The cast and creative team of Sons of Anarchy rode into Comic-Con International one last time for a lively but emotional preview of the final season of the hit FX drama.
Stars Katey Sagal (Gemma Teller Morrow), Mark Boone Junior (Bobby Munson), Tommy Flanagan (Chibs Telford), Kim Coates (Tig Trager), Theo Rossi (Juice Ortiz), Dayton Callie (Wayne Unser), David Labrava (Happy), Niko Nicotera (Ratboy) and Drea de Matteo (Wendy) joined director/producer Paris Barclay and series creator Kurt Sutter for a Hall H presentation moderated by Entertainment Weekly writer Mandi Bierly.
Although star Charlie Hunnam was unable to attend Comic-Con because of a Vogue magazine photo shoot, but he still managed to record a video message to fans.
As they’re halfway through production of the final season, Sutter was asked whether Jax Teller’s ultimate fate has been decided yet.
“I know where I want the hero to be emotionally and thematically at the end of the season,” he replied. “What I try to do is keep a loose grip on the actual story process so we can get there in an organic way. We have a great team of writers and directors. Much to the chagrin of my production team, I like to back up really tight to production. I’m writing Episode 7 as we speak, and I’m in post-production on Episode 4, so I’m really allowed to see what the guys are doing with their characters and relationships, and it allows me to infuse their collaboration into the series. So I get to this place where it ends up in the direction close to where I want it to land, but I can never tell what it’s going to look like or how we’re going to get there -- and that’s all part of the fun … and I completely dodged your question.”
The cast was asked whether any of them had secretly hoped for an epic Sons of Anarchy death scene during the final season. No one raised their hand.
Barclay was asked which of the powerful scenes he’s directed over the years gave him the strongest emotional reaction.
“The strongest reaction I had was a scene I didn’t direct. I was on set as a producer,” he said. “That was the scene where Opie was killed. When we filmed that scene, we built a set on our stage so we wouldn’t have to be on a distant location, and when his head was smashed by the guy wielding the pipe, all of us were crushed along with Opie. It was a really epic moment for us and for him. I remember the guys running up to the window and they were not acting anymore. They really had lost their brother. The crew was in tears. At that moment, I realized that Sons of Anarchy was real. This is a real brotherhood. Everybody, like you, really cares about what happens to these people.”
“I want to add to that,” Coates said. “In that scene there were only three people -- Charlie, Tommy and myself -- and in the very final take when the camera was on Ryan [Hurst, who played Opie], there were 12 of us standing there for Ryan to look at with his last breath as Opie. There was not a dry eye in the house. It was absolutely amazing.”
Asked how she makes the transition between portraying Gemma as strong and playing her as vulnerable, Sagal replied, “I think Gemma has always shown vulnerability. I think any time she’s reflecting about her family, about her son, about her love for Nero [Jimmy Smits], there’s a certain vulnerability that offsets her hard-ass exterior. I think she’s going to be more multilayered this season as she tries to hold together and protect her family. As you’ll see this season, what transpires from that somewhat pure motivation just kind of goes awry. It’s been a really interesting season so far because she is even more multidimensional than you’ve seen from her before.”
Sutter confirmed Walton Goggins will return this season as transvestite Venus Van Dam. “I’m semi-erect just thinking about it,” he said.
Courtney Love will also guest star as Abel’s teacher. Sagal, who has already worked with her, said she ‘s fantastic and looks different from what viewers might expect.
Sutter added that there will be no spinoffs when Sons ends, saying, “I think spinoffs work with procedural dramas, which this clearly, is not.” However, talks are ongoing with FX about producing a prequel series or miniseries detailing the origin of SAMCRO and the histories of Jax’s father John Teller and Piney Winston.
He also announced that the first Sons of Anarchy novel, Bravta, will be released this fall. Set after the events of Season 4, it follows Jax, Opie and Chibs as they deal with the Russians.
The presentation turned emotional when Barclay addressed Sutter: “I think I can speak for all of us. A show like this is not created by magic. It’s not put together by some ancient robot. There’s one guy who gave us all a job. He gave us an opportunity to please you and shock you and surprise you, and to rock your world -- to make you feel stuff for seven damn years. I’ve worked in television a long time and it’s hard to find someone who can do that and keep it exciting and keep it worth going to work for, and to keep pleasing people like you. I’ve got to say that I’m really grateful that Kurt decided to take us on this trip and it’s been a great ride. So thank you, Kurt, for this experience.”
Barclay and the cast then gave Sutter a standing ovation, as did the thousands of fans in Hall H. Sutter was visibly moved, removing his glasses and wiping back tears. “Sit the fuck down,” he said. “I’ve got an image.”
Sutter was stilling choking back tears as the audience and panelists eventually sat down. “I love everybody up here,” he said. “The thing I’m most grateful for is, I walk through our set, I know that everybody wants to be there and everybody’s really grateful and everyone likes to show up for work and that’s the gift for me. So thank you.”
Sons of Anarchy returns to FX on Sept. 9 with an extended season premiere.