[03/07/12 - 11:40 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: FX's "Sons of Anarchy"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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6:55 PM - PaleyFest opens for the second night in a row with an archival clip from "Undeclared," this time featuring Lloyd (a very young Charlie Hunnam) teaching Steven (Jay Baruchel) how to fight. My memory is fuzzy but I recall this episode playing during last year's "Freaks & Geeks"/"Undeclared" reunion. (Yup, it was.)

7:02 PM - And with that "Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter takes the stage to intro tonight's screening of "Hands," an episode which as luck would have it made our list of The 50 Best Episodes of 2011. Glad we're on the same page.

7:48 PM - After the screening, moderator Stuart Levine of Variety emerges to bring out the panelists: Michael Ornstein (Chucky)! David Labrava (Happy, who also co-wrote the episode we just saw)! Dayton Callie (Unser)! Tommy Flanagan (Chibs)! Theo Rossi (Juice)! Katey Sagal (Gemma)! And of course, Kurt Sutter (Katey's real life husband)!

7:50 PM - Stuart asks about the show's origins and FX's arms race against HBO, which was developing the similarly themed "1%," starring Donal Logue, Kim Dickens and Abraham Benrubi, at the same time. "We had pitched the show at HBO and it was a very odd meeting," Sutter said, who learned after the fact they were developing their own biker drama. "But we fucking won!"

7:52 PM - Sutter credits "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan for his career. "[He] was such a great mentor and a decent man... [He pointed] my energy in the right direction and allowed me to discover my voice. And as a result of that I felt like I was able to contribute a lot to that show... at least make it as fucked up as possible."

7:54 PM - "I think every American wants to be an actor," D.L. quips about his career. He started out as a cameraman for the late Zalman King, who taught him the ins and outs of writing. Ultimately, he found his way to "Sons" as a technical advisor, eventually graduating to the role of Happy as well as contributing as a writer.

7:57 PM - "Maybe it's me, but I assume everybody wants to fuck my wife," Kurt jokes after being asked why Unser goes out of his way to help Gemma and the Sons.

8:00 PM - Tommy - who sports a thick Scottish accent in real life as well - is asked why Chibs is so close to Jax. "That's the first time I understood Tommy in four years," Dayton quips after Tommy's answer.

8:03 PM - "[There's] this innocence in him, he's always worried about is everybody else going to be okay. He's not really concerned about [himself]," Theo says about his character, a drive which lead him to attempt suicide earlier this season to keep himself from harming the club.

8:05 PM - "I always look at her as being eagle eyed, she doesn't really miss a trick," Katey says Gemma. "The fact that she decided to give [Clay] the benefit of the doubt to the bitter end... I found it very interesting to play. Because that would not be an impulse of me. It's so interesting to play a character that has similar tones to myself but completely different action than Katey would do. I always have to remind myself: this is not my response."

8:08 PM - Any hints for season five? "I always wanted to play this idea of... putting Jax at the head of that table and the ripple effect of that on the guys, and loyalties of it and where people land. For me the interesting dynamic to play up this season is seeing Jax at the head of that table and the struggle that he has of being king. Can you be the leader of an organized crime syndicate and not become Clay? And if you choose not to become Clay or is he forced to face the same fate as John Teller, who was perceived to have been weak." Adding, "in terms of story, the only thing I know we will definitely be [playing up] from last season is we introduced, in name, the character of Damon Pope at the end of the season and Tig's clusterfuck with accidentally killing his daughter."

8:12 PM - Ron Perlman is apparently not the best motorcycle rider as various panelists mock his abilities, or lack thereof. Kurt says he's gotten better and doesn't have to be "on that pussy rig" where they drag him behind a camera truck.

8:14 PM - "I think there's always been an attraction," Sutter says about Tig and Clay's wife Gemma. "Tig has been a third wheel in that relationship for a lot of years. And I just think there is that connection... and I know where that's going to go."

8:18 PM - Will Unser's cancer come into focus again? Sutter jokes that "Dayton always tells me this story: my dad lived for 37 years with cancer."

8:22 PM - Tommy reels off Chibs's various foibles, a list that gets so long he loses his train of thought. His key takeaway: "Chibs is ready to go fucking apeshit."

8:25 PM - Katey credits her arc on "Lost" for helping people view her outside the Peg Bundy prism. "My husband has a lot of faith in me as an actor so he wrote me this part and I completely appreciate it."

8:28 PM - Stuart asks about Kurt's Twitter account. "I'm so desperately in need of attention Stuart," he jokes. "Obviously I tweet a lot of ridiculous things, most of it's really to amuse myself and sometimes it's to see how much trouble I can get into."

8:32 PM - What do the actors want to see happen next season? The consensus: not to die. Dayton's specific request: "Just give Uncer the opportunity to duck."

8:35 PM - Stuart opens the floor to questions. What's going on with Tara? "The interesting thing with Tara this season is that yes, she's definitely in conflict. But unlike previous seasons where the conflict was am I in or am I out, I think she's clearly in and it really will be trying to figure out who am I in this world? Can I still be Dr. Tara Knowles and be the supportive queen that I need to be?" He adds that they'll probably start season five a month after the events of last year's finale "so she'll have some time to process, but not a lot."

8:38 PM - Sutter reveals Steven Tyler was originally tapped to play porn producer Dondo, a role that ultimately went to David Hasselhoff after scheduling couldn't be worked out.

8:41 PM - While we've seen lots of "Shield" alums on the show, what about Michael Chiklis? Sutter says probably not as Vic Mackey casts a long shadow. "I'm still thinking about ways to do that, because I love Michael, but that would be a tough one."

8:45 PM - Theo recounts going to the "Super 8" premiere while still in Juice's head tattoo makeup, which got him some strange looks - including Tom Cruise who was behind him at the concession stand.

8:52 PM - Kurt says he's still open to doing a "Sons" prequel series about The First 9. "I see it as more of a political and social, sort of historical show," as most of The First 9 were Vietnam War veterans. Should it happen ("there's a lot of complication with licensing and all this stuff that goes on with when you have something that becomes a property of," he adds), it could run between "Sons" seasons or after the show has finished its run. "I'm sort of committed to it. I'd like to sort of explore that theatre."

8:56 PM - An impromptu version of "WTF Sutter" sees Kurt asked about casting himself as Otto. "I'm the only one who will employ me as an actor," he notes defeatedly. "I've asked everyone in town and no one else will." His goal is to follow Otto's story potentially all the way to the gas chamber. "Otto is my Dorian Gray."

8:59 PM - That's a wrap on "Sons of Anarchy!" Jim will be taking over recap duties the next few nights, beginning with "Bones" on Thursday.

And for more PaleyFest coverage - past and present - visit our Paley Center topic page.

  [march 2012]  


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