Spoiler alert: The Oct. 21 episode of Sons of Anarchy introduced Winsome (Gang Related‘s Inbar Lavi), a prostitute who trades information on her abusive pimp’s whereabouts to Jax (Charlie Hunnam) in exchange for a new job at Diosa. As executive producer Paris Barclay, who directed the episode, tells EW in our full postmortem, it wasn’t until showrunner Kurt Sutter saw the chemistry between Jax and Winsome that he decided to play with it again in episode 10. Lavi initially turned down the chance to audition for the show, only because she had the flu when she got the call. But hearing that the casting department was rooting for her, she rallied. Here, the Israeli-born actress—who’s currently in Pittsburgh filming The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, and Michael Caine—talks about the character’s backstory and teases her return.
EW: Did you and Charlie talk about the vibe you wanted the characters to have beforehand, or was it just something that you discovered on set filming the scene?
Lavi: I think we were both a little surprised with how easy it was for us to work together. I think there was definitely some great chemistry between us, which, you know, isn’t hard to do with Charlie because he’s so wonderful and sweet and charming. I call him Charming Hunnam.
Other than that, I will say that I think Winsome has to have some kind of idea of a Prince Charming that will come and sweep her out of the situation that she is in, whether she was aware of it or not. I had to put that in the back of her head, and I think Jax and the gang come in at a perfect moment when she’s really ready to drop out of her life as she knows it and make a run for a better one. They give her a ray of hope for a brighter future. She’s timid, but something about these guys, and I think specifically with Jax, makes her feel safe, and they do gain her trust. I don’t think the alternative would have been any better, so she just decides to go along for the ride. I will also say the relationship that is built between Jax and Winsome is somewhat healing for both of them. They were both hurt and disappointed by life’s course. They’re both in some kind of agony, and they’ve experienced loss in different ways, so they allow each other to be vulnerable for a minute together. I think they allow each other to mourn their mistakes and make peace with them. There’s no judgment when they’re together. They seem to be miles away from the rest of the world; they’re safe.
I kept wondering, has she heard about the Diosa massacre?
You know, I don’t think so. I think that when she sees Jax, she sees this dude that has a huge knife on him—in her eyes, it’s a samurai sword and it’s right there on his belt. She’s very confused as to what these people are up to. She lives in the streets, so she doesn’t trust anybody. She’s seen some crazy stuff. I don’t think she trusts them right away. But I think that when Jax sees her, he sees a lot of himself in Winsome. She’s merely a frightened, broken child inside a grown woman’s body, and he can relate to that—not being in a woman’s body. [laughs] But I feel like he can see the good in her in a way that others can’t, and in a way that he wishes others can see in him. And he’s made some poor choices in his life and he’s born into a situation that is kind of hard to shake and get out of—and in a lot of ways, that’s very similar to Winsome and her situation.
Is that a backstory we’ll get to learn about onscreen, or just the one you use in your mind while playing her?
I definitely did a lot of my own backstory myself before even walking on set. Kurt [Sutter] allows the actors to come in and explore on their own, and that’s kind of what I did in the first episode. I think that they caught on to that, and they went with whatever essence I was bringing to Winsome and then they embellished a lot. You’ll get to see a little bit more of her world in episode 10.
I do feel like there’s a softness or innocence in Winsome, even though she’s talking tough.
I feel like she has to play tough to be able to protect herself, and I think that’s one of things that draws her to Jax is that he can see through it. I don’t know if you noticed, but most of his reactions to everything that I saw are like little smirks of, “Yeah. All right. You play tough, but…” But he does the same exact thing: He has to put on all these layers, and really inside he’s going through a really rough time, losing his wife and with everything else that’s going on in his life. So I think she has to put on the layers, and that’s what brings them close together.
So I know you can’t comment on this either way, but for EW’s recent cover story on Sons, Charlie told me he’d been completely naked twice on the set this season. So we will definitely be seeing Jax’s butt again.
Is Winsome, perhaps, involved in either of those scenes?
All I can is that I’m sure it’s gonna be glorious and delicious, and everything that you want it to be will be there, and it will be epic and monumental. [Laughs]
Winsome had some great lines in this episode. The “anti semantic” one comes to mind. Did you have a problem saying any of them with a straight face?
[Laughs] That was the hardest one for me because English is my second language. We did that scene a few times, and every time I said “anti semantic,” I said it in a different way with a different accent. And Paris had to come up to me and say, “Hey, you’re saying gibberish. We can’t understand what you’re saying.” I remember Charlie just took me aside and said, “Hey, you got this.” And we ran it a few times. So I wasn’t laughing, I was holding myself from crying because I wanted to say it right.