On Season 4 of the popular FX drama Sons of Anarchy, viewers are getting to learn more about the personal history and relationships of many of the SAMCRO members that they’ve only gotten to catch glimpses of, up until now. Once such character is Juan Carlos Ortiz, otherwise known as Juice, who has been a fan favorite since the series debuted. As things heat up and loyalties are called into question, Juice will be more in the line of fire than ever.
During a recent interview to promote the series and talk about the evolution of his character, actor Theo Rossi hinted at what’s ahead for Juice, how pleased he was to learn about the direction things would be headed in this season, that Juice isn’t the typical biker but that doesn’t make him any less loyal to the club, and that what he’s learned from his co-stars is invaluable to him, both personally and professionally. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: The SAMCRO guys are in some really murky waters this season. What’s ahead for Juice?
THEO ROSSI: Yes, it’s about to get very murky and very crazy. It always is, but it’s really about to go to a whole different level. (Show creator) Kurt [Sutter] is touching on an extremely important issue in the MC world, and you’ll see how that plays out. It’s just going to be shocking, crazy and not what anybody thinks, like Kurt always does. He is just blowing people’s minds with this whole thing. From one scene in Episode 3, there’s been so much talked about already, with what goes on with racism, inside the motorcycle world. Juice just happens to be at the epicenter of it. All I can say is that everything is tested, throughout this season, and not just with Juice, but with all the relationships of these guys, in this club. This entire season is about relationships. This is just another one that will be shown.
What surprises you the most about the evolution of Juice ,over the four seasons?
ROSSI: I’ve been so lucky. Kurt has 11 series regulars to deal with, and I’ve been really blessed and lucky with Juice. Through the first three seasons, I really got to do some pretty memorable stuff. There were some really great, memorable scenes that the fans seem to have loved, and it’s really shown this guy as the soldier that he is, and what an enormous and integral part of the club he is, even though we haven’t really gone into his backstory and put him as the focus. So, to now bring up this issue and exploit it with this storyline, it’s just the right time, and I couldn’t be happier. When Kurt told me what was going to go down, before the season started, and how it was going to go, I thought it was just great. Anytime Kurt writes anything for me, I’m more than pleased. There is no writer or showrunner that delivers like Kurt. It’s just great.
Is the set a real family environment now, after four seasons together?
ROSSI: It’s so crazy because, every year, we think we’re going to turn into this normal show where the people don’t talk to each other and, between takes, they’re on their BlackBerry or iPhone. They pretend they like each other at conferences and all that, but behind their backs, they hate each other. I’ve worked on 30-something different TV shows, and most of the people can’t stand each other. We love each other. We literally hang out all the time. I live down the block from two of the actors, who I’m with all the time. Even on our hiatuses and breaks, we’re always together. We’ve become this little family. Kurt put together this gritty bunch of character actors. Nobody acts like a star and nobody has that kind of attitude. It’s a bunch of people who love to work, who enjoy watching each other work, and who are normal, family-oriented, hanging out every day-type of people. I think that’s why the fans relate to us, and I think that’s why we all relate to each other.
With the new info that you’ve learned about Juice in the first episodes of this season, do you find that it’s changed how you portray him now, or has it added anything to your performance as an actor?
ROSSI: There is so much stuff coming up, and I obviously can’t say a lot, but the whole storyline really starts moving, full steam ahead, in the next episode. Having someone like Kurt in charge and steering the boat,, you get so much info from him before the season. He tells you a lot of stuff. I just trust in everything he does. The one thing I’ve always known about Juice was that he was one of the newer guys, and he was extremely loyal. He really wanted to emulate the older guys and, at the same time, was on this level with Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and Opie (Ryan Hurst), in age. He just really wanted to be hanging out with them. I always felt like he was this guy who was so loyal and just wanted to do anything he could. So, when things happen to him, like when he got his cut taken in Season 3, you always feel for the guy because it’s almost like he doesn’t fit in, in this world. He looks like he fits in, but he’s this lovable, nice guy. What I’ve created with him is just making him really relatable to people.
Were you into this motorcycle culture before you got cast on the show?
ROSSI: I have such an incredible journey and story with this whole thing. My uncle, who helped raise me from when I was young, had moved from California and would just tell me these legendary stories of these motorcycle clubs that he was around, and that he used to ride with. He used to work in a prison and he had all these stories, and I would hear these tales throughout my youth. His dream, before he passed, was that we were going to ride together. So, I was so intrigued. When I first met with Kurt, it was one of those moments where you feel everything is happening for a reason. I’ve always had a massive fascination with the modern-day cowboys, modern-day outlaws, and going against the system. That’s always been very intriguing to me.
When Kurt broke the news to you about what the story arc was going to be for this season and some of the depths you were going to have to plunge, how did you react to it?
ROSSI: We have a meeting before the season. Kurt is one of the few showrunners that actually sits down and talks to the actor alone, and then with all of the other writers, and basically tells you what he has in mind and what’s going to go down. My god, when I heard mine and I knew what was going to happen, I was so excited and I thought it was brilliant. I’ve always been a huge fan of this show, and I’m a huge fan of every single part of it. Juice is such a lovable character that a lot of people relate to, so when everything goes down and this ball starts rolling, which it already has, I think it’s going to shock a lot of people, and isn’t that the point of storytelling? Isn’t that the point of television and great writing?
What’s it been like to work with the guys in this catch and watch them get their moment?
ROSSI: It’s so great. We’re so close and we hang out constantly, to a point of people finding it very odd when they see us out together, all the time. They don’t understand what’s going on. I think it’s great. Kim [Coates] and Ron [Perlman] are two of my closest friends on the show, and I think it’s crazy that fans are now just realizing them. If you look at someone like Kim Coates, you realize that he’s been in everything. With Perlman, I just read they’re remaking Beauty and the Beast. The greatest thing about this cast is that they’re chameleons. Everybody is a chameleon. Look at Katey [Sagal], from Married with Children to this. This is a cast full the greatest actors in the world. The people I respect in the history of acting, from the beginning, were chameleons, and that’s what Kurt has put together here.
What do you think originally attracted Juice to the club?
ROSSI: Funny, he definitely doesn’t seem like the typical biker. The thing that attracted Juice to the club, and the one thing I have always put in my head and that Kurt has definitely reassured me on, is that he just wanted to be accepted. We’ll find out so much more about him in the next episodes. When people join clubs, as simple as a sorority or a fraternity, or a football or baseball team, it’s because they just want to be in a group. You want to be around people and with people. I’ve always sensed that Juice is this socially awkward guy, and now he gets to have this family that he always wanted. So, we’ll see. It’s a great question. I just think acceptance, more than anything, is what Juice, and a lot of people, are looking for.
Juice has always been a very a specific presence on this show, but not like this season. What was your reaction, when you found out that he was going to come out to the forefront?
ROSSI: Oh man, I want to say I was just excited for it. When Kurt sat me down and basically gave me the run-down, and the broad strokes of where we were going to go and what we were going to try to do with it, if I was good enough to handle, I was excited, and I just love it. I’m a huge fan of the show and the writing and of every actor on it, so to get to play in this world even more than I already have is great. It’s fantastic.
Has the experience of doing this show changed your point of view on life and family, at all?
ROSSI: This show has changed my life in so many ways, personally and career-wise. We would have to sit down and have a long talk about how much this show has changed my life, from the first second I met Kurt on the original pilot. It’s fantastic. These guys have become my best friends and my family, and not just people who are in the cast, but people in the crew as well. My lifestyle, my life and everything has changed because of this show. It’s changed everything for me. I cannot thank every single part of Sons of Anarchy enough, and mainly Kurt and John Landgraf. To me, there is no better network to work for, for actors, and there is no better show on it. Kurt is the guy who just writes brilliant stuff, every single line, and John is the president of a network who lets actors and showrunners do their thing. I think that’s why the show is so successful, and I think that’s why the network is so successful.
What have you learned about acting from this show, that you carry with you to other roles?
ROSSI: I get lucky enough, in off seasons, to do my little things, here and there. I just did a film, last off-season, about crystal meth addiction, called Meth Head. And, this year, we’ve got a couple of things lined up. What I’ve learned, more than anything, as a young actor who has been in the business for 10 years, is just to be around guys and girls, like Ron Perlman, Bill Lucking, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Katey Sagal, who have been in this business for a very long time, and to learn what to do and what not to do from them, every day, and to see how they navigate through their Hollywood life. To learn from that is invaluable. You can’t buy that stuff. What that’s taught me is how to handle myself, as a person, in this business. Every single person on our show is amazing and cool and down-to-earth. To learn about their work ethic, the way they live their lives, and the way they navigate through this world, is something that I’ll never forget.