bond Nestor feels for the Galindos." But they differ in more than a few ways. "We’re different in the sense that I would never beat up a nun," he laughs. "Nestor is also ex-military; he’s a pretty obedient guy. I myself can be stubborn... it’s hard to get me to do something unless I want to."
Decked out in tattoos, Vento has a formidable presence. "I'm not a cookie-cutter-looking dude," he asserts, indicating how he naturally gravitates toward playing "conflicted" characters. His tough-guy appearance was instrumental in landing his first-ever acting gig: an extra in Miami. "I went to this casting call in Miami Beach. I was the only one in line covered in tattoos, and I was like, Oh my God — what am I doing here?" He remembers sticking out like a sore thumb. "Everyone was so, like, handsome or pretty or whatever. I was like, Eh, I came all the way out here, let me just plug it out. I get to the front of the line, and the lady casting the extras goes, 'You’re perfect. We're shooting in a prison. We're definitely going to call you.'"
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Only recently did the actor come to an eye-opening realization: "Acting was never about just occupying my mind. It was another medium of storytelling, just like music is. I didn’t realize that until recently when I went, Oh, you know what it was? I just wanted to tell a story."
Being on a show like Mayans offers him a golden opportunity to spin tales for an eager audience. To Vento, the key to his success has been steadfast determination. "There isn’t a manual to this, you know? So, it can be done... if you have that desire inside when you see something, you just gotta go and do it. As long as you stay focused, and always remember it’s not a marathon, it’s a sprint."
He admits that being part of the cast following in the footsteps of FX's highest-rated series means the pressure is on. "We all have this sense of responsibility with Mayans now. We need to do right to the Sons of Anarchy fans, but also have fans acknowledge that we are our own entity — we are the Mayans M.C. So it's been a balance of that, of letting us do our thing and also paying tribute and respect to the world that [creator] Kurt Sutter has set up for us."
Mayans M.C.'s season finale airs 10 p.m. Tuesday, November 6, on FX.