It’s almost impossible to read the synopsis for Gangland Undercover and not think of Sons of Anarchy. Like the long-running FX series, History’s newest offering spotlights leather-clad men astride motorcycles who pack guns and mete out their own form of justice via violence.
Unlike Sons of Anarchy, however, Gangland Undercover is based on fact. Written by Charles Falco, Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws: My Infiltration of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs outlines his three-year double-life as a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives informant who became a member of the California-based Vagos biker gang and took them down from the inside. The reason Falco did it in the first place? He was given the choice to be an ATF informant or go to jail for over 20 years on drug charges.
Debuting Monday on History, the six-part Cineflix production stars Damon Runyan (Haven) as Charles Falco, the man tasked with becoming a trusted member of the Vagos gang. Opposite Runyan is Paulino Nunes (Bitten) as Schizo, the president of the group. The first episode quickly sets up Falco as a man caught in a tight spot and deciding that infiltrating the Vagos was his best option. For Runyan being able to ride with the gang meant one thing: learning to actually ride.
“As soon as I got the audition I signed up for the driving course, because that was my way in with my wife,” Runyan says with a laugh. “Then once I got the role I was buying a bike. There was this massive, explosive argument and I’ve been riding ever since.” It’s an attractive lifestyle, being part of a brotherhood who spend their days on the road, drinking and enjoying a somewhat transient life. It can be a dangerous one too, and not from the possibility of being stabbed, beaten or shot.
Check out the exclusive two-minute sneak peek of Gangland Undercover.
“When you’re riding in formation, you have to trust everyone because you have no buffer,” Nunes, a motorcycle veteran who has owned his own bike for five years, says. “You have a bike a few feet around you on all sides and if anyone messes that up, you all go down.” You have to ride through anything: Runyon was stung by a bee while Nunes got eyefuls of dust because he was wearing aviator shades during the first ride of the season.
Trust is a major factor in any motorcycle gang, and though Schizo welcomes Falco into the Vagos family, not everyone is happy with the rookie member. Falco’s fictional criminal backstory is constantly called into question and he’s pushed into more dangerous criminal activity as a way to ferret out his true identity and intentions. Pair that with scenes set in dark bars, a throbbing rock beat and the odd fistfight, and Gangland Undercover is as exciting as that other series that just finished its run.
But this is based on the truth.
Gangland Undercover airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.