'Sons of Anarchy' rides in with new characters and a trip to Ireland
Kurt Sutter, who created "Sons of Anarchy" and executive produces, writes and directs the show, did just that.
The new season of "SOA" premieres Sept. 7 on FX, and at some point in the season the motorbike gang will be heading to Ireland.
The third season picks up several days after the second season finale, which drew more than 4.3 million viewers. In the finale, the Sons missed Irishman Cameron on the dock and lost the chance to save Abel from his clutches. (How could one forget Jax's heart-wrenching wail?) Now the obsessive, tireless search is in full effect.
And if the season feels a little heavy in the ensemble department, well, that’s because it is. A mob of guest actors joins the outlaw chaos — just don’t expect to find a leather-clad Betty White revving up a Harley. Stunt casting is not likely to be found on the series.
“I tend to stay away from familiar faces because it closes you to the reality of the world, and also, quite frankly, on our budget, we can’t afford it,” Sutter said.
So someone like, say, Timothy Dalton, who was pitched as a potential figure in the Irish storyline that is explored this season, wasn't an option. “If I hired Timothy Dalton, I wouldn’t have been able to hire anybody else," he said.
Paula Malcomson ("Deadwood," "Caprica") will appear as Cameron’s Belfast-based cousin Maureen, and she'll help reveal some of the mythology surrounding Jax’s father, who had a lot to do with Ireland and the origin of gun running and the Sons, and his relationship with the club. "She will kind of present the old-lady matriarch energy in Belfast,” Sutter said. “And she’ll ultimately have a connection — not necessarily an antagonistic one — to Gemma.”
And viewers will see Taryn Manning reprise her role as Rita Cherry, who has been living in exile in Ireland since Season 1. Her involvement was in flux due to Manning’s role on CBS’ new ‘Hawaii Five-O.’
“I thought it’d be fun to sort of drop her in the middle of this chaos of what’s going on in Belfast,” Sutter said. “Contractually, we were able to get her for three. She’s in one of the earlier episodes and then we finish her up toward the end with a couple of episodes.”
Much of the Irish machismo, though, comes courtesy of the men. The oft-mentioned Belfast charter of SAMCRO, populated in part by Keith McGee (Andrew McPhee, "Pirate Islands") and Liam O’Neil (Arie Verveen, "Sin City") gets some screen time. And veteran actor James Cosmo has signed on for a six-episode arc as Father Kellan Ashby, an Irish Catholic priest.
Also appearing this season: Kenneth Johnson, who appeared in the Season 2 finale in the role of Kozik, horror novelist Stephen King and Hal Holbrook, who will appear as Gemma's father.
The burgeoning cast of characters presented financial challenges. “Pretty much all my overages this year were cast budgets because there were a few episodes where it was just insane. We’d have table reads and we’d barely have chairs," Sutter said. It also limited character development for many of the outlaws.
“It was almost like managing two shows,” Sutter said. “It was difficult for me because a lot of my regular guys — like Bobby [Mark Boone Jr.] or Juice [Theo Rossi] or Opie [Ryan Hurst] — didn’t have as much to do this season. I think that was a little frustrating for them and for me.”
An added obstacle was finding a group of actors who could maintain the authenticity to the community the show presents, said the show's casting director Wendy O'Brien.
"It's all about finding actors that have the gravitas and are believable in that world," she said. "The last thing we want is actors who look like they're acting."
That, and actors who look like stereotypes of the characters they're portraying.
"The note is not to go with the stereotypical but to go at it from a different angle," said O'Brien, who noted that most of the submissions she gets are guys sitting on a Harley with a handlebar mustache. "It’s almost scarier in a way when you don’t quite see it coming."
Take, for example, Adam Arkin's ("8 Simple Rules," "A Serious Man") role in Season 2 as a neo-Nazi.
“I knew it was a bit of a risk," Sutter said. "He's a good Jewish boy playing a neo-Nazi. ... It was a very interesting thing. He was able to play with the idea and bring a lot to it.
"I want the unconventional to seem like a natural choice."
But he's only willing to take that philosophy so far.
"If I did the "Sons of Anarchy"/"Glee" crossover, I’d be strung up."
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo credits: FX