Jeri Jacquin, Movie Maven
Last night’s season finale of SONS OF ANARCHY was nothing short of stellar. Creator Kurt Sutter has once again brought audiences to their knees with stress, anxiety, cheers and fears for what is to come in Season Six!
The finale was the series most watched finale ever and the third most watched episode ever in the shows history. SONS OF ANARCHY is also the number one show in its time slot meaning everyone knows where to be on Tuesday nights!
So, have questions? Well so do I and Kurt Sutter is here to answer them. Lets hope we get a sneak peak into what’s to come for SAMCRO!
Thanks for joining us Kurt although I suspect you knew this was going to happen. You have such a fan base, how important is it to focus on little details for characters?
All that stuff is really important to me in fact I’m sort of tyrannical with the details of the show in terms of costume and scene and set design. I’ve done a lot of research on the sub culture and I have a pretty solid working knowledge on how these guys live. I feel by rooting it in the rich small details that allows me to tell bigger, epic and more dramatic stories. If I can root it in the reality of the subculture, the sub culture becomes more true and accurate. It gives me freedom to push the boundaries. That has always been pretty important to me and we are a well-oiled machine on getting it done now. Just choosing the crucifix for Otto was at least a dozen conversations with me looking at three or four different crosses so all that is important.
The season started with a death early on so was it hard to decide to get to a finale?
That’s always a challenge doing something larger in the beginning. I wanted to do that with Opie. I didn’t want to drag it out and not have people see it coming because of bad execution but coming as a natural progression. I wanted it to be shocking and knock the wind out of the audience but the club as well. What I was able to do with the death of Opie, not so much worrying about the rest of the season being a let down, but it gave me a life altering circumstance for my hero that it really allowed me to accelerate his journey. I wanted to get to the place were we had to force Jax’s hand to see what kind of leader he would become. That tragedy really allowed me to accelerate that journey so we could organically push Jax to the edge to see what kind of man, what kind of leader he would become. That was it opened up my story possibility rather than hinder them.
You had so many guest starts this seasons, Donal Logue, Jimmy Smits, can you talk about that?
I can tell you that Donal will be back. We’ve made a deal for 10 episodes so far. I know we have him locked up for seven or eight next season. What we usually do is make a minimum deal and if we need them more we can. That character will be a big character next season and probably the most dangerous threat the club has ever had in terms of law enforcement. He has law enforcement weight and credential and connections and yet because he’s retired doesn’t have the legal handcuffs or morality hurdles that maybe some of the other law enforcement members have had. With a guy like Donal who is f*ckin fun to work with and a great actor we have a lot of places we can go with him. Jimmy Smits I’d love to bring back. I love bringing in that new sort of culture into the show. His Latino past and energy and mixing it into the world is amazing. I love the relationship between he and Gemma. I would love to bring Jimmy back, we left it sort of open ended because we weren’t sure about his availability. There is enough emotional weight on the table to continue the story line but I was careful not to pin him in case. We are trying to make that work.
Where is the balance of someone like Gemma?
It’s always a fine balance with any of our three major characters – Jax, Gemma and Clay. The trilogy has such strong familial characters and have won the hearts of audiences. They are in this dark world making decisions like this all the time. Their world is bad and sometimes there are reprehensible decisions. It’s difficult to find that balance but what I try to let be my guide is the story and I like to think things happen organically. I don’t try to manipulate a reaction from the audience. Gemma, and I means this in the most flattering way but she’s a cockroach man, she’s hard to kill. She was really a drift at the beginning of the season, she was f*cked up and hit bottom. She crawled her way back up and she made some really defining decisions that I think that by the end of the season she’d have her balls back. I think we got there. It’s hard to cheer that on but yet at the very least there is a sense of f*ck man – she always f*ckin lands on her feet! Her justification is always that she’s taking care of her family. That’s what allows her to do the things she needs to do. It’s definitely a fine line.
How much space do you leave yourself to change storylines?
My general rule, what I tend to do is I come in with a blueprint at the beginning of the season with my writers and lay out what I want to do but it’s loose. The more I do this and the more confident I get with the show in terms of the stories that we tell, I’ve been able to hold onto them a little more loose each season. My grip gets a little looser I think as the mythology progresses. That was the case this season. I had these ideas and we wrote towards those ideas but if something happens organically in the process of telling the story and we want to play it out and I have the room to do that or if I see something that’s popping on the screen in terms of a relationship or conflict that is compelling then I’ll throw some story at that. I have some leeway and then you have to be careful that at a certain point, usually in the back four or five episodes, then your leeway starts to diminish. Not that you have to start to tie everything up but I do have the reality of how much time I have in a season to tell these stories. As time progresses and the episodes pass the doorway gets a little more narrow.
Does having Otto bite off his tongue is that a way of getting rid of yourself?
It was a way of having to keep myself from learning dialogue. If he comes back it will be grunts and scribbling sh*t on paper!
The tongue incidents was incredible, did you like playing that out?
My pitch in the first day in the writers room was I wanted to find a way for Otto to bite his tongue off so I didn’t have to learn anymore lines. Everyone laughed but as the season progressed and there was an opportunity in the finale I played it out. A guy as f*cked up as Otto what would be a better way for him to commit and say I’m not talking than bit his tongue off.
Does it prevent Otto from testifying really? <laughing>
I think he’s such a damaged soul psychologically and emotionally at this point I think it was just symbolic. It was him telling the club and the authorities that ‘you’re not going to get a f*cking response out of me’. He’s saying I won’t be talking and sending that message to the club. What better way to send a message that you’re not going to talk then biting your own tongue! Even Donal said ‘way to commit!’
Jax has really developed this season, he’s gone back and forth being in and out of the club, where is he now?
I really wanted to get to a place with Jax at the end of the season and one of my desires at the beginning, as I said with the death of Opie, we have accelerated his journey. I really wanted to get to a place where that perhaps Jax realizes that he’s better at being an outlaw than he is at being a husband and a father. There is an allure that comes with power and prestige that perhaps he wasn’t aware of. Or maybe was aware of but he didn’t have to decide about it one-way or the other. Even though he wanted to leave maybe he wasn’t ready to leave. The attempt was to have this very successful and bloody and tragic and painful run as president of the club but ultimately have it come out flawlessly. The execution of Pope and how he maneuvered that he pulled that off like a spec-op solider. It all went flawlessly and he was incredibly smart. All the stuff with his family was falling apart why that was going on. He couldn’t keep promises to Tara, everything was a false promise. At the end of it he does one incredibly bad and one incredibly well. The idea that maybe I’m supposed to be doing this and not doing that. I’m not saying that’s where we are going but there is a sense of doing good with one and fail the other and maybe I should stay with what I’m good at. That’s where I wanted him to land.
Drea de Matteo, will Wendy be back?
I’d love to bring Drea back. I think Drea has a show, a pilot, and that will remain to be seen if that gets picked up. That’s always a tricky thing when networks and shows are open to have the actor step out and do something else. I think there is more story to be told with that character. I love where we went with it this season. The timing felt right. I think Drea had fun having some bone to her character. There is more story I want to tell there. It’s her availability and we’ll find that out by next season.
Now that Clay is off to prison, what is his role going to be now?
I really wanted to, at the end of the season, when August tells him ‘I want him dead before the hearing’ that there is a death for Clay. He is essentially a dead man walking or a deal man riding between two black men. I wanted to set that up. Jax was successful in his death by proxy that he has chosen for Clay. How that plays out yet I’m not sure. There is more story to tell in terms of the mythology but I don’t want to get into another situation where it’s almost a death of Clay because I think that’s unsatisfying. I’m not quite sure where Clay’s ending will be and I do think that ultimately it has to be near but there is more story to tell.
When Bobby turned in his badge it was shocking, how is it going to go?
I think that was part of the tragedy for me really. We had this for Jax at the beginning of the season was a checklist of what Jax wants. Jax wants to get out of the drug business, get out of the cartel business, get rid of Rico, get revenge for Clay. He methodically and brilliantly achieved those goals this season. At the end, all the tasks are done and the fallout came out on the personal sides of that. Whole families are in shambles. Now he has a club that has no more Rico case, nobody holding a gun to them anymore, he’s got this relationship now with Ely so there’s no pressure in town, he’s removed the drug business, he has new business for them and making money, Charming heights…yet the club is in complete shambles. His inner circle is reduced to two guys. Bobby was the last voice of reason and turning in the VP patch is not him leaving the club but saying ‘you won’t let me do this job’. The club itself has all these wonderful opportunities and ready to flourish but part of Jax’s job next season will be now that he’s gotten rid of the external things how do I fix the inside.
Nero is a positive thing for Gemma but can she hold that or ruin it?
She doesn’t need to be loved she just needs to be wanted, I don’t know if that’s true but I think Gemma need everything. I think she’ll be a positive influence on him or at least a positive influence in his outlaw life. When she says to him ‘I do messy’, she knows what to do with a guy who’s faced with the conflict that are associated with an outlaw life. She doesn’t know what to do with a guy who is outside the outlaw life. Being pulled back in, she is in her comfort zone because she can be an ole’ lady. If that’s what Nero is moving to, or as Jax calls him out saying ‘you saw this coming’ its like yes this has happened but there is a part of you that knew it was going to happen so Nero knew. Nero said he wanted to get out but perhaps wasn’t able to get out either. I think she can be a positive influence on him. I also think Nero is a different man than Clay was. I think Nero has a stronger sense of himself than perhaps Clay did and because maybe there is a distance between he and Gemma with that I don’t think Nero will be as corruptible as Clay. That leads to interesting conflict down the line if Gemma does try to corrupt him.
Will she always be in the club’s business?
Gemma’s role in all that – she’s an anomaly and there are very few, if any, in the outlaw culture that has the weight she has. In the mythology she was there from the beginning influencing the two presidents from the beginning. She’s privy to the leaders and if she maintains that relationship with Jax as being now the matriarchal influence will have greater access than in the past. Yes, I think she’ll influence Jax in the future. She’s not sitting at the table making decisions but her whole goal is its ‘club and family first’ making sure her men stay strong and stay focused and keep the priorities straight. When they are dropping the ball and being weak she is the one that’s going to pull them up and slap the sh*t out of them telling them to take care of business.
The shift in loyalties in the club, what do you have coming?
I think there’s a lot of play out with Bobby and Jax next year. I think a major relationship will be between Chibbs and Jax. Chibbs will be like his Opie and things will be played out there. Is Chibbs able to maintain that level of loyalty? Will he then be burdened to be the voice of reasons and what does that mean for their relationship. I think it will be between Jax and Chibbs and Jax and Bobby.
What about the homeless lady – what can you say about her?
The homeless lady is always, not to be purposefully cryptic, she is what she is and she does what she does. She’s a little bit of my Shakespearean ode to magic and she kind of shows up at these poignant moment in Jax’s storyline. Its not like I have some big revelatory thing that will be happening with the homeless woman with a big reveal. I don’t think that’s going to happen but I think she will show up the way she does.
Your cast is amazing – do you have total hand in that?
I’m involved. The first couple seasons I did but I’m not in the physical auditions anymore. If I’m meeting with a major role or cast I’ll go to the meetings. Like I did with Harold, Donal and Jimmy – at that point it’s a creative discussion about the fit. In terms of the day-players they will do a general audition, Paris, Wendy, John will run those. They do a general audition and callbacks and then I’ll usually get their top three or four picks and their recommendations. Because I know where the story is going I’m plugged into every actor that’s in the show.
You have managed to stay focused on the show, how do you do that?
I spent a lot of time figuring out what I wanted to do and what I’m good at. I’m about 10 years older than most doing shows and I have gratitude to where I’m at and don’t take that lightly. I dig what I do. I’m plugged into it and I think because I do enjoy it and I have such a deep sense of ownership and pride involved in it I don’t think I’d ever want to jump the shark. I think when that happens on the show its because the creative motor behind it becomes bored or distracted quite frankly. I try not to do that. The show is my priority and my labor of love and I have every intention of maintaining that and following through and finishing it as strongly as we’ve managed to do so far.
What are you watching on TV?
Good question! I’m a huge BOARDWALK EMPIRE fan. Jack Houston has become a friend of mine and I don’t know if it’s the one eyed thing. I’m a couple episodes behind on the show so I haven’t seen the finale. I’m not a zombie genre fan but I’m a big fan of THE WALKING DEAD. I’ve been desperately trying to get into GAME OF THRONES; it’s just not my wheelhouse. My wife has me now watching REVENGE and she’s pulled me into some of that which is soapy and delicious. I watch a lot of HGTV – HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATION and I like show’s were guys build sh*t that serves a purpose. I am about three episodes behind LAST RESORT and when a show gets let go it’s hard to watch the rest of the episodes. I think LAST RESORT was too ambitious for network. I think it’s the kind of show that I think they’d done better if they dirtied up more and did it on cable to cultivate an audience. It’s a great cast and a great concept but maybe to ambitious. I don’t mean it the way it sounds but I think it was too smart for network. I wish that show had had a chance to find its feet.
You’ve talked about the importance of Twitter; do you plan to continue to use it to keep fans aware of what’s going on?
It’s pretty much the same way as I always do. I don’t blog as much mainly because of Twitter. I do the video blog and continue to do those each week. Now I can go back to answering questions that fans send in each week. As we develop stuff I’ll let people know. When we were back in February and we sat down with the writers I let fans know. I think it’s such a long wait between seasons I try to keep people engaged and excited. If there is an announcement to make and I can do it without stepping on FX toes I’ll do it. As I start to develop stuff we’ll do something like we did the behind the scenes with SONS OF ANARCHY. Maybe we’ll do another variation of it this season and if we do I’ll put it out on Twitter for feedback. I just try to keep people plugging into my process as we come up with ideas. I think the success I’ve had with the fans and why it’s been helpful to the show is that it’s opening up and making them feel like they are part of the process. My fans are very vocal and have a lot of opinions and have no problem sharing them. It will be a continuation of that I think. We are doing really great stuff with merchandising this year and expanding the concept world. We are doing graphic novels and really expanding the mythology in a lot of different directions and that will be happening this year as well. It will continue to allow me to do all of that.
We are at the end of season 5, are you still seeing the end at season 7?
Season 7 was always my goal because I know how this cable model works. At the end of the 7th season the costs go up to the value of the show. Can I tell this story in seven seasons and do I have enough story? Yes, I can do that. I have a loose construct of those seven seasons in my head and we are heading in that direction and working toward that. If I get through half way through season 6 and I don’t think I’ll be able to tell all the stories in 7 then I think I could have a conversation with John Landgraf and maybe the solution will be to extend the episodes during the seasons or do a season 8. It’s not like I’m seven is shutting the door. Here’s what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to extend the show for another season for the sake of doing an 8th season. I don’t want to pad and fluff and drag sh*t out that should be done in seven seasons. I’m sure the fans would love another season but I don’t want to do that. If I get through halfway through season six and I’ll know if I can tie it up in seven.
Are you getting a break?
I’ve sold two other projects to FX so I’ll be doing that and its always fun for me to do because it’s my time. I’ll jump back in for February with the Son’s guys for seasons six.
Did you think SONS OF ANARCHY would became a huge hit?
It’s always a surprise. The first thing you hope for is that a show will get on the air and next you hope it stays on the air. I think its all a blessing and I have had this conversation with John Landgraf and we are all really thrilled and surprised that the show has had its best season ever in its fifth season. That’s rare. There are shows like THE WIRE and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS that maintain that level of quality and level of interest five seasons deep and I think we’ve been able to do that. I have to give credit to the digital availability of the show. We didn’t have Netflix or Itunes for THE SHIELD. I think the success of that growing fan base is in large part due to the accessibility of those seasons. Because the quality of the show is good then fans are interested in seeing what’s to come. So many people catch up with the show not only on DVR but also outside sources and we sell a tremendous amount of DVD’s in an ever-shrinking market. I have to say that that is probably the reason why the numbers continue to explode from season to season as we add fans. I can only hope that that continues.
We do to Mr. Sutter, we do to! Its hard to believe another season has come and gone. The time between them seems infinite, except for the glorious moment when the entire cast enters Hall H and Comic Con International. Each year the fan base grows and it can be heard by the thunderous applause that greets each cast member taking the stage. If you didn’t know before Kurt – they are die hard fans to the bone and I’m actually quite proud to be one of them!
We have joined the ranks of the silent members of SAMCRO who sit back and expect member of the MC to be held accountable and when a vote is taken at the table you better believe there are millions voting right along! When that gavel goes down we accept, in some cases begrudgingly, the vote and go the way of our leader. For the MC that would be Jax – but for the creation of SONS OF ANARCHY – YOU Mr. Sutter are at the head of the fans table! So let it be written – so let it be done!
See you next year!!