Warning: This interview contains major spoilers from the sixth season of Sons of Anarchy.
Few characters on Sons of Anarchy will earn a happy ending. Most of them are likely to die in a hail of gunfire — or with a carving fork to the back of their head, as was the case with Tara Knowles-Teller during this week’s Season 6 finale.
But against all odds, Wayne Unser is still standing. The retired police chief has suffered from cancer since his first appearance on the FX drama. Six seasons later, he’s still alive, an unhappy witness to the carnage and corruption that’s slowly killing Charming.
With one season remaining, it’s anybody’s guess as to Unser’s fate. For his part, actor Dayton Callie won’t speculate on his character’s future.
“I don’t pay attention to that,” he said matter-of-factly when Spinoff Online asked about Unser’s fate. “I’ll wait to get the call and see how it plays out next year.”
Read on for more of Callie’s thoughts on Unser, the deaths of Ron Perlman’s Clay and Maggie Siff’s Tara this season, and why it’s hard for some to stay away from home.
Spinoff Online: What was your reaction when you found out about what was happening in the finale, that Gemma kills Tara? What was the mood on set?
Dayton Callie: It was kept pretty quiet on set, actually. I probably didn’t know until almost halfway through the season. Most of us didn’t know. A little bit would squeak out here and there, but it was probably about halfway through the season before any of us truly found out. Maybe Charlie [Hunnam] knew early on. I’m sure he did. And of course Maggie knew. But for half of the season, we didn’t know. So the other half was hard. Maggie is very well-liked. She’s a very good kid. It was difficult. When you work together for six years, you become family. It was difficult.
It’s one thing to know something’s coming — you know Ron and Maggie are going to leave this season — but it’s another thing to see it happen. What was it like, watching Clay and Tara’s deaths for the first time? Were you taken aback by how violent it was?
Absolutely. I’m not always around for some of the violence. It’s like that with everybody: they don’t see my stuff until it airs, and I don’t see their stuff until it airs, you know? You wonder what they’re working on that day, the days you’re off. It’s always fun for me to see what they’re doing and what their scenes are, how it plays out. That’s the fun part, getting to watch the episode, even though it’s not totally fresh — you know what the outcome is. But it’s fun to see it on screen as it’s happening, to see how they did it. That’s always interesting for me. And this way I can mock them and say they did a shitty job. [Laughs] “Boy, that scene you were in sucked, man.”
Ron and Maggie were with the show from day one. What was it like to lose them from the cast?
If you’ve been in this business for a while, this happens. It happens on a lot of shows. You have to take your job as a professional. You’re sad to see someone go, but a lot of these contacts are still maintained. I’ll go out to dinner with Ron. I’ll see Maggie for the rest of my life, probably, because we became friends, and she’s friends with Ron, too. Actors are used to the thing exploding like that. It’s like an atom: it’s there, then all of the sudden, boom, it’s not there. It happened on Deadwood. It’s happened with all of the shows I’ve done. You’re on the show, you become close and tight friends, and then, boom: It explodes. You’re all scattered in different directions.
Someone has a job that takes them here, someone has a job that takes them to Canada. We do our thing. We try to stay in touch. But as actors, we’re all gypsies. We ride this wagon into town, and then we go. There’s a sadness, but there’s the reality that this is our job.
I was a musician for 15 years as well as an actor. Every group was different. We’d stay together for a while, but then groups break up — if you’re not the fucking Rolling Stones. People do other things.
Over the course of the show, Clay Morrow burned all of his bridges, so it’s not a surprise that most people missed the funeral … but Unser was there. He’s the only main character to show up. Why do you think he went?
They had a long relationship. Unser has a longer relationship with Gemma and Clay than anybody. He’s known them for a long, long time, and they’ve had a deal for years and years and years, looking out for each other. I’ve always viewed Unser as a man of a certain era, of a certain respect, of a certain moral compass. It just seemed right that Unser would go to the funeral. Somebody should represent. Nobody should be buried alone. It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine that. And we had had our differences. I told him to lay off of Gemma, and he did. I told him that I would kill him, and I probably meant it at the time. But you feel bad for a friend. He took a bad beating, his tattoos were burned off … it’s hard to watch that happen to somebody you care about. You can’t just not care about them any more. You might not like their actions, but there’s something you liked about the person. A light you try to hang onto.
Hate the sin, love the sinner.
If you hang onto hate, you’re going to be miserable. I hate to bring this up, and not to sound cliché, but Mandela is a good example. If you hate, you’re the one who carries it around. I think Unser tries to live like that. As long as you do right, as long as you behave … they’re like his children. You can’t stop loving them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be mad at them.
With that in mind, I’m very interested to see how Unser reacts to what Gemma’s done to Tara. There’s an argument that he played a role in Tara’s death: he had the information wrong about Tara and Jax’s arrangement, and it becomes like a bad game of telephone with the worst possible outcome. At the end of the episode, Gemma meets up with Wayne. Do you have any thoughts on how that might go, when he finds out the full scope of what happened? Especially considering his feelings for Gemma.
It’s funny, because it ends with him not knowing anything about where she’s been or what’s going on. “Where the fuck was my truck?” [Laughs] “Where did you go, for a joy ride? Did you get ice cream? What happened there?” He knows she’s upset and it’s not the time to talk about it. But predicting it, I can’t even go about that. I don’t know what Kurt has up his sleeve. Those questions will come up. I just need to put that on the back-shelf or else it’ll drive me crazy. I just have to let it go.
What do you think will happen?
I think it’s possible she won’t tell him anything, but Wayne isn’t an idiot. He’ll figure out what she did. My question is, what will he do once he figures it out? He’s obviously head over heels for Gemma and has done a lot for her in the past, helping her when she’s in trouble or when she’s done something wrong. But he cared about Tara, too. This might be a bridge too far. It’s not a question of if he’ll find out, but what he’ll do with the information.
Yeah. There’s a lot of things [up in the air], though. What happens when he finds out that Roosevelt is dead? I don’t think he could think she killed both of them, you know what I mean? It doesn’t seem likely, one person overpowering two, and a cop is one of them … that’s going to be a question.
During the finale, Wendy asks Wayne something that I wanted to ask you. What the hell is Wayne still doing in Charming, hanging out with all of these crazy people? The answer he gives her is, “It’s the only place where someone still loves me.” Did that answer fall in line with how you’ve viewed the character, and how you’ve approached Wayne up until now?
For sure. Yeah. It’s always been that way. Where are you from?
I’m from New York.
Most people, if you look at most Americans, 200 million of them, live and die in the same town. They don’t travel. You would be surprised how many people don’t leave their hometown. They like it, or they don’t have the money, or they don’t have the job to leave, they don’t have the relatives to visit — people don’t leave home like you think they do. There are generations that have worked a farm and stayed there forever. Now, people might take a trip for a day or two to go somewhere. But normally, people die within their hometown, or three miles of their hometown. Walk out the door and see how many people never left Montana. How many people haven’t left downtown LA? How many people live and die in New York? Some of them haven’t even been to Jersey!
I remember, when I was a musician, I was living in Reno. This girl was 29 years old, a waitress. She’d never been to Sacramento and it was an hour and a half away. She’d never been over the hill. I asked her, “Aren’t you curious?” And she goes, “No.”
So, it doesn’t surprise me. Wayne was part of this town. He knows people in this town. He’s getting old. Everything’s familiar. Even misery — he’s familiar with the misery. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he would stay there forever. “It’s the only place where somebody loves me. It used to be more, and now it’s a little less! But what am I going to do? Where else am I going to go?”
Sons of Anarchy returns for its seventh and final season in 2014.