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Charlie Hunnam on ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Season 6

The star of FX’s motorcycle drama talks about riding and his character’s journey in the show’s six seasons.

Charlie Hunnam

When FX presented its “Sons of Anarchy” Season 6 panel at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, we got a one on one with series creator Kurt Sutter, but we talked about spoilers from the season premiere so we’re saving that until you’ll get a chance to see the episode. 

So first, we joined the TCA in approaching “Sons” star Charlie Hunnam up on the stage after the panel for some follow-up questions about Jax’s new role in the SAMCRO club. 


CraveOnline: Do you feel we're still dealing with the execution of what was begun in the pilot with the manifesto?

Charlie Hunnam: Yeah, I think so. I think that that has always been a through-line to Kurt that's been very important to Kurt. I think that Jax is starting to kind of manifest the destiny that was outlined in that manifesto.

Do you think that'll take until the end of season seven to really get there? 

I think that his understanding of that manifesto is evolving constantly. I think you could say that, at periods already, that he had accomplished what he thought the goal was only to realize that that wasn't actually the goal.

Well he never expected to join the club, did he?

Yes, I think he did.

That was part of the plan then.

I think he always thought that that was going to be his life. At some point when he gained the level of maturity and sophistication to really understand his own journey, realized that it was maybe not what he had anticipated it would be. Then upon finding this manifesto, I think it really crystallized in his mind where the problems lay and then it became a process of trying to rectify those problems.

What's the difference between “Sons of Anarchy” and then doing a big blockbuster movie like Pacific Rim?

I mean, the heart of it is always the challenge is still the same to try to bring the character to life in an interesting and real way. Obviously, the challenge of “Sons” is the rapidity with which we shoot. Then the challenge of Pacific Rim was the lack of rapidity, the fact that we shot in 120 days. There's a scene that Idris Elba and I do where's it's a basic walk-and-talk where it's just us walking through this big room looking at all of these robots.

Normally on our TV show we'd shoot that five times on a steady cam and that would be done, there would be a dynamic going between the actors. And in that, we shot it over the course of six days spanning five months. Six individual full shooting days, so we would just say, maybe, half a sentence per day over the course of five months. To put a cohesive performance together with that schedule was really a challenge.

Five takes sounds a lot for TV too.

Well, if you do a walk-and-talk, it's on one steady cam that normally you'd get four or five takes, but if they do coverage then it's normally two, maybe third take if you begged for one.

Do you have a preference as an actor? 

I guess somewhere in the middle. I really love the schedule of television, working that quickly and having to solve the problems. It creates an energy to it, working that quickly. But the problem I have with TV is the lack of time with the material. We're always concentrating on one episode and then this very, very, very short, sometimes only 12-hour transition period between shooting one to the next.

And the lack of rehearsal periods where it's wonderful on the film to be able to discuss at great length themes and the intention of the overall arc and every individual scene, you just don't have that luxury no matter how it's constructed. The schedule of TV would never allow for that luxury. So, there's elements of both. I think probably my ideal is a six-week movie shoot where there's two weeks of rehearsal and then 30 shooting days.

How do you play this character with all his mixed emotions, loving his wife but sleeping with other women, a loving dad but involved with these activities?

I guess in a nutshell, it’s a dream come true to be given a character like this. I mean, when I met Kurt and read this script initially, I was at a really low period of my career where I had a burning desire to go and do some really meaty work. I just wasn’t getting the roles. I would meet directors, and they would be interested in hiring me primarily in the film world. And then the studios would say that I wasn’t a viable enough commodity to support the infrastructure of the thing getting made. So it was a really difficult time for me and I just had this burning desire to do some of the type of work that I’d always dreamed of doing. 

Then Kurt’s script came along, and it just blew me away. I mean, it’s wonderful. I kind of come from an area where these type of complexities were available to me to witness. I grew up in an area where, if a man wanted to escape the kind of tedious minutia of life and just the working-class struggle of making just enough money and working in a factory and being slammed by the man all the time, then they had to go out and take some risks. And there were always consequences to doing that, and it didn’t make them bad men. My father was a guy who took a lot of risks in his life and paid the consequences, and it corrupted the relationship he had with his family. So these were dynamics that I kind of have been raised with and understood and felt really, really excited about having the opportunity to understand more deeply through playing them myself. 

I also felt like that experience gave me the tools to bring this guy to life in a way that I would believe in and hopefully the audience would believe it too. But I’ve said to Kurt just endlessly, just “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” It’s been far and away the greatest creative experience of my life, and I just adore playing this guy. It requires a huge amount of energy. Kurt hands me these scripts, and I think to myself, “Jesus, well man, I’m not sure if I can play this, but if you have the confidence in me, then I’ll give it my best shot.” Somehow, with our great directors and the support of the cast, we seem to, more often than not, be able to rise to the challenge. So it’s been, just in short, a really exceptional experience for me.