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Meeting Mr. Mayhem

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If you’re a fan of FX’s drama Sons of Anarchy, the execution-style murder of ex-SAMCRO president Clay Morrow (the magnificent Ron Perlman) by stepson Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) in the Nov. 19 episode was heart-wrenching — but not all that unexpected. “He’s done some bad s—!” reasons creator Kurt Sutter. Perlman sat down with EW on his last day of shooting to reflect on his bloody six-season tenure on Sons.

Were you told at the beginning of the season about Clay’s impending death?
Yeah, I got a heads-up. Actually, I was surprised I’ve made it this far, because people wanted my blood.

That moment when Clay and Gemma [Katey Sagal] exchange a final look before Jax fires the fatal shot…what was Clay thinking?
“I love you. I always loved you.” For two people who live as close to life and death as they always have, it’s a heavy-duty moment.

You think Gemma still loved Clay? Dude, he beat her to a pulp last season!
I like to point out to everybody that she shot me. She pulled a gun and shot at my head. I could’ve died. I didn’t set out to start a fight with Gemma. She got me into a corner and then f—ing pulled a gun and shot me because I refused to engage with her about something she needed to control. She’s insanely monstrous, way more so than Clay. I was a puppet, just like Claudius says in Hamlet. Gertrude controlled the whole f—ing thing.

You weren’t happy with your character’s arc last season.
I couldn’t find a way to justify it to myself. I needed to feel convinced that it was all noble, that it was all for the greater good. When he starts doing stupid things like putting a hit out on Tara [Maggie Siff] and creating mayhem that wasn’t necessary in order to save himself…that was crossing the line.

So did Clay redeem himself in the end?
I’m going to leave that up to the audience to decide. The thing about this world and the way Kurt executes it is that nothing is black-and-white. You’re always seeing the beautiful and the ugly at the same time, and it’s deliberately ambiguous. When all the dust settles, I’ll check my Twitter feed and see whether anybody thought Clay got his house in order.

What has the show meant to your career?
It hasn’t meant a thing to my movie career, and we won’t know what it means to my TV career until I figure out whether I’m doing another series. All I know is that it’s very rare that an actor gets a chance to work for this long. I had six years of a state of grace.

How does it feel saying goodbye?
I’ve ended 190-some-odd jobs in my career. So I’m not a stranger to saying goodbye to companies that I love. I know this because I’m writing a memoir. It’s also going to be a letter to my children — like, I tell you what I learned so that it will make your path a little bit easier.

Looking back, what’s your fondest memory of Sons?
When I’m sitting on my rocking chair in the old-age home, I’ll be thinking about the scenes with Tig [Kim Coates] on my right and Jax on my left and I’m at the head of the table, smoking cigars, kicking ass, and taking names. That, to me, was quintessential Sons of Anarchy.

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