Story by Ray Seidel, photos courtesy of FX
We catch up with the cast for some Q&A at PaleyFest for an off-season update. On hand are series creator Kurt Sutter (Otto), Katey Sagal (Gemma), Theo Rossi (Juice), Tommy Flanagan (Chibs), Dayton Callie (Chief Unser), David “DL” Labrava (Happy), Michael Ornstein (Chucky), and Emilio Rivera (Alvarez).
Q: Kurt, how did you get started with SONS OF ANARCHY?
Kurt: I spent some time with a club and soaked up “the life” a little bit, and started doing some research on clubs, and after the research some of the ideas started falling from the sky, and it was over the course of an afternoon the idea of a series and show kind of happened, and we ran it from there.
Q: Around this time HBO was working on a motorcycle club drama “The 1%.” Were you aware of that and trying to beat them to the punch?
Kurt: [Smiles] “It’s not TV, it’s HBO.”
Michael: They were mopeds.
Kurt: We were aware very aware. We pitched the show to HBO. It was a very odd meeting and ultimately I realized why. Everyone was aware of that. But everyone was moving forward, and weren’t quite sure if there was going to be room for TWO shows, and we F***ING won!
Q: What did you learn from THE SHIELD, and what you brought from that to SONS?
Kurt: Everything. I credit Shawn Ryan all the time. I came into that process really rare, and just out of control. And Shawn’s such a great mentor and decent man – and kind of able to point my energy in the right direction. And as a result of that I felt I was able to contribute a lot to that show, and being on for seven seasons, at least make it as f***ed up as possible.
Q: Michael, you bring a lot of comic relief to the SONS. Chucky’s fingers were cut off because of “excessive masturbation.”
Michael: Well, it’s something to do, right? He met Otto in prison. He probably never had a home, ever, and probably never had a friend. Now he’s got friends, and a home. And I think that’s whereit’s at.
Q: David, you were hired as a technical advisor, and now, also writer and actor. How did that come to be?
DL: I met Kurt, he gave me a chance, and I’m forever grateful. I’m having a ball, I’m living the dream.
Q: Did you aspire to be an actor?
DL: I think every American wants to be an actor.
Kurt: We tapped into DL’s experience and love of the life. He’s an incredibly passionate dude, and very helpful in opening up that world for me and letting me see that side of the life. And I had that character in mind for awhile. And I know DL is a writer, and people ask me “What do you do to become a writer?” My feedback is always the same – writers write. It’s like every douche bag in this town, er, sorry, every “aspiring writer in this town” has a screenplay in his back seat, and it doesn’t make you a writer. Writers write, and that’s what DL does, and he writes every day, which is why we gave him the opportunity to write. [episode 10, season 4] and he did a great job, and I have no doubt he’ll be successful at it.
Q: David, what would you like to see Happy do in season 5?
DL: Kill, kill, kill.
Q: Dayton, tell us about Chief Unser a little bit. He’s been in the Son’s pockets for many years. Was it bad for Charming or good for Charming?
Dayton: When you watch the first episode, were there any problems?
Kurt: I agree with Dayton. I never considered Unser to be in the pocket of anybody. He and Clay always had this understanding. And it wasn’t about being on the payroll as much as this is what we’re going to do to keep this town safe. It was more about being an alliance than being in their pocket. Ultimately it was through friendship, and then betrayal.
Dayton: He wants the town to work. And stuff happens, and he put out fires. Obviously he has great affection for Gemma; he’s seen her grow up. No, don’t read anything into that – it would never occur to Kurt’s mind.
Kurt: I just assume everybody wants to f*** my wife. [Grins}
Q: Kurt, do you think the Sons are good or bad for Charming?
Kurt: BAD. [Grins] The thing they’ve been able to do is keep it safe. But I think as times change Clay has not been able to adapt to that. He needs to stop time, or reverse time, or bring it back to where it was. And ultimately it is his downfall. You know, in the long run, I don’t think any relationship based on deception is good for anyone or anything.
Q: Tommy, let’s talk about Chibs. He seems extremely devoted to Jax. As Jax moves up he’ll move up as well. Can you talk about that relationship a little bit?
Tommy: I think Clay found me when I was young. Took me off the street, introduced me to the Club, kind of a father figure. And Jax was just a kid when I joined the Club – and he’s always been like my son. So I’m sort of torn between the father, and the son.
Q: Theo, Juice tried to hang himself, knowing his parents might be mixed race parents. Tell us about his ded- ication to the Sons that he would go to that next step.
Theo: I think his reason to take his own life was there was no other way to protect everyone else. That was his only way to get out of this horrendous situation he had put himself in. Which started with him just trying to make things better. I always found Juice with this innocence; he’s always worried if everybody else is okay. He doesn’t want to lose his “family” which is all these guys and he doesn’t want anybody to get hurt, and at the same time while doing that brought about this shit storm, taking over his life, and the only way to get out of that completely and make it go away was to end his own life. And of course, being the numb nuts that he is… [laughs]. What I really love more than anything else is the rela- tionship between Juice and Chibs – through all these dire stakes and consequences, and the love they have for each other, and that’s what I love what this whole story is based on, motorcycle clubs and the brotherhood they have.
Q: Katey, Clay is your second husband who had a manipulating mind, and you pretty much stayed with him to the very very end.
Katey: The bitter end.
Q: How did you not see what he was doing?
Katey: That was an interesting arc to play that was given to me by the writers.. I look at her as an eagle eye who doesn’t miss a trick – and the fact that she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt to the bitter end, and really turn a blind eye – that was really interesting to play, because that would not be me. It’s interesting to play a character with similar tones to me, but completely different actions than Katey would do…. She was – I don’t want to say passive, but she was definitely in an observer stance, watching her husband spin totally out of control. And ultimately she gets her way.
Q: As most everyone knows, Kurt and Katey are happily married with three wonderful children. Can you guys separate married life at the house and set, or is it one great mélange?
Kurt: That hardly ever happens in our life? [Laughs]
Katey: He’s a wonderful husband. He writes very dark but heartfelt…you look at the story of these people – that people have responded to – sure it’s the violence and the action, but there’s so much heart written into the conflicts of these people.
Q: Emilio, we saw you in the movie Act of Valor? Awesome film.
Emilio: Yes, it’s about the Navy Seals, the REAL Navy Seals.
Q: How did you get involved with that?
Emilio: They called me. The director called my agent, said he wanted me in the movie, so I went in and talked to him and they hired me, and I’m REAL proud to be part of it, I really am.
Q: Do you have other films coming out?
Emilio: I have Filly Brown coming out this year, and another, Water and Power which I’m producer on as well, and then back on Sons of Anarchy in September.
Q: I saw Filly Brown at SUNDANCE.
Emilio: What did you think of that Ray?
Q: I’m not into RAP, but found it a very positive and emotional story of a young RAP singer. Not a dry eye in the house at the conclusion, and great applause. Nice job, Emilio.
Shooting on SOA is still a ways off – probably end of May. This is the beginning of the end of the series arc. Kurt is now looking at how the wrap it all up (though if the money is there from FX, could go 8 seasons). The writers are busy working out how Jax will deal with the Club as President, how Tara will (or will not) be accepted by the guys, and what path Gemma will take— follow Clay or Jax?- split between Clay who took the outlaw way but turned on her, or support Jax who she was grooming to be leader of the club, but who wants the club to be more of what John Teller had in mind. And eventually (maybe), this leads to a prequel series: “The First 9.”