Recently I, along with fellow writers, had the opportunity to speak with Kurt Sutter, creator of Sons of Anarchy (SOA). I am a huge fan of SOA for the intricate story lines and the amazing depth of the characters. Kurt Sutter is something of an idol for me, writing not only a critically acclaimed show, but one that is incredibly popular among people from all walks of life. Season Four of SOA ended as the highest rated season ever for FX, and with all the revelations that were made it is no surprise. Mr. Sutter partially attributes this to releasing the first two seasons on Netflix. I can attest to the genius behind this move as I became a hardcore fan after seeing the show in this manner. After the conclusion of Season Four of SOA, Mr. Sutter gave us some insight into Season Five of the series, as well as telling us more about how he got started at FX. Though a self-professed egomaniac, he seemed laid back and informal, even commenting on how weird it was to hear the moderator speaking.
Mr. Sutter started his career in theater acting and directing. He didn’t start writing until becoming a writer on The Shield. He goes on the say that in the beginning no one knew what The Shield would become, but he ended up learning what he needed to make SOA successful from this experience. When he decided to pitch SOA, it wasn’t only FX that he spoke with, but four or five different entities. Because of his history with FX and The Shield, Mr. Sutter did feel that the network would “get it” when it came to SOA. His main concern is the show and the fans and knew that FX would be the best place for both.
The Shield came up a few times during the interview, specifically Mr. Sutter was asked about the use of actors from The Shield, like Benito Martinez, Jay Karnes and Rees Snell. He stated that it truly stems from the relationships he has with these men from working with them. Mr. Sutter respects all of them as actors and truly enjoys working with all of them, who doesn’t love working with their friends? He reveals that along with the actors he has already brought on, this season he tried to bring on C.C. Pounder but that she was unavailable. Don’t expect to see Michael Chiklis or Walton Goggins as he believes their characters on The Shield are just too dynamic and connected to these men, so it would be difficult to take that perception away from any SOA role they might play. It comes down to fun, working with people he enjoys and giving a little back for what The Shield has done for the success of SOA.
In the same vein, Mr. Sutter discussed the different directors that have worked with him on SOA, stating that working with certain directors repeatedly really speeds things up as they learn to read one another. He also believes there is a comfort level that working with the same director gives to the actors. Mr. Sutter touts the talents of Paris Barclay and his ability to get such great performances out of the actors. Peter Weller, Guy Ferland and Billy Gierhart are also names that he would like to continue to work with because they make the process so enjoyable for him.
Getting into the conclusion of Season Four and moving into Season Five, there are a few loose ends that remain. Mr. Sutter was very candid in his explanations as to why this was necessary for the show. When asked why he didn’t get rid of Tara (Maggie Siff) or Clay (Ron Perlman) in this past season, Mr. Sutter stated that though he has no problem killing of main characters for the surprise factor, he didn’t believe he could continue to tell Jax (Charlie Hunnam)’s story without Tara. On the same note, he believes it would have been much too easy, especially after all the build-up over the last couple of seasons, to have Jax just kill Clay immediately after discovering Clay was responsible for his father’s death. Giving us a little insight into what to expect from this, he says it is much more interesting to play this situation out over a couple of seasons rather than wrap it up too quickly. The Shield was the inspiration for this tactic, Mr. Sutter referencing the situation that was revealed to Vic (Michael Chiklis) that Shane (Walton Goggins) killed Lem (Kenny Johnson), but that they still had to work together despite their hate for one another after the revelation. Moving on with how Season Five would play out, Mr. Sutter said he believes it will take on a different tone, become a “slow boil” rather than the characters constantly trying to catch their breath.
Going in to Season Five, he was asked about Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Clay’s relationship in Season Five. How will Gemma handle her relationship with Clay and what will come of Tara stepping into a new role at Jax’s side as he takes over? Mr. Sutter insists that though she is closer to her than ever before, Tara is not Gemma and still doesn’t have the resolution that Gemma has. Over the next season we will get to watch Tara and see if she has what it takes to keep up with Gemma. As an added bonus, Mr. Sutter mentions that Wendy (Drea de Matteo) will return for a few episodes in Season Five though he hasn’t quite decided how he might use her yet, mentioning a possible “wedge” between Gemma and Tara.
As for his own character, Otto, he is out as a resource for the club but he doesn’t seem to be done. He is ready to take the club down with him due to what he feels was a great betrayal. Sutter admittedly isn’t sure what his story line will be just yet.
We can also look forward to Juice (Theo Rossi) and Opie (Ryan Hurst)’s stories playing out over the next season or two as the characters struggle with betrayals and lost loyalty to the club.
You can also expect to see Jax develop more than ever, but whether that is into his own leadership role or an adaptation of Clay’s is yet to be seen. Mr. Sutter uses the analogy of a politician making promises to his constituents in order to be elected, but will he then be able to keep them once in office to explain Jax’s new role as leader. The big questions for Season Five is, does Jax become Clay or lead as his father would have done and if so, will he suffer the same fate that his father did? As Mr. Sutter states, “Can he stay true to what he believes…and still be the visionary behind the club?”. We’ll have to wait on pins and needles to find out.
Thank you to Mr. Sutter for the opportunity to learn more about his creative process and motivation behind one of the best, if not the best show on television. Looking forward to seeing more in Season Five!
Have you seen or heard of the auction currently running on FXNetworks.com? Visit FX Network’s website and bid on one of two Ireland Reaper Jackets worn on set by cast members in season three, episode eight, or one of five “Chucky’s Chili” t-shirts signed by “Chucky” himself, Michael Marisi Ornstein. Proceeds of this auction will benefit two charities: Maryvale, which was founded in 1856 by the Daughters of Charity as the first orphanage for Los Angeles, and Operation Homefront, which provides emergency assistance and morale to troops, their families, and wounded warriors when they return home. Auction ends midnight on Tuesday, December 13, 2011.