During the six-year run of “Sons of Anarchy,” which centered on a California motorcycle club of outlaws called Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original (SAMCRO), the had some shocking twists and turns involving death and betrayal for three of the show’s main characters: Jackson “Jax” Teller (played by Charlie Hunnam); Jax’s mother, Gemma Teller Morrow (played by Katey Sagal); and Jax’s stepfather, Clay Morrow (played by Ron Perlman), who was killed off in the show’s sixth season that aired in 2013.
In addition to the dramatic storylines, “Sons of Anarchy” was also known for creator/executive producer Kurt Sutter (who in real life is married to Sagal) being an outspoken and sometimes controversial champion for the show. The series finale “Sons of Anarchy” was televised on Dec. 9, 2014. Here is a look back at what Sagal said during a roundtable interview at 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego.
You did a great job in “Pacific Rim”!
Thanks. I thought Guillermo [del Toro, director of “Pacific Rim”] killed it. He did such a good job. It’s an original story. It’s such a detailed, original world that he created. It’s elevated stuff.
And the “Pacific Rim” actors literally suffered for their art, based on the stunts you had to do …
Yeah, we suffered. Guillermo tried to kill us.
Except for Ron Perlman, who just got to dress up in crazy outfits.
Ron always gets away with stuff. Lately, in “Sons of Anarchy,” he’s in one action sequence. He’s sitting back, smoking a cigar, while we kill ourselves.
Which of Clay’s personality traits as a leader have had the most influence on Jax?
I think there to a certain degree, you learn the position from your predecessor. But much more importantly, there’s a universal problem that power corrupts. I think Jax struggled with that, the way all presidents do of a club or the United States — listening to the people around them. You’re supposed to represent the masses, whether it’s the people on the street or a motorcycle club.
But when you have a lot of decisions to make and a lot at stake in all those decisions, it’s very easy to say, “I know in my heart it’s the right thing to do, so I’m not going to put it up for a vote.” But I also think that he inherited a total disaster from Clay, so there’s a lot of stuff that he was embroiled in that had he been making those decisions from the beginning, they wouldn’t have been involved in, in the first place.
What scenes in “Sons of Anarchy” Season 5 were the hardest for you to deal with emotionally?
All of that stuff with Ryan Hurst, the death of Opie was really brutal to play. I really had a hard time with that, much more than I even anticipated. This show has been amazing creative experience for me, but that was definitely the deepest few days I’ve ever had in my career. It was really difficult to say goodbye to him. It kind of had a lasting effect through the course of a season — the anxiety and pain of that.
There’s a scene that Boone/Bobby Elvis and I did … where we’re in the chapel where we have a massive argument about the direction where we’re going. There had been some other stuff going on at work around that; there had been some tension at work. It all just exploded out on that scene in a way that neither of us had anticipated. So I guess that was also a really big scene for me.
Jax has lost his best friend and his vice-president. Who is his confidant now?
I think in this season, it’s Max. He’s really had a strong conscience. He had his Jiminy Cricket, but I think he struggled with Elvis. I think in the absence of Bobby Elvis in the early part of this season, you see him really struggle.
How has Jax been coping with Opie’s death?
I think it’s been clouded by guilt. There’s a sense of betrayal. If he was honest with himself, I think he’d understand where he was coming from and probably take some responsibility, but I think the sense of betrayal is so great that it’s kind of clouding the clarity of that. I think that will probably come back and there will be a reckoning for Jax, but right now, I don’t think he’s at that place.
As an actor, would you rather know the overall arc of the season when you start filming, or do you prefer gradually getting that information?
I want to find out as I get the scripts. Sometimes, Kurt [Sutter] has had an idea, and that idea has evolved and changed, and I’ve been galloping toward a fundamental beat, and then I have to recalibrate, and it’s been difficult for me. But more so, I’ve just been really engaged in the presence of Jax this year. I don’t really want to know where he’s headed or how it’s going to end for him.
Do you see Jax as a tragic anti-hero?
There’s definitely a tragic poetry to the guy, but I also really see him as a very multidimensional real guy. He feels like a real guy to me, who’s just flawed and trying to do his best for his family and his brothers. He just too close to me. To think about him in those terms is just too abstract. To me, he’s a real guy who lives inside me.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I’ve got a couple of really great things going on. I’m going to do a movie with John Hillcoat and Christoph Waltz and Cate Blanchett, which is super-exciting. And then I’m going to do another movie with Guillermo called “Crimson Peak.” And then I’ve got the last season of the show. And I have a film that I just wrote that I’m going to try and put together that I’m going to try and act in.
What’s the name of the movie you wrote?
I can’t say yet. It’s not “Vlad.” It’s basically a story about the failure of the American Dream in society. It’s about success and the individual who’s willing to corrupt his conscience and his morality together, but it’s basically based on a true story from an article that I optioned from Rolling Stone magazine, about this blond-haired, blue-eyed, all-American kid who dreamt of leaving his poverty behind.
He got a football scholarship and everything was going great, and he lost it all. He had nowhere to put all that discipline and ambition and hope for his future, so he became a drug dealer — probably the most successful American drug dealer in the last decade.
For more info: “Sons of Anarchy” website