FX's biker drama Sons of Anarchy returns tonight with half the violence, twice the angst
LOS ANGELES -- Hard to describe what it feels like to stand on the set of a show you like as much as I dig FX's Sons of Anarchy.
Look left, and you see the wooden table with the fancy, carved Sons of Anarchy insignia, where Ron Perlman's Clay Teller told his trusted right hand man to kill conflicted member Harry "Opie" Winston (the attempt went wrong and killed Opie's wife instead). Look right and you see the bar where Sons members got a former member drunk, just before taking a blowtorch to his back in a bit of street justice.
Along the wall is the booking photo of lead character Jackson "Jax" Teller's dad John, who was dead by the time the show's action started, right next to a bronze-colored plaque reading "Brains Before Bullets."
I was glad I got to stop by the show's darkened clubhouse set when it wasn't in use, snapping photos like a giddy kid without worrying about avoiding people who actually work in the joint. As I would tell Perlman myself later, this fortysomething black guy is not going to spend much time hanging out with bikers; Sons gives me a chance to peek inside a heightened version of the subculture with no danger involved -- which has turned out to be an amazing thrill ride.
When we moved on to where the actors were actually working, we steeped into another soundstage where special sets have been built for scenes where the Sons crew chase after Jax's infant son Abel. Kidnapped by an Irish Republican Army gun runner who thought Jax' mother had killed his son, Abel becomes a focal point for the group, determined to reunite their family.
Without revealing too much, I can say that Perlman and star Charlie Hunnam. who plays Jax, were seated around a table along with many other Sons members and affiliate members (including Ryan Hurst, who plays Opie and Dominic Keating, who played security chief Malcolm Reed on the last Star Trek series, Enterprise)
My feature story on the Sons of Anarchy in Sunday's Floridian describes what the scene was like; in-between growling about tagging along on an illegal arms run, the actors talked about a classic Gene Hackman/Al Pacino picture and generally behaved in ways totally unlike you'd expect, given their killer biker look.
The cast and crew seem to hang together like a club of their own; just after their press conference at the TV critics press tour, the group stood together in an imposing clump to watch the preview clips of FX's new show Terriers. Their success on FX has brought increased attention -- co-star Mark Boone Junior would make headlines not long after my visit, arrested following an altercation with a cop during a traffic stop -- so everyone seemed a bit wary and curious about this guy scribbling notes in the corner.
I've seen the first few Sons episodes of the season, and it's a different pace, divided between Jax's attempts to find his son and the exile of club matriach Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal, at left), who killed a woman and is accused of killing a man. Guest stars this season include Hal Holbrook and Gemma's dad, Stephen King as the most bizarre biker you ever saw and Lost's onetime man in black, Titus Welliver.
But I can't wait to see the stories continue on a show I've called the quietest hit on television.