Stars From New Series Gangland Undercover Embraced Biker Culture
“Gangland Undercover,” set to premiere on HISTORY next month, is a gritty fact-based six-part drama series that is filmed mostly in Toronto and features Canadian actors Damon Runyan (who plays “Falco”) and Paulino Nunes (who plays “Schizo”). It is based on Charles Falco’s book “Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws: My Infiltration of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs” published in 2013 and offers a rare look inside this historically infamous and violent biker gang through of the eyes of an undercover informant.
These two actors did their homework and truly immersed themselves in their roles.
CraveOnline: Why don’t you tell us about the series?
Damon Runyan: I play a guy who reaches rock bottom, gets busted and is facing a 22-year sentence and is offered time off for infiltrating a gang. So the series follows the infiltration of these gangs, who are notoriously violent.
Paulino Nunes: Not only is it a show that gives the viewer a visceral experience of the gang lifestyle based on actual events instead of someone’s imagination, but it is also procedural in the sense of a guy who’s making things up as he goes along. He’s fighting for his life, literally and figuratively, and he has to figure out how to infiltrate them. He’s really flying solo through this and has very little support – he has to work at the same time to make a living and survive the rigours of being a prospect, and then he also has to be a member of this biker gang and gather info that’s useful. The series is a real peek inside of the underbelly of the bike culture.
What was the most surprising that you learned while working on the show?
Runyan: How much I like bikers. I found it hard not to fall in love with the brotherhood. At this point my character probably doesn’t trust either side and the only people offering him any solace were members of the gang. As you prove your worth in the gang the doors open up, and I was surprised how much I fell in love with my brothers. Even though I’m at war with a couple of the other guys the actors themselves turned into a brotherhood much like you would when you are in a bike gang.
I was also blown away by how much I like riding Harleys.
Nunes: I’d been riding a few years so I was not surprised at how much I loved the riding, but what surprised me was in reading the book and doing the background research. A lot of these guys are vets and came from rigid structured backgrounds and are looking for something to belong to and give order to their lives. There’s the typical ethos of being a “free rider on the road with no rules and regulations,” but the bike gang organization is extremely regimented and there’s a strict protocol and specific hierarchy – you work your ass off and endure in some cases torture to get your patch, and then you have the freedom. I was surprised by this idea of “I’ll become an outlaw not bound by rules” but these outlaws had very strict rules.
How did you prepare for your roles?
Runyan: I didn’t ride before so I got my license soon after the audition and purchased a bike. I also spoke to various bikers who gave me their view on what the brotherhood is actually like to gain some opinions outside the book. I had full access to the author as well, so he and I spoke often about what it took to make it through this endeavor and what his mentality was. And I worked with a trainer and crafted these workouts to endure the fight sequences.
Nunes: One thing I deliberately did not do was watch other biker shows – I didn’t want it coloured by other’s fictionalization of this world. I also grew a beard and changed my wardrobe, which really helps to ground you and bring you back to what that character is. It might sound very superficial but there’s something about the look – there’s a reason they want to look that way and present a certain exterior. But I really found pretty much everything I needed to know in the book itself – it was such a rich resource for understanding the hierarchy and structure of biker gangs.
Had you worked together or met before?
Runyan: No, not until a cast dinner that we had before we started shooting. Now we live together and are looking to adopt a child (laughs). You know I’m kidding, right?
Nunes: Truthfully, a real bond has formed with this cast, and it doesn’t happen all the time. The feeling on the set was really special.
“Gangland Undercover” premieres Monday, March 2nd at 10pm on HISTORY.
Photo: HISTORY/Gangland Undercover