Actor Donal Logue is currently guest starring on the hit FX drama series Sons of Anarchy, as former U.S. Marshal Lee Toric, a man who is both mysterious and intense with a definite violent streak. Looking to avenge the death of his sister, he’s clearly focused on making everyone pay that was connected, including Tara (Maggie Siff), the wife of SAMCRO president Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam).
During this recent interview to promote his appearance on the show, Donal Logue talked about how this role came about, what the experience of being on the show has been like, how he views his very intense character, and the possibility of him hanging around for next season. He also talked about what Season 2 of Terriers might have been, being a part of the drama series Vikings (set to debut on History in Summer 2013), doing the Silent Night remake, his memories from his time on The X-Files, and his secret experimental project with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
DONAL LOGUE: I’ve been talking to (show creator) Kurt [Sutter] about doing something on the show for the last three years. Invariably, he would always have a conversation with me about 42 seconds after I had committed to doing another pilot. Two years ago, it was Hallelujah for ABC. Then, last year, I had done a western called Tin Star for TNT. Neither of [those shows] ended up going. I was like, “Oh, my god, I really would love to join the show.” I just couldn’t join, not for lack of Kurt trying to get me on. Then, this year, we finally had a meeting and he was like, “I think I have an idea for this guy.” But, it had been something we have been trying to do for awhile.
What was the experience like?
LOGUE: My sister obviously had worked on the show for the couple of episodes prior, and a lot of the crew on the show were people I had worked with before on both Terriers and different shows. What Karina said to me, when she started working, was, “Oh, my god, everybody is just so nice and so cool.” I’d have to say my favorite thing about working on the show, and something that might be intriguing to other people, is that it’s just such an amazingly welcoming environment to work in. It’s not too cool for school or alienating. It’s totally the opposite. It’s been great to get to know all those guys a little bit. We have seen each other around the block, over the years, but to finally get to jump in there and work with them has been like a complete and utter treat. I just think the show is really good. I’m a fan of the show. It’s really the first time I’ve jumped on something that I was actively engaged, so I could get excited about it, in that way. From cast to crew, and certainly from Kurt and Paris Barclay and everybody on down, it has just been so great. They’re serious about the work. I have a small thumbprint on a big moving mural that’s been in play for years and years. It was just a really thrilling little ride on this big world of Sons of Anarchy.
Were you cast before your sister, or were you cast at the same time? Did one have anything to do with the other?
LOGUE: Well, it’s interesting because, when Karina did Terriers, Shawn Ryan had already worked with my sister. He knew her before he knew me. We sat down, at the beginning of the season, and he said, “What do you think about this? You’re going to have a crazy sister.” I said, “That’s great! I’ve got three.” He goes, “No, we’d really like Hank to have a schizophrenic sister, and I think Karina would be awesome.” With this, it was different, in that Kurt knew that he wanted to have me as this guy, but then he told the casting director, “I need someone who looks like the female Donal Logue.” She was like, “Well, you know his sister Karina is a really great actress?” And he said, “No, I didn’t know that, at all.” That’s how that went down.
Lee Toric is obviously a very intense guy. How do you see him?
LOGUE: What I really love about Sons of Anarchy, and what I love about Kurt, is that he navigates fluidly through both these incredibly gritty street-level worlds, and he’s a very erudite intellectual, too. We wanted to shake people up through shock value. Everybody is like, “This guy is so bad,” but this guy’s sister was brutally murdered by an outlaw organization that engages in illegal activities. I root for the underdog, and I understand where the anti-hero stuff comes from. With Lee Toric, Kurt wanted to say, “In our world, these things happen and this is part of the game and there’s collateral damage.” I’m bringing a shocking level of violence to you to show you that you’re perspective and perception of what is right and wrong is wrong. That’s a really powerful moral stance.
Kurt knows me, and we know each other well. When I read this description of [the character], I thought, “What an interesting creation of this guy who marries the intellectual with the violent world.” Toric is a Harvard-educated, special forces guy, who was a roguish U.S. Marshal. What I love about it is that I have a feeling with this guy that, even in the scene with Tara (Maggie Siff), where she’s tough and she’s been playing this game for years, he’s been playing this game for decades. It’s like, “You think you’ve seen some stuff? I’ve seen bodies hanging from bridges. This is the world I come from, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. Go plot, go spin, go try to figure out what I’m up to, but I’m five steps ahead of you.”
This world has taken something very personal from him, and I don’t think he cares. I think he was utterly fair when he said to her, “I believe that you didn’t know what this guy’s intentions were, but I believe my niece and nephew thought they were going to grow up with a mother.” I think he’s up to some pretty intense scheming, but I don’t think he would have done it, if someone wouldn’t have killed his sister. Let’s put it that way.
Did you do anything to prepare for this role and get into the character’s mind-set?
LOGUE: I don’t know the full story. He might be dealing with some pain and stuff. I don’t think he’s crazy. I had this interesting conversation with David Kelley, years ago, because I was on The Practice for a little bit. I was mad at their law firm because I was an assistant district attorney, and this guy that we had been chasing for a long time, that had $300,000 worth of cocaine on him, was basically successfully defended by their law firm and sent back into public. Everyone kept referring to my character as “the dick” because it was my name, but it was a joke that he’s a dick. They wanted me to go to a party dressed as a penis because they had this prop. I was like, “Look, I’m just an attorney who’s trying to keep cocaine off the streets. Why am I the dick? You’re good defense lawyers. The country needs that and I respect it, but I’m not a jerk.” I’m also not a jerk for being intense about someone smuggling a murder weapon in to kill my sister. I would probably be a jerk if I was non-plussed about it. They just picked the wrong person. They weren’t aware of who they messed with. You always take that risk, that they have family and that they have people who are vengefully-minded. My characters are always utterly sympathetic to me, if that makes any sense. I think Lee Toric is a bright guy. A lot of times, you’ll have existing law enforcement types who are antagonistic, but start to shift, the longer they are around the club. This is the first time someone has come in and is very skilled and experienced, and also has a particular axe to grind.
LOGUE: When had conversations about who he is, philosophically. What took me by surprise, because I wasn’t around for the bits and pieces leading up to it, was how he’s introduced through the death of the sister. What I love about the show is that a lot of people have come into their world from his world, even though he’s not active law enforcement anymore.
Do you know if your role will continue next season?
LOGUE: I think it’s fair to say that whatever he’s got to do, it might take awhile to do. I didn’t know exactly what the parameters were, in terms of talking about the beyond, but I think Lee Toric is a pretty significant threat to these guys. I’m implying that it could go somewhere deeper and further.
What can you say about what your character will be up to in the finale?
LOGUE: It’s so hard. I have never really worked on anything before where anyone would care about spoilers. I can’t really say. The finale is action-packed. I was there at the read-through and around for some of the filming. My trajectory is a little different, but some scary stuff goes on. In this instance, I’ll say that you’ll just have to watch.
What was the atmosphere like at the table-read?
LOGUE: It was great. It’s just a really good group of people. I barely knew Tommy [Flanagan] and Mark Boone Junior. I’m really good friends with Danny Trejo. I knew Kim [Coates]. I knew people, but not well, so it was just really fun to get to know these people in the last few months, and work with them. When I did ER, I was a recurring guy for a little while. It’s always surprised me that the most successful and really amazing shows are also the happiest environments, and very welcoming. They’re not like, “Hey, we’re ER, so don’t you show up and blow your lines.” There wasn’t that kind of vibe. My character was introduced at the read-through. I had those scenes with Otto (Kurt Sutter). At the end, they were just reading the action that said, “Tara walks down the hall, and then this guy, Lee Toric, gets up and starts following her and the kids.” And I just remember all of the guys who were sitting at the table, all looked up and were like, “What?! You’re going after the kids?” People are deeply involved and invested in the stuff that is happening on the show. It has been very interesting, I have to say.
LOGUE: Peter Weller is fantastic. I had met Peter, years ago. We have a really good mutual friend, named Corey Brennan, who was truly this Renaissance genius guy and a great punk rock guitar player. We’ve always had this mutual friend, so that’s all we talked about when we were hanging out on the set. I actually don’t care because it’s fine either way, but I really like it when a really good actor is directing you. I loved the notes that Peter Weller gave me. The same went for Paris Barclay and for Kurt. I think Kurt is also a really good actor, by the way. It was a particular personal circle thrill to work with Peter Weller.
Do you think your character was really trying to figure out how guilty Tara is, or did he already have his mind made up before talking to her?
LOGUE: I think that he’s the kind of guy where, when he asks you a question, he’s not asking you to discover something. He just wants know if you’re lying to him or not. It’s like, “I’m asking you a question that I know the answer to, so just think carefully on what you’re going to tell me because a lot is going to be determined by how you answer this.” I like the way he doled it out, and I like the way that she picked up on it. It’s very human because it’s true. I’m this guy and that’s my sister and she was there, so there are questions that need to be answered. It was shocking for her, as well. The way I feel about it, especially with Tara, just as a fan of the show and having watched its progression, is that she’s come into this world from another world and discovered that she has an acumen. She has the backbone and strength to do things that she probably didn’t think she was capable of before. When I watch her squirm a little bit because I drop little bits of information like, “He was your patient and this was the third time you saw him,” as soon as she knows that I have that specific knowledge, she’s like, “Who are you?” He goes in there and says, “Look, I know what’s up. I know you brought this thing in there.” This is a game he’s been playing for 30 years, with Mexican drug cartels and with mobs. He’s been down this road. So, he’s like, “You think you’re good at this? This is what I do.” That’s what I like about this character. He feels like a weightier threat. He’s coming from such a different world, and he’s so powerfully motivated with revenge. He’s so mysterious.
When you come in to do a guest spot, are you ever really nervous on your first day?
LOGUE: I played on this soccer team, called Hollywood United, and there were a lot of old ex-international pro-players. We played this benefit match at the Rose Bowl, and the crowd streamed in. It’s so nerve-wracking to go out into a stadium, feeling a billion eyes upon you when you mess up your touches. That’s an overwhelming environment. But, the pros are used to it. A college football star, by his senior year, is used to running out there with 110,000 people going nuts. They feel comfortable in that environment. To me, a set feels like that. The one thing that I do know is that, as long as I’m prepared, I know this environment and this world. I think nerves show that you care, but the game is to never let them overwhelm you to where you can’t operate because the whole thing is about breathing and listening. They say you can judge a country by the way it treats its prisoners, and you can always judge a show by the way it treats people coming on to do these guest shots. Sometimes they are very tricky things because people are already in their groove. I have seen a couple of environments where it’s not very friendly to guys coming in. I loved it when I was coming up and people were welcoming to me, so I didn’t feel that pressure of being the new guy, screwing up. I love the opportunity to play it that way, now that I have more experience. I get nervous, but it’s been my sport for a long time. I feel comfortable in that environment.
Do you still think about what a Season 2 of Terriers might have been?
LOGUE: Oh, yes, all the time. In fact, I had a really a really good hang with (Terriers co-star) Michael Raymond-James yesterday, and we mused about it. We muse about shooting our own little indie film version of Season 2. I have to say that it was a thrilling ride to be on Terriers. It was this odd circumstance where it was really loved by the people it was loved by, but it didn’t do well. In fairness to FX, they were just so generous in keeping it on the air the whole year. There is something about it. I talked to some people in Europe who had seen it, and it played there like a BBC mini-series. It ended on this really beautiful, existentialist moment, so it felt like a complete document. I miss it, of course, but I felt like, however that 13 was tied up, at least we have that. Michael and I have joked about, ‘What if it just started going downhill after that and becoming absurd?” At least it has this tight little package that’s really nice. And I’m having fun moving on and doing all these other things.
What can you say about Vikings?
LOGUE: Vikings is this Michael Hirst drama series. He’s the guy that wrote Elizabeth, created The Tudors and worked on The Borgias. I tried to get in on that forever. I think that they were initially hesitant about having an American join a pretty international cast, but it ended up working out. Like Sons, I came on at the end of the season, maybe setting up some further important storylines. I just got back, and I can say that it was a really fantastic experience. I think it’s going to be great.
LOGUE: I had a really fun experience on Silent Night, but I wasn’t there that long. I hadn’t seen the original. This young director, named Stephen Miller, who did some really cool, wild, super low-budget indie stuff, has really made this mark for himself in the genre world. He asked me to do this thing, and I had the choice of a couple of parts. He’s a weird Santa, who’s a drifter. What I liked about this drifter was that he went off on these rants that were really interesting, funny and heart-breaking. I like that kind of stuff. I like doing speeches. I’ve been lucky because I’ve had a lot of characters, over the years, who will have three or four page speeches. Silent Night felt like the golden era of that genre. It always feels best to do work on something that’s good. It felt very comfortable doing stuff on Sons of Anarchy. The writing is great and the level of acting chops around you is always very high. It’s very easy to go in there and take your place. You’re in a good environment that is being supported, from all sides. After Terriers, I was really bummed out. I actually went to truck driving school. I’m not trying to be overly crazy dramatic about it, but I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades and I had lost the joy. So, I ended up having this really goofy, but really fun experience in this other horror-type film. I went and did a comedy improv show in San Francisco. It was at one of those old theaters that hadn’t been played in since the ‘30s and ‘40s. As an actor, you just go from part to part, and you embrace what is different about all the different parts. I had a particularly good time getting to hang out with Malcolm McDowell and Jaime King. They are fantastic people, and he is a great guy. When I was a younger kid, Clockwork Orange was that connective tissue. I am such a huge fan of Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole, and that school of great English actors. Malcolm never tired. He was so generous, telling me anything that I needed to know about anything. He’s a great guy.
What memories do you have about having been a part of The X-Files?
LOGUE: I worked on The X Files before it aired on television. Gillian [Anderson] and David [Duchovny] are both really good people, and I think Chris Carter is a really nice guy. It was so fun to be on something where they were just making this show and they didn’t know what a phenomenon it would become. A few years later, I was in a pretty remote place in the South Pacific, on an island near Fiji, and people knew about The X-Files. I was like, “Oh, my god, the reach of this show is so bizarre, and people are so into it.” It was fun to have been around that before it became what it became.
LOGUE: I’d have to say that this run of the last few months, when I jumped on Sons of Anarchy and saw it to the conclusion of the season, leaving some heavy duty question marks about what’s up for next season, jumping on Vikings, and going to film that in Ireland and playing this king, named King Horik, who is an actual historical king of the Vikings, have been my favorite months, as an actor. I’m not in every scene, but there was something really great about those experiences. I’ve been having fun.
I also have this little thing going with Bad Robot because I’m friends with J.J. Abrams. I’m doing this thing with them that could be interesting. It’s really experimental. I’m just having fun, as an actor. This sounds so bogus, but I would love to, at some point when my kids are in college, is just go do a whole season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and do a year of plays. Most actors miss the days of live theater. My buddy is the artistic director up there, and that would be fun.
The Season 5 finale of Sons of Anarchy airs on December 4th on FX.