Bard and bikers centrestage
A fine script makes much of leather-clad outlaws, writes and
GUNS, drugs, hookers, porn and . . . Shakespeare? That’s not what you’d expect from a TV show about bikers. But Sons of Anarchy offers its fans a lot more than the stereotypical view of the leather-clad outlaws, especially as the story is based on Hamlet.
There’s the lone prince, Jackson ‘‘Jax’’ Teller (Charlie Hunnam) whose father is dead and whose stepdad, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), is now king – read president – of the motorcycle club.
Add to that Jax’s scheming mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal), who emerges as more of a Lady Macbeth character as the series unfolds.
Airing in Australia on pay TV and Channel 10’s digital channel One, Australian audiences love Sons.
Perlman believes audiences are drawn in by the same thing that appeals to actors – the writing.
‘‘The work is only interesting when the writing is smart and consequential,’’ he says during a set visit in Los Angeles.
Despite the character of Clay being entirely different from his own and from any other character he’s played, he enjoys the work, he says.
‘‘I like that he’s a guy who’s been through some stuff in life and has come out of it having made very, very clear decisions about it – ‘If I ruled the world this is how it would look’ – and has doggedly spent his life creating a situation for himself so he does rule the world.’’
Clay’s hold on his world is shaken in season five as Jax takes centrestage, a place that Hunnam says he feels is more right for the character.
Long-term fans will be shaken with the death of another core character at the beginning of the season, which Hunnam says affected him deeply.
‘‘I got to that scene where he got killed and I had to put the script down and I cried for 45 minutes straight,’’ he says.
‘‘It was the first time I realised quite how much this stuff sinks in and sticks with us . . . it felt like a real loss to me.’’
Hunnam says it was no easier rehearsing, then filming the character’s final scenes.
‘‘(Afterwards) all the guys took (him) that weekend to Palm Springs and all went camping and had a chance to really say goodbye.’’
There are lighter moments in the new season, many provided by guest star Jimmy Smits, whose role as the pimp Nero also provides some tension between Clay and Gemma.
Sagal says it was no hardship working with Smits. ‘‘Women, me included, love Jimmy Smits – he’s kind of dreamy,’’ she says.
‘‘We have a good chemistry the two of us, and I’m not quite sure exactly where it’s going . . . but so far it’s wonderful.’’
Smits agrees he and Sagal work well together, while acknowledging the difficulty of finding his place in a longrunning series. ‘‘The trick is . . . it’s a machine that’s moving, that’s doing well so . . . you have to really do your research and figure out what the palette and landscape of the show is,’’ Smits says.
He has some experience in this area, having taken a major role in the final season of The West Wing and guest starring in Dexter a few seasons ago.
The lightness he brings to his character comes, he says, from looking to find what makes Nero tick.
‘‘I’m always trying to find what the humanity is in the character, what his point of view is because everyone tries to justify what they do in their lives, if you’re a mass murderer or if you’re a surgeon.’’
Wednesdays, 4pm, Sundays, 7.30pm, Showcase.
stars Katey Sagal and Charlie Hunnam.