With television, unexpected and unpredictable have become more and more rare. Due to the level of money on the line, safe is more of a sure bet. But, it’s that unpredictability that keeps me coming back to the FX drama series Sons of Anarchy, season after season, and it’s the unexpected nature of the show that has me anxiously anticipating Season 5, premiering on September 11th.
While at Comic-Con for a presentation in Hall H, show creator/writer/executive producer Kurt Sutter talked to the press about how Jax (Charlie Hunnam) sitting at the head of the SAMCRO table will affect things this coming season (which picks up three to four weeks after the end of Season 4), the physical and emotional wreckage that Clay (Ron Perlman) will be dealing with, whether Gemma (Katey Sagal) might ever be able to forgive Clay, the ramifications of Juice’s (Theo Rossi) actions last season, what it will take for Opie (Ryan Hurst) to come back to the club, and the additions of Jimmy Smits (as a gangbanger named Nero Padilla), Harold Perrineau (as Damon Pope), Chuck Zito, Ashley Tisdale and Joel McHale this season. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
KURT SUTTER: There’s not a lot of changes yet because it’s only about three to four weeks after the end of Season 4. Jax is definitely at the head of the table. All the things that were in play last season are in play, such as the deal with the cartel. Clay (Ron Perlman) is out of the hospital. That’s one of the reasons why we skipped a little bit of time. I didn’t want to play hospital scenes with Clay, so Clay is out of the hospital. We have the ongoing threat of Damon Pope, who we introduced in the finale last year, and he’s being played by Harold Perrineau. He’s set up as more of a traditional antagonist, in the beginning of the season, and I think that will turn on its head, a little bit. This season is really about seeing Jax at the head of that table. What kind of leader will he become? I like the idea of seeing a President, as we see more often than not, inherit the mess of the previous President. How does he deal with that? And can you be the head of an outlaw organization and not become Clay? Is that possible? Or, if you don’t become Clay, are you perceived as weak and end up like John Teller? It’s really about the challenges that are presented to Jax, and what kind of leader he’ll become.
Where will Clay’s head be at now?
SUTTER: I really wanted to acknowledge the physical and emotional wreckage that Clay has brought on himself, so we will see him physically debilitated. He took a bullet to the lung, so he’s moving slow. He’s hurt. And I think he’s dealing with the ramifications of his actions. I think he is broken, emotionally and physically. The loss of the club was devastating for him, and the greater devastation, at least in the first half of the season, is the loss of Gemma (Katey Sagal).
SUTTER: I don’t know. We’re really playing that arc out. I think the two of them are bonded, in a very deep way, by a lot of things. But initially, that’s very damaged and broken. We’ll see, over time, if that can be repaired.
Last season, Theo Rossi was really propelled into the forefront, but the Juice storyline wasn’t entirely resolved. Will there be ramifications from that?
SUTTER: I think so. I think it’s more of a second half of the season arc. Some of the maneuvers that Juice was forced into making last season will come up and play out, towards the end of the season. This is a case of my actor informing the character. Theo is such a sweet guy. He’s the guy that takes care of everybody else, and that’s really bled into Juice. So, this season, he really is the guy who, because of the divide between Clay and Tig, really becomes a confidante of Clay and will be in Clay’s circle. Thematically, it is the idea that these guys both have secrets about killing other members of the club, that neither one of them is aware of, but in a strange way, they’re attracted to each other because of that. We’ll play some of that out, in the first half of the season.
SUTTER: I don’t really see it as being on anybody’s side. It’s not like we begin this season with sides. It’s not Clay versus Jax. Clay is a broken guy, and Juice is there to help him out. There’s not a perception of, “Oh, Juice is on Clay’s side now.”
How deep are you willing to go into Hamlet territory, at this point?
SUTTER: Obviously, there are archetypes and characters and relationships that are based on the play, but I don’t look at it in terms of, “Okay, Season 4 was Act 2.” But thematically, I look at the arc of it and, if there’s a possibility to draw a parallel that’s in the natural course of the storytelling, I’ll do that. Whether or not everyone dies in a big pool of blood, I don’t know yet. I think, in terms of sheer body count, there’s probably a lot of similarities.
So much was left unresolved between Jax and Opie, at the end of last season. What is that dynamic like, in Season 5?
SUTTER: There was a part of me that, last year, would have found it very neat and satisfying for fans, if Opie showed up at that table, at Jax’s side. I think I had that, in earlier drafts, or was thinking of that. But then, with everything that happened with Piney (William Lucking), and if you throw Donna into that mix, it just didn’t seem realistic that Opie could easily go, “Okay, I’m your guy, Jax.” No matter how deeply he felt about Jax, for Opie to come back to that table, there really would need to be a sense of him figuring that out and Jax earning his trust to get him back. That’s really what we do, in the first few episodes. And then, towards the end of Episode 2, you’ll see Opie start to make those moves back to the club, and being in Jax’s camp. We’ll move that relationship forward. At the end of last season, it just felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do, to put him at that table.
SUTTER: First, we have Ashley Tisdale and Joel McHale doing a couple episode arcs. We had so much fun when we brought Stephen King on, and David Hasselhoff, last season. Those are really these ironic little pops. We had this episode where we had this high-priced escort that the guys have to protect, and her whole hook was that she was a Disney girl. So I thought, “Why don’t we fucking just get a Disney girl?,” and we did. We went and looked into it, and we got Ashley [Tisdale] to do it. It’s just the irony of that. And, she’s great! She’s in two episodes. She gets to be in a couple action scenes, so she was very excited about that.
And then, we have Harold Perrineau playing Damon Pope. Harold is just a fantastic actor. Sometimes when you present these big, iconic antagonists, you have the trap of guys coming and playing the big antagonist. The history of this character, Damon Pope, is that he’s like a Frank Lucas guy who made his money in drugs on the street, and has really worked his way up and is now this legitimate businessman who is very smart, in terms of how much he gives back to the community. He’s embraced by the community and by politicians, but yet he still makes his money, to a certain extent, on the street. He’s a dangerous dude. The trap would be to have a bad-ass to play that role, so I really wanted to go with somebody who came across with a certain amount of intelligence and a different energy than a gangbanger. I think that’s what Harold brings to the role.
And Jimmy Smits will play a character named Nero Padilla. Nero is a gangbanger, and he’s a guy who will cross paths with Jax, early in the season. He and Jax will get into a business venture together. He becomes a mentor for Jax, to a certain extent. He’s a guy who has been in the life a long time – longer than Jax – and his whole thing is that the gangster life and the life he wants outside of the gangster life do not mix. His whole thing is about making his money to get out, to have the life that he wants, and Jax can relate to that. He becomes this role model for Jax, in the pursuit of that.
How is it working with Chuck Zito now?
SUTTER: Me and Chuck are really good. Once the lawsuit got dismissed and went away, I was able to sit down with him and apologize for the language of my blog. I had a complete misinterpretation of why Chuck was in the lawsuit. He really did feel like he was wronged. The truth is that Chuck and I have about 15 or 20 mutual friends in the life, so we had all these guys around us that we were like, “Why don’t you just sit down and have lunch?” And we did, and we probably talked for about three or four hours. He’s a very amusing guy, and a source of a lot of stories. And then, we just started bullshitting about the show, and I thought it would be cool to have him on. Initially, it was only going to be three or four episodes, but now I think he’s in eight or nine.
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