'Sons of Anarchy's' Jimmy Smits Talks Nero's 'Turn' as Finale Nears

Sons of Anarchy's Nero Padilla isn’t the type of character you expect to stick around for long. When he was introduced in the fifth season of the hit FX drama, the pimp and ex-gangbanger seemed destined for a violent end. Getting with Gemma (Katey Sagal) in a world where Clay (Ron Perlman) was still alive wasn’t a wise move, after all. Now, at the end of Season 6, Clay's gone and Nero has worked his way into SAMCRO's heart. But that doesn't mean the character won't meet that violent end eventually.

"[Nero's] going to take a turn, and it ain't going to be pretty when that happens," actor Jimmy Smits said of his character during a recent conference call. "I'm kind of looking forward to that myself." Last night’s penultimate episode of the season created some cracks in Nero's relationships with Jax (Charlie Hunnam), Gemma and the club, and Smits said the transgressions of many characters (specifically Jax) will come back to bite them later.

"Jax is betrayed, Nero feels betrayed, Gemma feels betrayed," he explained. "There's going to be a lot of curves that [Nero's] going to have to take, and certainly this transgression that he's found out that happened with the death of that young woman and what that meant to him, and what he feels about that transgression with Jax and what that means, is going to take a lot of different turns."

One of the things most important to him is making sure his character doesn't lose his edge, despite getting all lovey-dovey with Gemma. "When I signed on I really thought we were going to do what we did when I signed on to do Dexter, which was, you know, 10 episodes and we're out," he said. "There was a point where I did kind of have to shift gears a little bit, because we started having these conversations about the possibility of staying on."

"My job is just to keep — and we talk about this constantly — to keep the edge going with him at the same time, because you want the character as much as possible to be fleshed out," he continued.

But he knows the bond between Nero and Gemma is important to the characters and fans alike. "She doesn't forget, man. If you cross her, it might be two seasons down the line, but she'll come back at you," Smits said. "But I do feel that the characters — there is a bond there because there was a piece for them that was kind of missing, and them coming together — well, seemingly so, anyway — since they've met they kind of have found a way to fill in that missing piece, that void, that each of them has in their own way. And I've liked the way they've had to negotiate their lives realizing what each of them brings to the party at the beginning; what he does, what she is involved in, and they've found the ways to navigate through all of it."

Smits believes the core themes that series creator Kurt Sutter has tried to instill in Sons of Anarchy from the beginning are betrayal and a sense of consequences — the characters always pay for their actions. But as the Sons of Anarchy Season 6 finale approaches Nero is "just where Kurt Sutter likes to keep all of his characters: off-kilter," Smits said. "[Nero's] navigating between what the characters started out with, with this kind of goal to have some kind of exit strategy, and that's not working at all. And now it's combined with this pull between his past and what the characters are each calling 'the streets,' and these new affiliations that he has with the Sons and specifically with Gemma and Jax. There's a real pull there."

Smits said with just one more season left of Sons of Anarchy , Sutter "has got his eyes already on finalizing this." And while Nero is torn between SAMCRO, his past, and the characters he's come to love, there is an end for him in sight. "He's got to desperately keep reaching for that no matter what these ties do, because that's his engine," Smits said. "That's what keeps him in forward motion. And we'll see how these tugs that he has on either side, what direction that takes him to, because it doesn't seem like it's going to be a straightforward path toward the endgame."

The Season 6 finale of Sons of Anarchy airs Dec. 10 on FX.

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