Sons of Anarchy premiered its sixth and penultimate season last night, kicking off the countdown until all the riders of SAMCRO hang up their helmets for good with Season 7. Already, one thing is abundantly clear: Prison is a bad look for Tara Knowles-Teller.
At the end of the fifth season, Tara made a bold confession to her husband (and SAMCRO president) Jax Teller: She planned to leave with their two children to start a new life, away from Charming and away from the club's outlaw drama. Seconds later, she was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. Now, as Season 6 begins to unfold, Tara is behind bars, rocking an orange jumpsuit that would make Piper Chapman jealous. Although she won't spend the entire season in jail, actress Maggie Siff warns the road ahead is rough for the good Doctor Knowles.
Siff spoke with Spinoff Online about what to expect from Tara in Season 6, previewing her changing relationships with Jax and Gemma Teller, and revealing her thoughts on the shocking school shooting that ended the season premiere.
Spinoff Online: Orange might be the new black, but it's not a color that's working out so well for Tara. Can you talk a bit about Tara's new circumstances this season?
Maggie Siff: I'm not spending the whole season in prison; no one's been secretive about that at all. But the character obviously starts out in prison, and the threat of the charge and the longer-term implications hangs over her for the entire season. That's definitely one of her big obstacles this year: how she deals with the law coming down on her for what happened with Otto last year. It's a terrifying prospect, mostly because of the children. There's an early episode where Tara even says, "It's not about me anymore." There's this sense she's moving beyond herself, and beyond the love story of her and Jax, which has been so tested. There's so much disillusionment. She's on the lookout for her kids primarily this year.
Last season's cliffhanger was all about Tara and her uncertain future. Going into this season, what were some of your thoughts and hopes about what Tara's facing right now? Were you excited by the possibilities of the story?
I feel like playing Tara is an exercise in seeing all of your dreams get systematically destroyed. [Laughs] But, you know, as an actor playing a character who is constantly getting tested? It's interesting. The thing I've discovered over time is that she's someone who always rises. She has enough strength to meet these challenges. I think this season really does test the limits of both her psyche and her strength, and she spends much of the season trying to collect allies. The question is whether she can hang onto them.
You spoke before about how Abel and Thomas are Tara's world. She wants to protect them at all costs, give them every opportunity a normal life can afford. She wants that so much that she was about to walk out on Jax last season, and was only stopped because of her arrest. In the premiere, we see that Tara isn't very interested in seeing Jax, and we see Jax sleeping with another woman. How rough is the road ahead for Jax and Tara?
The thing I love about their relationship in the series is they're clearly passionate for each other in that they're lifelong lovers, in a way. But they're really not very good at communicating with each other. When things get bad, that tends to be the first thing to go. That was certainly happening a lot last season, though it's happened throughout the series. There has been a constant struggle about how honest they'll be with each other, about how "honesty is the only way." And then they turn around on each other and start lying to each other, to protect each other or protect themselves or protect the club — whatever it is. This year, I think we move into this season with a kind of silent but deadly truth of sorts between them. You see them going through the motions of being a couple, but not being particularly connected. That's a very dangerous place for them to start in.
Another turbulent relationship is Tara and Gemma. They've flip-flopped between friend and foe more times than I can count. Tara even suspected that Gemma was behind the arrest, a move to keep Jax's kids in Charming. She doesn't trust Gemma as far as she can throw her right now.
I think that's true pretty much throughout the season. Tara is like the quintessential orphan. I always thought of Gemma as being a surrogate mother to her. [Series creator and showrunner] Kurt Sutter has always spoken very eloquently about how sometimes they love each other, sometimes they hate each other, and sometimes Tara is in an adolescent phase where she's rebelling against Gemma. This year, I think the interesting thing about the characters is that Tara has really absorbed Gemma in a way. You see her using more of Gemma's tactics and more of Gemma's ways of accomplishing things as a means for survival within this world. Tara wakes up to the fact that perhaps the only way she's going to survive and get out is if she turns up her Gemma and gets shit done.
But at the same time as she says that, Tara is pretty much rejecting Gemma. While the tactics are the same, the things that she wants are in complete opposition to what Gemma wants. Gemma wants those kids to stay in Charming and never leave. She wants her arms around them tightly. Tara wants them out. Tara wants them all out. That pretty much puts them on opposite sides of the fence. But using Gemma's tactics means she's much more duplicitous, she's playing her cards much closer to the vest, and she's trying not to show too much of what's actually going on in her mind.
I can't stop thinking about Lee Toric. He's such a maniac of a character. What he did to Otto, the threats he's made to Tara … and there's worse coming up. Donal Logue is so commanding in the role. Sons has a great history of casting these antagonists with actors who really make them pop, like Ally Walker as Stahl and Ray McKinnon as Lincoln Potter. Lee as Logue is right up there, which is amazing for such a late addition to the story.
I love him so much. The woman who played his sister last year is actually his sister. You know, I saw the [Season 6] premiere for the first time a couple of nights ago, and I was so creeped out by him. I couldn't believe it. It was just so terrible. It was so good! He's such a worthy adversary for the club. That's what's so exciting about him in the role. He's not just a cop with an axe to grind or somebody who is after justice. This is personal. He has a really great and explosive arc on the show.
Sons has never been afraid to go to dark places, but the end of this premiere was especially dark. What was your reaction to the school shooting at the end of the premiere?
I found it difficult to watch. In terms of watching this show, I have a pretty thin skin, so there are certain episodes where I'm covering my eyes quite a bit. I think if I wasn't a part of the show and didn't know where all of it was going and to what end it was being used, I might find myself questioning it a little bit. But I think Kurt is using it in a way that's pretty subtle and smart and plays itself out through the rest of this season in an interesting way. I mostly kept my eyes closed and kind of got through it.
It's been mentioned many times in the past that Hamlet is a touchstone for Sons in a lot of ways. If you follow the comparison, that could mean very bad things for Tara in the end. With the show set to end after seven seasons, do you have a sense of how Tara's story will finish? Is there any hope for a happy ending?
I really don't know. I'm not sure that Kurt knows either. I think the Hamlet reverberations are definitely there. Every season I have these moments where I go, "Oh, this is where she's going to lose her mind! No, this is where she's going to lose her mind!" [Laughs] And she does. I kind of feel like her "Ophelia craziness" has happened in little pieces and partials here and there.
I don't think it's going to end very well for many of us. [Laughs] But Kurt is full of surprises. He never does anything too obvious, so we'll see.
Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.