I was lucky enough to head down to the set of "Sons of Anarchy" in Los Angeles recently, to get a firsthand feeling for the second season of the excellent FX biker series. We were granted some roundtable time with the show’s stars, and Ron Perlman (who plays Clay Morrow, the president of the motorcycle gang and stepfather of the main character) had some interesting thoughts on Season Two, as well as the possibility of him making an appearance in Guillermo Del Toro’s (hopefully) upcoming Hobbit films.
At the end of the first season, Clay found himself heading a club that was beginning to splinter apart, and finds himself in the crosshairs of the federal government. What’s in store for Clay in Season 2?
Ron Perlman: We’re going to find out what he’s made of, and whether or not he answers the call of duty. How he answers it will determine his leadership style. He’s going to go head to head with the only person who thinks he knows what exactly went down, and that’s the Vice President, Jax. So that plays itself out almost throughout the entire season.
How do you think Clay’s age is going to affect his status? He’s vain, but he’s beginning to feel his arthritis…
Ron Perlman: Clay has two things going for him that kind of trump all things physical and temporal: and that’s his ego and his vanity. He forces himself to hold on to everything that he spent his whole life building up for himself, and part of the DNA of bikers in general is their desire to remain forever young and piss in the winds of time and reality and so that’s another one of the beautiful colors of exploring this particular brand of subculture is you get to see how they are behaviorally and explore what makes them tick.
How is this role different than any you’ve played in the past?
Ron Perlman: I’ve never played a person who didn’t have a sense of humor about himself until I played Clay. It’s not that he doesn’t have a sense of humor, it’s just that he doesn’t have one about himself. Every other character I’ve played has the ability to see from the other persons point of view. This guy doesn’t. It’s his way or the highway, and I’ve never played anybody who was quite so single-minded.
Explain the change in dynamic in adding Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins to the cast.
Ron Perlman: I think we’re painting on a slightly larger canvas. Rather than just deal with other clubs, we’re going against much larger conceptual enemies, and it’s forcing us to polish up what we do and what we have going for us in order to keep our heads above water, because they keep beating us. They’re epic, they’re that epic, and it’s a mythical thing. I think the second season is much more interconnected, taking place in a compressed, short period of time. I think before we had some one-offs, but if you watch one episode of this season, you’ve got to see them all.
Ryan Hurst (Opie Winston) mentioned that before the second season began Kurt set everybody down and talked to them about their characters and what they saw for the future. So what is your relationship with Kurt when it comes to molding Clay?
Rob Perlman: I think I have a real good relationship with Kurt. I wish I had more access to him. He rewrites every single episode and then he is editing all the time. But that one generous moment when he invited every cast member to come in and talk about what they saw, and what they felt, and what they aspired to see happen to their characters, he took it very, very seriously. I’m one of the very oldest members of the whole company. I talked a lot about mortality issues. About a man getting to the point where he realizes his days are numbered. And every single thing that he does, and feels, and thinks, and believes is slightly altered because of coming to grips with mortality issues. We talked a lot about that. There is one episode where it’s just lifted off the conversation we had. I think it’s the third episode. Because he said, "What is the first thing a guy does when he realizes that he has far less days to come then he has behind him?" I said, "He starts biting the head off of every body. It’s out of control anger. He’s railing against reality. And he’s taking it out on everybody near and dear to him and everybody that he loves. It’s irrational, but then again so is this thing.’"And lo and behold, an episode came in and there it was. It’s a very human thing, especially for a guy who is as vital and formable as Clay Morrow, when you see him really grappling with mortality issues. What is this world going to be like with out me in it? What mark have I made? How do I make a bigger one before it’s all over? All of that stuff.
Can you tell us what reactions you’ve gotten from real motorcycle gangs regarding the show?
Ron Perlman: I live in a bubble. You know, I don’t read the blogs, or go on the internet, and I really just don’t know what people are saying because… well I guess I’m afraid to. Guillermo Del Toro told me when we were on the set of Hellboy II, he said “You’re a fucking idiot man, you’ve gotta go on the blogs. They love you man, they fucking love you! It’s a fucking love fest man, you don’t know what you’re missing!” So the next morning I went on the Hellboy II blog with my cup of coffee, you know, I’m just trying to wake up, and I see two comments. The first one says “Ron Perlman is a big fat fuck who has no talent”, and the second says “We waited all these years to have our beloved Hellboy get a movie and we ended up with this second rate character actor”, and I said, “Thank you, Guillermo, but I think I’ll stick with being stupid.” So yeah, I don’t know what they’re saying. I go home to my family and try to rise to the beautiful bounty that has been placed in front of me by the wonderful Kurt Sutter. I never felt that what other people thought helped me, it really just served as a distraction. I’m not saying it’s the right way or the wrong way to go about it, but I’m a little superstitious about it.
Word on the street is that Del Toro wants you for his Hobbit movies.
Ron Perlman: Did he say that?
He did say that. You haven’t talked to him about it?
Ron Perlman: Well that’s very nice of him. I haven’t talked very much to Guillermo recently, I did the audiobook for The Strain, which is the book he put out and, I don’t even know whether or not he liked it because he’s been so busy with these two Hobbit movies. If that was able to happen, and if that’s what Guillermo wants, then that would be nice. Because a day on the set with Guillermo Del Toro is a state of grace.