Kurt Sutter and Hal Holbrooke bring out the sensitive side of 'Sons of Anarchy'
This may come as a shock, but Kurt Sutter, creator of the bloody, testosterone-charged biker drama "Sons of Anarchy," isn't afraid to show his sensitive side. Like in Tuesday night's episode of the FX series, where guest star Hal Holbrook, playing Gemma Morrow Teller's dementia-stricken father, gets shuttled off to an assisted living facility.
"Hal Holbrook will break your heart tonight. Don't miss 'Home,' Sutter said via Twitter to his nearly 14,000 followers. "One of my favorite eps of the season."
Sutter, who's become nearly as well known for his hair-trigger temper and vitriolic blog posts as for his groundbreaking series, said he and his crew were "very emotional" when they filmed the heart-tugging final episode in Holbrook's story arc.
"I experienced that with my grandfather, and a number of people on set could relate to seeing a loved one go to a nursing home and all the guilt that comes with it," he said. "It was very powerful."
Four-time Emmy-winner Holbrook had been at the top of Sutter's wish list of guest stars, and Sutter said he was thrilled to learn that Holbrook was interested in appearing in the gritty series that's often referred to as Hamlet on motorcycles. But then Holbrook's wife, Dixie Carter, died last spring and Sutter said he backed off the idea because filming was scheduled to begin almost immediately after her passing.
As it turned out, Holbrook still wanted to do the four-episode stint (and discussion is open for future seasons). The resulting performance, critics have said, could give "Sons" a chance to break its Emmy curse. It's also served as a setup for tender moments between Gemma, played by Katey Sagal, and her fictional dad.
In typical "Sons" fashion, though, Gemma reunites with her father because she's at the center of a murder investigation. (She's being framed.) And Holbrook's Nate Madock has to go to a nursing home in part because Gemma and her outlaw crew killed his caregiver. (It was an accident!)
"Sons" fans respond to both the dark and the light, Sutter said, with Sutter's Tweet bringing in responses from viewers who have dealt with Alzheimer's disease and similar illnesses in their families.
"People are drawn to this violent world, but within that there are themes of family and camaraderie and brotherhood," he said. "If we didn't have these layers, it wouldn't have the fan base it has."
There's no disconnect, really, between the Sutter who writes about gang rape, torture and mayhem and the one who crafts tear-filled goodbyes between an aging parent and a conflicted daughter.
"I'm a big softie," Sutter said.
We'll try not to spread that around.
— T.L. Stanley
Photo: Katey Sagal and Hal Holbrook. Credit: Prashant Gupta / FX.