Mayans M.C. and wrestling fans were both shocked last week when AEW star CM Punk made a surprise appearance on the show as Paul, a military veteran and old friend of Gilly Lopez (Vincent “Rocco” Vargas). Later in the episode, it was revealed that Paul was battling with PTSD, which was followed up this week by a dark scene where he asked his young son to kill him before Gilly and his wife separated the two. The character is a serious departure from Punk’s previous roles and his persona in All Elite Wrestling, but he was incredibly grateful for the opportunity offered by showrunner Elgin James.
“I’ve known Elgin for many years, [a] friend of a friend and just like-minded people. Same interests, quasi-same backgrounds. We kind of come from the same place. Different kids, but same situations, and I think it was just a matter of, ‘Man, I really want to work with you,'” Punk told ComicBook on Wednesday. “He really wanted to work with me, and he’s been doing the Mayans thing for a while and it really felt like a perfect fit. I’m fortunate that he thought so, I’m fortunate for this role. I’m super grateful to Elgin and everybody on Mayans. Everybody has been super amazing, and to me, the show’s just so big. It’s fun to be a part of something that has this whole fanbase and universe.
“It’s a little bit different than what I’m normally used to doing. But yeah, me and Elgin go back for a minute and goes to show you it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” he added.
Check out the highlights from the interview below! Mayans M.C. airs at 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights on FX.
Two episodes in and we’ve learned pretty quickly that Paul is a tragic character. When you were offered the role, did you see it as an opportunity to stretch your acting muscles and play a different kind of character?
100%. I think that’s the fun thing about acting, is you really find out who’s good and who’s not when you get put in situations where people don’t expect to see you in. I’m sure a lot of people watch wrestling and watch Mayans. There are crossover fans, and they didn’t expect to see CM Punk on the screen playing Paul. I get to show people a little bit of range. But also man, what a story to be able to tell. It kind of hits home for me because my brother-in-law was in the armed forces and he served overseas, and so to be able to tell a story of a tragic character, but just a character, in general, that has PTSD and these things that are taboo and you’re not supposed to talk about, and I really feel like we all should be talking about it. And the fact that they trusted me to be a vehicle for this is pretty heavy and I definitely didn’t take that for granted.
Staying on the subject of acting, you mentioned years before Heels got off the ground that you auditioned for the role of Jack Spade (eventually played by Stephen Amell). How different was your interpretation of Jack compared to what Stephen eventually brought to the show?
That’s kind of a hard question to answer because what Heels was and who Jack Spade was at that time, you didn’t really get into the weeds of it. I couldn’t have told you Jack was married. I couldn’t have told you his kid’s name. It was focused on a couple of scenes and maybe one loose script, and it was about the wrestling and the relationship between Jack and Ace. So there were a few scenes in the first season that I was like, “Hey, I remember that.” But it’s a completely different animal. It took on a whole different life. So you can’t really compare the two. Maybe 5% of what I did and I experienced when I was reading for Jack I saw on the first season.
You’re nine months into your run with AEW and are challenging Hangman Page for the AEW World Championship in the main event of Double or Nothing. Has the run been what you expected?
This run has been more than what I expected. I had expectations. They were pretty high. So far, they’ve pretty much shattered all that, and that’s just based on analytics and numbers of how well we’re doing. I’ve long said that I’m there for the fans in the building. Nowadays everybody is still focused on ratings numbers when cable is absolutely — I canceled DirecTV months ago. I just, I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s too convoluted. It’s too expensive. Streaming services are, I feel like, are the future. So when people look at ratings and say that wrestling is dying, I say, “Well look at our buildings. We’re selling out and we’re doing our first million-dollar gate.” So I don’t attribute that just to me. I attribute that to the spirit of AEW and everybody behind the scenes that makes it all work and makes it all click.
But the run, my run specifically, my stuff as a whole, I’ve never been happier in a wrestling ring. I’ve never, to me, been telling more fluid, better, reality-based stories. It’s been a real treat.
You guys are heading back to Chicago for AEWxNJPW: Forbidden Door on June 26. There’s a guy over in New Japan that keeps calling you out on Twitter every chance he gets and that’s KENTA. Does that match interest you at all?
NO WAY OUT pic.twitter.com/9lQlS8gTdd
— KENTA aka Lil’K (@KENTAG2S) April 22, 2022
Do you have any ideas floating around in your head for another story if Marvel asked you to write another comic?
I’ll have a nervous breakdown if I have to write a comic book while juggling all these other projects I’m doing. But yeah, there’s always ideas. I always talk publicly about writing for a Punisher story. But I think the brilliant thing about my stuff for comics was they approach me when they have an idea and they go, “Hey, we want you to write Drax,” and that’s, it’s not a book I ever thought [of]. I don’t have ideas for Drax. But then when you’re presented with an opportunity, it gets the wheels turning and the juices start flowing. They did the same thing with Shang-Chi. They’re like, “Hey, we’re doing a Shang-Chi one-shot and we think you’re perfect for this,” and I was like, “Of course.”
So I like in that context where they can come to me with different stuff and it’s not necessarily anything that I ever thought that I would be in a position to do, and to me that’s when the creativity really kind of kicks in. I think anybody can be like, “Yeah, I have this one story in my head and it’s Punisher,” or, “I really want to write a Batman story.” That’s easy. But when they come to you and they’re like, “Hey, we’re going to, can you do a Ra’s al Ghul one-shot?” You’d be like, “What? Oh man, I never thought of that,” and you’d be surprised what your imagination can do.
Last thing — this latest episode left Paul in a pretty dark place. Can you give us any indication of what’s next for the character?
I’m hoping they want to continue this story. I don’t want to give away too much. That’s the other funny thing, right? Is it was a big surprise that I was on the show to begin with because I didn’t tell anybody because I don’t want to get in trouble. I don’t want to… I’m not posting pictures on Instagram or anything like that.I don’t want to get yelled at by production.
So I think we’re all on this ride, and I especially want to thank Vincent Vargas who plays Gilly because this is, in a way, this is kind of his story. He served. He was in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this all doesn’t happen without him, and the way he wears his heart on his shoulder and the bravery for him to be able to kind of write similar situations or allude to them, things that have actually happened to him. I only hope it’s cathartic for him to be able to do this on screen, and again, my honor to be that guy, that vehicle, that he used to tell the story. Hopefully, I did all right and Paul sticks around. I think it’s a pretty interesting character and we get to tell those stories about people that might not always get to be heard.