In Season 6 of the hit FX drama series Sons of Anarchy, SAMCRO’s new President Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), must face the consequences of the MC’s criminal deeds before it tears the club apart. And with this being the penultimate season, things are clearly going to be more challenging and heart-breaking than ever.
During this recent interview to promote the new season, actress Maggie Siff (“Tara”) talked about what still surprises her about playing Tara, how much of herself is in the character, just how closely Tara is starting to mirror Gemma (Katey Sagal), the disconnect between Jax and Tara, why she cut off her hair, whether it’s harder for viewers to rationalize what the characters are doing now, whether she’s rooting for Tara to stay with the club, and her plans for when Sons of Anarchy is all said and done. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
MAGGIE SIFF: I’ve been joking that Tara’s like the place people go to see their dreams die, so I guess what surprises me is the darker and darker progression of the things that she sees fall away. The thing that surprises me in playing her and in figuring out how to play her are really her reserves of strength and power. Even as her mind is warping and things in her psyche are shifting, in a way that I think is really negative, and things are breaking, there’s also a fierceness in her that rises up, perpetually. That’s the surprise.
How much of you is in Tara?
SIFF: I think (show creator) Kurt [Sutter] has always been pretty savvy in terms of his casting. I think that one of the things that was alluring to him about having me in the role, initially, was the feeling of, “This is somebody who’s different. One of these things is not like the others.” She slowly got pulled back into a world that she worked really hard to define herself against. I think that who I am, as a person, perhaps similarly has some disjuncture with the world of the show, but that part is the part I’m trying to break down a little bit more, as we go along.
Viewers have seen Tara become more like Gemma (Katey Sagal), over the years. What’s it been like for Tara to become this person that she is really trying to escape and not be like?
SIFF: It’s pretty fascinating. I think there’s something almost magnetizing about Gemma and Tara. The way I’ve been thinking about it recently is that Gemma is like this fierce mother figure. She’s just such a powerful matriarch. She loves fiercely and will protect to her children and her clan to the death, against anything that she feels is going to threaten the sanctity of her family. Tara is like this quintessential orphan who’s parentless, and she’s been so in need of parents and protectors and people she can look to. So between those two things, there’s this magnetism, which is why I think they’re so drawn to each other and repelled by each other. Gemma is the only person around who serves that role for Tara. It’s a huge source of conflict because, while she desperately needs a parent, she desperately doesn’t want to become Gemma. It’s just had her bouncing back and forth between states of mind, over the last six years. It’s really fun to play, especially with Katey [Sagal], who I love. She’s a very maternal figure but she’s such a fierce actress we just flip in and out of these modes acting and hating each other and then love each other as people. It’s all there for us to play with. It’s a fun relationship.
Fans are very upset that Jax (Charlie Hunnam) cheated on Tara. What did you think, when you read that in the script, or was it something Kurt Sutter told you about beforehand? How do you explain the disconnect that happened between them?
SIFF: I’m glad to hear that fans were upset. I was upset as well. I think that they’re in such a disconnected place from each other right now. I think that, at the end of Season 5, we saw just incredible disillusionment, on both their parts, with the other person. I think Jax is feeling the sting of her betrayal, in terms of trying to set things up so that the kids would be given to Wendy, and she was feeling the sting of his betrayal, in terms of a real lack of support for her priorities, in getting her kids into a safe place, and also some of the more violent and terrifying aspects of his nature that were revealed to her, at the end of last season. They’re on different planes right now, and she can’t even see him when she’s in prison. What I was playing with, in the premiere episode, is that she’s using the time to really collect her thoughts and create a plan for herself, in terms of what she’s going to do to protect herself and her kids because nobody else is going to help her, and that includes Jax. Therefore, she can’t expose herself to him because it would be too difficult.
SIFF: I don’t think so. One of the things about the show that really pulls people in is that, no matter how awful things get between people, there is this deep and violently passionate love between the characters, within the family, and between Jax and Tara. It’s hard not to, on a basis level, root for that. I root for that. I think we all root for that. That said, it’s such a brutal and brutalizing world. God knows how it’s all going to end. But, I think it’s natural and I think it’s set up for us to root for that.
Why do you think some fans think Tara is the best thing for Jax while others think that her independence makes her a traitor?
SIFF: I don’t know. I really don’t read those things, partly because it’s hard not to take it personally. But, I do know that that’s true. A lot of people are really hooked into their relationship and the love. Then, there’s a contingent of people who are more male fantasy based about who Jax is, as a gangster, and they don’t appreciate the vulnerability that it signifies that he would be with somebody and be in the kind of relationship that pulls him around a bit. I’m not really sure.
Initially, Tara was the show’s moral compass, but she’s since gone to a much darker place, with all that she’s been through. In the beginning, did Kurt Sutter ever tell you that this would be the character arc, or has it been very organic?
SIFF: I think it’s been pretty organic. I think he always wanted to see Tara progress towards Gemma and towards assuming the role of matriarch, but I don’t think he knew how that was going to happen. Being the moral compass was not necessarily what he anticipated for the character. I think it was a combination of who I was, as an actor, and some beginning notions that he had about her. Early on, the thing that he would say to me is that he realized that she was like the window through which the audience could see these people. Like the audience, she loved this man, but knew better, and that’s the audience’s position, as well. You love these people, but you know that they’re bad people. In terms of that slide, she can’t actually become a Gemma-like figure without losing some of her moral ground. She really wants to provide a safe life for her children. She ultimately doesn’t want to live the life of a criminal, within the world of that kind of danger and violence. This season, what you see is a Tara who’s progressed to a place where she knows how to use the tactics of Gemma. She has violence in the aspects of her nature that she now draws upon or that rise up more quickly, but her goal is different. Her goal will always be different.
SIFF: Yes, you’ll see a little bit of that. I think that she spends a lot of this season really scheming and plotting and doing what she has to do to protect herself. Her tactics are somewhat questionable, sometimes. So, you’ll see her doing some things that are pretty reminiscent of Gemma, and they’ll make you cringe, slightly. I think she’s also learned that, if she’s going to survive in this world, which she’s determined to do, then she has to get a little bit dirty.
Do you think Tara is past the point of no return?
SIFF: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I think she hopes she can turn back, but I don’t know if she can turn back. This season, what I see in the character is somebody who doesn’t really care that much about herself anymore. She’s just really interested in figuring it out for her children. I think so much has been lost that who know where her hopes and dreams are, or what can happen with them. They’re off to the side now.
Was your shorter hair-cut done specifically for the show, or is that something that the Sons of Anarchy writers had to work into the script?
SIFF: I had been wanting to cut my hair for a long time. At the end of last season, I talked to Kurt about it and he was like, “Yes, let’s do it,” once we knew that she was going to prison. For the episodes when she’s in prison, it has to not look too done. The thing that I ended up feeling, before I cut my hair, was that it would be a really good thing for the character and for the season because it’s tougher. There’s something about losing the hair that’s a little bit like losing the part of her that is submissive to Jax and to the club. Losing that feminine edge is a really good thing, for the season and for the character. I think it all ended up coming together.
What will most affect Tara, this season?
SIFF: For much of this season, she’s a little bit off to the side, figuring out for herself how she’s going to get out. There are several tactics that she tries, throughout the season, in terms of what she can do for herself, to help herself out from under her legal problems, but also to help get her kids out of this life.
With the school shooting and the cover up, does that put a whole different slant to things, in your mind? Is it harder to rationalize what these characters are doing now?
SIFF: Yes, I think so. I think Kurt was interested in really bringing it home for them, in a way that can’t be escaped. There have been other moments. I know, for me, there have been other moments. I found that moment last year when Jax slammed the heroin into Wendy’s (Drea de Matteo) arm. For myself and my character, I was like “How do I come back from that?” I think that the school shooting opened up a huge can of worms for the show and for the characters on the show. I know Kurt really wants to see it through to the end. Hopefully it’ll pay off in a way that people can get behind.
SIFF: Yes, a little bit. He’s such a worthy adversary for the club this year, and Donal [Logue] is so fantastic. I’ve enjoyed working with him so much. Lee Toric is working every angle, and that continues to happen.
Do you root for Tara to stay with the club?
SIFF: Yes, I do. The thing that’s complicated is that, in Tara’s ideal world, she has the love of her life, who’s Jax, and she has procured the safety of her children. But, the question that remains is if those things can actually happen together. I think Jax’s happiness is dependent upon there being a club and him being part of it. If the club attempts to come clean, is that possible? Those are the looming questions.
With just one more season to go, what do you plan to do after Sons of Anarchy?
SIFF: I am looking forward to everything and anything. I’m looking forward to having my year to make it up as I like. I come from the theater and that’s my first love. I still split my time between here and New York, so I look forward to going back to New York and doing more theater. I look forward to finding another great series. I think that what’s happening on cable is really exciting. I hope that, after this show, there’s another great cable show that I can be a part of. For an actor like me, who works in all of mediums, including theater, it’s a great schedule. It’s half the year, and then you have half the year to do other things to round yourself out. You need to cover a lot of ground to make yourself feel full, as a creative person.
Sons of Anarchy airs on Tuesday nights on FX.