Enjoying the Ride: Q&A with Frankie Loyal of “Mayans M.C.”

Frankie Loyal plays Sergeant of Arms Hank “Tranq” Loza in “Mayans M.C.” on FX Network. Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

We Get Insight into the Inner Workings of the Biker Show Taking Place after “Sons of Anarchy”

Arturo Hilario

El Observador

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to actor Frankie Loyal who is currently portraying Hank “Tranq” Loza on FX Networks “Sons of Anarchy” spinoff, “Mayans M.C.”. In the show, the Southern California chapter of the Mayans motorcycle club gets involved with less than desirable criminal groups across the border. With traces of the original show, it invokes a new story in new territory within a world that seems just slightly familiar.

Loyal has been acting since the 1990’s, and before that was in the punk scene in the Bay Area for years. Fitting with his character in “Mayans M.C.”, Loyal is an avid motorcycle rider, with his daily driver a 2003 Harley Davidson Road King Anniversary Edition. I looked up pictures and it’s a nice-looking bike.

In the following interview, we get to know Loyal’s beginnings, his love for the Bay Area, and how he identifies with the character he plays on the show. 

To start off, I heard that you have a history with the Bay Area, can you tell me what brought you here and what that time was like?

I was actually born out here, but I lived up in the Central Valley for a short amount of time. When I was in my early teens I heard about punk rock, so I made my way up to the Bay Area and I spent 20 years plus over in San Francisco. I was a “Lower Haighter”, I lived in the Lower Haight. I was a permanent fixture over there until I moved to LA.

So, you went out there for the music aspects of it. What was that experience like?

At the time for me what it was, I saw The Clash on Saturday Night Live and I kind of was inspired by them. I mean when people say punk rock music, they think of the crazy, destructive, whatever – there was this more of an artistic expression and outlet, that’s kind of how San Francisco was. It was very intense, and you never knew what you were going to see at the live shows especially with the bands that came from all over but art wise, music wise, sometimes from political platforms it was just such a vibrant place to be. You were just surrounded by nothing but inspiration and influence all the time, that’s kind of what was exciting about San Francisco and I think in a lot of ways it’s still is. I get back there from time to time and so, it seems like that’s a constant.

How did you transition from the music scene to the acting one?

I always had an interest in acting, what had happened was that usually when you were playing in bands you’re always trying to supplement additional income and I worked in a culinary field for over 30 years, and with acting I actually was walking down the street over on Haight Street and I was approached by a scout that was auditioning for Nash Bridges, it was a CBS show at the time. They asked me if I wanted to come down for an audition and at first, I got kind of freaked out because I thought somebody was asking me to try out for adult films or something, I really didn’t know how to take it. I kind of freaked the guy out because I wasn’t sure, “like what are you talking about?”

This was in the day of landlines not mobile phones, so they asked me to go down and audition, and I really wanted to. It was almost like a bet I had with my friends, because they weren’t going to go do it, and deep down I wanted to do it. So, I auditioned for a character, I believe it was a bad guy, and I booked it. And that was my first introduction to television or film acting.  

So, this year, before the premiere of the show, you and the rest of the cast were at Comic Con in San Diego as a giant “Mayans M.C.” poster adorned a side of a building by the convention center. You were all part of a panel for the show, and I was wondering how the energy was there for that first introduction. What was the reaction you noticed from fans and attendees?

I think the comfort that everybody can take in first and foremost is #1, it’s Sutter and Elgin James’ Universe. It’s FX which is still part of that network and family which is great, and that showed that there was a foundation that was really strong, and [also] I believe the respect that the actors had for that universe, going into this, not trying to reinvent the wheel but appreciate it, but also trying to put a different spin on it. I think the sceptics and even cynical audience members, we won them over because we were coming at them with [a] very different perspective.

I believe a lot of people kind of hang onto the old ways a little bit. I think when they realized we gave them a different perspective, many perspectives that were refreshing, it’s kind of put them at ease but also made them more excited to watch the show. I mean, we were excited, and I think they picked up on our excitement and our intentions to do a really good job and do the show justice. However, the storyline flows out, we were going to give it all we got. We came to play, play hard. Play to win.

In regard to your character, Hank Loza, can you tell me his involvement within the story of “Mayans M.C.” and within the motorcycle club?

Well, he’s the Sergeant of Arms of the club, and if you’re familiar with that particular role in that hierarchy or pecking order he’s the enforcer of the club. His responsibilities are primarily [to] protect the best interests of the club however that is – however people choose to see that. But he’s also the difference between him and any sort of conflict, he’s there to protect the president. He flanks and shadows the president and the vice president and makes sure the hierarchy are protected at any costs. Even if that means laying his life down. That’s his role and the same thing with Alvarez. When Alvarez comes to town it’s almost like a burden of duty, a responsibility and a willing one, but you can tell the club to [Hank] is larger than himself. He’s there for the club, without question.

For your character, where did you find inspiration for his motives, how you were going to play him etc. Was there anyone in other media, or your actual life that you might have based some aspects of the character on?

I think the way I was raised, the people I associated with growing up. If you know anything about the early days of punk rock or hardcore, that whole subculture, you know there’s a lot of kids that come from dysfunctional families and formed families of their own. It’s not based on money or status, it’s based on your word. Your word being bond, and that sense of loyalty and duty to kind of uphold that you believe is bigger than yourself, which for us back then was music and it was a belief system that kind of kept us strong. I think that was a huge inspiration for me, because for me, loyalty goes a long way, but it’s a word that’s used very lightly and the need for me as an actor to kind of keep that as a constant, no matter what unfolds in the future because who knows. Just to hang on that raw element because to me, if you don’t have loyalty in any regards then what do you have? So, that sometimes gets people in trouble. It can go either or and that’s what makes it complicated, and that’s kind of interesting and I like that. I think that’s kind of a motivator behind it.

So, working on “Mayans M.C.” for a season now, what would you say is your favorite aspect, whether it be the crew you work with or the story itself, or even just the fact that you’re riding motorcycles for work?

I ride motorcycles every day, I don’t drive, so for me that’s a daily thing. I love that no matter what, rain, shine, whatever. Two wheels, that’s my life. Part of the show though, the one thing I think I have in common with Hank is to Hank the Mayans M.C., that enterprise, that club, that belief system is larger than himself so that means everything – the club members, the world. And when I think of how I approach the show when I go to set to work, I feel the same way.

It’s not any particular cast member or any particular scene, it’s the whole world that is “Mayans M.C.”. It’s Kurt, it’s the gentlemen I work with, whether it’s the teamsters that make sure everything is good to go for us, the set designers and the wardrobe, everybody. That’s the world to me. So, I am just happy. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in my personal life, the minute I get there, everything is good. The network has given us a lot of support, has been very good to us. It’s been the whole entity. That’s what my favorite thing is. And the fact that we’re not filming right now, there’s been a lot of separation anxiety, I’ll tell you. The struggle is real.   

Before we move on, what type of motorcycle do you ride, or which is you favorite?

I ride a 2003 Road King, it’s the anniversary special. It’s got the ape hangers, the stretched bags, it’s a Chicano style bike. It’s good for traveling, like I said I ride it to and from work which can be anywhere from 40 to 70 miles a day and then in everyday life, I take it on long trips. So, it’s like an extension of myself to be truthful. It’s been over the Golden Gate, it’s been to Big Sur, so it’s a good bike.  

For people that have been following the show through the season so far, without any particular spoilers, could you give an idea of what viewers should brace themselves for in terms of the final episodes of the season?

I guess I just tell people, “just enjoy the ride”. Don’t try to figure it out too much. Don’t overcomplicate it and just go with it. Because it seems like every week there’s something exciting, there’s a new twist, there’s something to go with and the one thing about Kurt and Elgin that are completely brilliant, you can try to play the game of chess and figure out where they’re going to make their next move on the storyline, but you’ll never be able to figure it out so just go with it. Just have fun! Be pleasantly surprised. The reaction we have gotten is that response has been positive, people have been overwhelmingly surprised and that’s a win-win. So, I just tell them, “Just go for it. Hop on for the ride.”

Well, thank you very much Frankie for taking time to talk about your experience on the show.

I’m grateful you wanted to speak to me. I miss it, I’m homesick. In fact, I’m hoping to hop on the bike and head out to Tommy’s Joynt in the next few days, because I need to get up there. You planted the seed to help me get back up there, so I appreciate that.

[And really, we should all check out Tommy’s Joynt, a legendary traditional diner in San Francisco.]

“Mayans M.C.” continues its inaugural season, on Tuesdays at 10pm PST on FX. A second season has been confirmed.