When the hit drama series Sons of Anarchy returns to FX on September 10th, 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 if the premiere is any indication of where things are headed in this penultimate season, that’s going to be more challenging and heart-breaking than ever.
While at the FX portion of the TCA Press Tour, actor Charlie Hunnam and show creator/executive producer/writer Kurt Sutter talked about how much of an impact the acts of the premiere will have on this season, that the show has reached a moral turning point, the goal of the upcoming graphic novel, how much things are mapped out between now and the scheduled final season (Season 7), whether he knows what the final shot will look like, and how rewarding it’s been to work with each other. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that some major spoilers are discussed.
Question: The implication seems pretty clear, in the premiere episode, that SAMCRO sold the gun that’s used in the school shooting. How much of an impact will that have on this season?
KURT SUTTER: I’ve wanted to do that story for about three years. Obviously, I knew that it would be somewhat controversial, but I feel like, as much as I wouldn’t do something because it was controversial, I’m also not going to do something because it’s controversial. I feel like it’s an organic story to our world, in terms of it being what these guys do. I feel like, thematically, it’s the right fit because we have a lead character that’s a father who’s trying to figure out if he can raise his sons and avoid the kind of violence that happens. So, that will continue to play out. There’s a lot of blood and guts in my show. It is a signature of the show, but nothing is done gratuitously. The events that happen in the premiere are really the catalyst for the third act of this morality play that we’re doing.
Have we reached a moral turning point, where it’s clear both to Jax and his family and the viewers that you can’t really run a nice little neighborhood porn business and a gun-running business without there being real and profound consequences?
SUTTER: Absolutely! I think it’s really the conflict that has fueled the entire series, and especially Jax, with the idea of, “Can I really do what I do and follow this path, and still show up and be a caring and loving husband, and a good and loving father? Can I have all that and still be the leader of a criminal enterprise?” I think we’re on that trajectory, going into Season 6, where we have to decide if the answer is yes or no.
Charlie, when did you start riding motorcycles? Has being on the show deepened your appreciation of them, or changed that, in any way?
CHARLIE HUNNAM: I had just a very vague relationship with motorcycles before. I’d ridden a couple of times, when I was a kid on dirt bikes, and my big brother is an avid power bike and sport bike rider. He rides around tracks at 200 miles an hour, with other guys that aren’t really good enough to be doing that. They invariably hurt each other, and create a lot of collateral damage and expense. I was always a little nervous about him doing that, but hadn’t really thought a lot about riding, myself. And then, I got the show. Living in Los Angeles, it’s always frustrating to get around, so much so that it really inhibited my desire to go out into the world. I just had this epiphany, the first day on set, riding a bike around, that this is the way I want to get around. I just love it. There’s just a sense of freedom and a sense of being a part of the environment around you. It’s fun riding a bike. You smell the flowers, and you smell the garbage. You try not to get killed by a Prius.
Kurt, what are you looking to do with the graphic novel?
SUTTER: BOOM! is doing it for us, and they’re a great graphic novel house. I’m excited about it. I’ve had conversations with [John] Landgraf and the studio about, at some point in time, maybe a few years out, doing the prequel to this show, which would be the first nine. And we had talked about ways to keep the mythology alive, over that few-year period, and by doing it in off-media, whether that be novelization or graphic novels, and we’re still trying to put together some kind of gaming idea. So, the graphic novel was the first step to do that, and I’m very pleased with the drafts that I’ve seen.
Essentially, what it will be is parallel stories, so that it won’t touch on any of the mythology that we’ve created, but will have characters, that will be secondary characters, that will intervene and cross through that. There will be story points for the people who are really paying attention, and they’ll realize, “Oh, that was something that happened in Season 5, in Episode 9.” There will be intersecting narrative points, but nothing that impacts or influences the mythology that we’ve created, or where we want to go with the mythology. It will definitely be in our world, with some of the other characters. We’ve laid track to some 30-odd different characters, throughout the country and Europe. So, it will create new characters and it will live in this parallel universe.
How mapped out are you, episode per episode? Are you certain that the end of Season 7 is the end the show?
SUTTER: I have a loose structure and blueprint that I go into every season with, for the big mile markers. I have a sense of where I want to begin and where I want to end, and I have a great team of writers that really hang the meat on all those episodes. Chris Collins runs my room, and has done an extraordinary job this year, at hanging the meat on all those skeletons that I come in with. What I’ve learned, over time, is that the looser I hold on to those ideas, the better the seasons are. When I loosen my grip, I let the season take on a life of its own. It’s why I don’t like to get too far ahead, in terms of production and writing. I like to feel out where the first few episodes are going, and what’s working and not working, but I tend to have a loose grip.
My sense is that’s what I’ll do next season. I’ll come into the final season with a sense of where it’s going and where I want it to end. And at some point, if I go to John [Landgraf] and the studio and say, “Hey, I need three more episodes to close out the series,” I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to do it. My sense now is that I’m not going to go to them and say, “Hey, I need two more seasons to close out my story.” I don’t think that’s where it’s going to go. But if, for some reason, I can’t fit it into 13, there might be some room. Clearly, I’m having trouble fitting it in each episode right now, as you’ll see this season. Every episode continues to be super-sized. I don’t know if I’ve delivered one on time yet. They’re mostly either 15 minutes longer, or a half hour longer. There are a lot of big episodes, this season. It’s never my intention. There’s still always 38 to 42 pages in the script. But, as our characters get developed and our stories get thicker and our relationships get more complicated, these episodes just take longer and longer and longer to unfold.
Do you know what the final shot of the series is going to be?
SUTTER: I have a sense of what it is, but I hold onto it loosely. If that’s what it ends up being, that’s what it will end up being. I need that marker to go towards, and then I’ll be led to the right place.
Charlie, what’s it like to play a character with such conflicted emotions?
HUNNAM: In a nutshell, it’s a dream come true, to be given a character like this. When I met Kurt and read this script, initially, I was at a really low period of my career. I had a burning desire to go and do some really meaty work, and I just wasn’t getting the roles. I would meet directors, and they would be interested in hiring me, primarily in the film world, and then the studios would say that I wasn’t a viable enough commodity to support the infrastructure of getting the thing made. So, it was a really difficult time for me, and I just had this burning desire to do some of the type of work that I’d always dreamed of doing. And then, Kurt’s script came along and it just blew me away.
I come from an area where these type of complexities were available to me to witness. I grew up in an area where, if a man wanted to escape the tedious minutia of life, and the working-class struggle of making just enough money and being slammed by the man, all the time, then they had to go out and take some risks. There were always consequences to doing that, but it didn’t make them bad men. My father was a guy who took a lot of risks in his life and paid the consequences, and it corrupted the relationship he had with his family.
So, these were dynamics that had been raised with and understood, and felt really, really excited about having the opportunity to understand more deeply through playing them myself. But, I also felt like that experience gave me the tools to bring this guy to life, in a way that I would believe and, hopefully, the audience would believe it, too. I’ve said to Kurt, endlessly, just “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” It’s been, by far and away, the greatest creative experience of my life, and I just adore playing this guy. It requires a huge amount of energy. Kurt hands me these scripts, and I think to myself, “Jesus, I’m not sure if I can play this, but if you have the confidence in me, then I’ll give it my best shot.” Somehow, with our great directors and the support of the cast, we seem to, more often than not, be able to rise to the challenge. In short, it’s been a really exceptional experience for me.
SUTTER: And it’s a rare experience for me, in terms of doing this. I was doing an awful draft of one of the Punisher movies, and the woman who directed Green Street Hooligans was directing that movie. It was during the draft phase of Sons, and I watched Green Street because of the director. I saw Charlie in that, and it was at that moment that I wanted Charlie for Jax. I didn’t know who he was, in terms of where he lived, or if he was available. It was just one of those things where I said, “I want this guy. Where is he? Who reps him?”
He was living in Los Angeles, and he was at this turning point in his career. He was doing a lot of writing, and didn’t know if he wanted to be an actor, but he came in and nailed the role. It was just one of those things where I always feel like there was a certain amount of fate and destiny with this connection. We’ve really created this character together, to a larger degree. I’ve not had that experience with any other actor, other than my wife (Katey Sagal) with Gemma. So, it’s been this really great journey for both of us because we were both taking this risk and not knowing if anything was going to work and going, “All right, let’s fucking see what happens.” So, I echo that gratitude.
Sons of Anarchy returns to FX for Season 6 on September 10th.