'Sons of Anarchy': Kim Coates talks Tig's fate
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Sons of Anarchy‘s season 5 finale, stop reading now. One of the big questions was whether fan favorite Tig (Kim Coates) would live or die. In a pre-finale EW.com poll, 21 percent of readers thought Pope (Harold Perrineau) would get his revenge on Tig, the man who killed his daughter (and the man whose daughter Pope burned alive in retaliation in the season premiere), while 28 percent thought Jax (Charlie Hunnam) would find a way to save Tig and 51 percent believed Tig would end up flying to Ireland with Clay (Ron Perlman). And…
The fans with faith in Jax were right. Here, Coates takes us inside Tig’s emotional episode. For more on the season finale, read our postmortem interview with creator Kurt Sutter, Ken Tucker’s review, and our full recap.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you have people begging you to tell them Tig’s fate?
KIM COATES: Yeah, they’ve been bugging me all year. My neighbors were all just eyes ablazing whenever I would come home on my bike — does he still have his tats? I literally didn’t say anything all season long. Yesterday, I showed up in Vegas for a little affiliate event [an early viewing party]. I stand up in this big room and go, “I want to thank you for inviting me for what could be my last supper,” and everybody went, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” I said, “You’re just gonna have to wait and see.” It was the best acting job I’ve ever done in my life.
I think most fans thought Tig would live, just because you can’t take Opie (Ryan Hurst) and Tig from us this year. But then again, this is Kurt Sutter.
We knew about Ryan. He’s the first big one to go, really. I’m not taking anything away from the tragedy of Johnny Lewis [Half-Sack], or William Lucking [Piney] obviously, but Opie was the Horatio of the piece, everyone thought he’d be there ’til the bitter end. So that was a shocker. I also think the audience had a pretty hard time saying goodbye to Opie, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to say goodbye to Tig as well — it would have been a pretty drastic season. I knew that Sutter would give me a heads-up if it was Tig’s time to go. As the season went on, I just never got that call. I knew that there would be a bit of a bookend with Pope at the end of the year — not knowing which way it would go. When I looked up at Pope and said, “I’m gonna cut your head off” [in the season premiere], I had kinda hoped that that’s the way it would go. And Charlie, being the lead of the show with Katey [Sagal] and Ron, he knows what’s going on. Because he’s got so much to deal with, Kurt would give him a heads-up three or four shows down the line. When Charlie heard about the last episode, probably when we were shooting 510, he pulled me aside and said, “Wow. Just get ready, brother. Just get ready.” I didn’t want to know too much because I wanted to keep playing those beats.
Did it go down the way you envisioned?
I don’t think anyone could have predicted the way it went down. Sutter’s just such an amazing storyteller. It’s just so out there, and so many beats that you don’t see coming. Do you remember at the end of season 3, when we kill Stahl, we kill Jimmy, and we’re in that paddy wagon, and we’re going to prison and we start giggling like little schoolgirls because we were all in on it? We’d been in the Teller-Morrow parking lot calling Jax a rat, spitting on him. That was really good acting by the club. So for Tig to not know that Jax had something up his sleeve, I really had to play those beats so beautifully, honestly pained-out and hateful and hurt — that was a great bookend to Tig’s emotional year for me. I’m glad Tig didn’t know. And I’m glad Jax had something up his sleeve, because let me tell you something, when Charlie pulled that gun out and started shooting all those bodyguards, everyone watching [at that affiliate event Monday] was screaming. I mean, I literally saw that episode with 100 people last night, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It was like being at a football game. They were commenting, and yelling, and crying, and then super silent. When I was getting led off and spitting in Charlie’s face, everybody kept turning around looking at me, like, Ohmygod. And then when that gun came out and Charlie popped that first bodyguard, I’m not kidding, 100 people were screaming, “Yeah! Yeah!” And then me putting the bullets into Pope — everyone was hoarse. They went crazy. Are people like that when they watch this show in front of their television?
I had to pause and grab a pillow to hold when Jax turned on Tig. And then when Jax started shooting the bodyguards, I began stomping the floor, pumping my first, and chanting his name. So, yes.
[Laughs] I love it.
Was spitting at Jax scripted?
Tell me about filming that final moment with Pope.
Harold and I never said anything to each other all season [on the set]. Not one thing. That was my doing, I’m sure it was partly his, too. I wanted nothing to do with him, he wanted nothing to do with me. And after I put two holes in him, we both hugged each other. He said, “I’m the biggest fan of yours,” and I go, “No, I’m the biggest fan of yours.” I told him about [loving him in Baz Luhrmann’s] Romeo + Juliet, he told me about a movie he saw me in. It was like we were buddies from high school, because the acting job was now over. The venomous looks and the hate that we had for each other as these two pained fathers could finally just be exorcised and not talked about, and I could talk to Harold and Harold could talk to Kim. It was a really nice moment for both of us.
Was the way you flinched when Jax put his hand on Tig’s shoulder afterward scripted?
No. In fact, that was Charlie’s idea. I’m so proud of that kid. Obviously, I had a lot of stuff going on in that scene, but he said, “You know, Coatesy, I don’t know how you feel, but when I put my hand on your shoulder, I think you should almost punch me in the face.” I did it different ways, and Kurt picked the one that he liked the most, where it just shocks me. Like, Now what?…. You know the irony in all us, seriously, is that Tig’s that guy you hate to love and love to hate, but I think I’m one of the good guys now. I mean, I’m telling Jax not to put that needle in Wendy. I’m lookin’ at Clay’s gun, I’m about to frame my ex-buddy, and I’m breakin’ down. The love for that dog and saving it. I’m one of the good guys now. Jax is turning into Clay. Gemma is sending Clay to prison and he might die. I mean, holy crap, what the hell’s goin’ on? [Shouts] WHAT’S GOIN’ ON?
Tig and that dog got the only happy ending.
It’s true, isn’t it? Her name is Bonnie. I was the only guy who got to feed Bonnie, so Bonnie obviously loved me right away. She really clung to me. All Sutter said was, “This is it. After your daughter and Pope, Tig needs this friend. It’s unconditional love right now.” That’s the way it was played, man. She was a joy to be around. I love animals. I’ve got two dogs myself, so it’s pretty easy for me.
That dogfight was one of the toughest things to watch all season. I had to mute it.
That’s how amazing these trainers are: That was actually Bonnie’s brother, and I think his name was Clyde. Obviously, these animals never get hurt. Safety first. But the trainers were able to entice this brother and sister to play roughly, and not only roughly, but that Clyde was coming out on top, which is what they wanted. And then they jerked the camera around, so it was fast-moving, and of course, the foley, the sound. It didn’t sound like that at all [filming it] — it was super quiet. But when they add the biting snarls and the growl, it was very, very hard to watch on TV.
We did a pre-finale poll, and about half of readers expected Tig to fly to Ireland with Clay. Do you think Tig ever would have done that, if it had been a real option in this episode?
That’s a good question. You have to hark back to when Tig said to Jax, “I will do anything for you, I will vote anything, I will be on your team” because Jax saved my life in prison by not giving me up to Pope. So, I don’t know if I would have got on the plane or not. But I do know that Sutter’s got a bunch of things up his sleeve to end this incredible run of a series in 26 shows. Get ready. It’s just gonna go so fast. I might be on a plane to Barbados for all I know. I have no idea.
Has he actually said anything to you about season 6?
Yes, he has. “Absolutely nothing.” [Laughs] I will say this though, in my opinion, Jax turned into such a young Clay, such a prick at the end. And Gemma’s just — whoa, are you kidding me? And Tara’s gonna go to jail, Clay’s goin’ to jail. I’m left with a dog. Bobby’s rippin’ the VP patch off. Chibs, who’s backed Jax’s every move, he’s gotta be upset about everything. Juice, well, you know, if he cries one more time, I’m gonna punch him in the face.
Theo Rossi crying destroys me.
I know, right? It’s just hard to watch because he does it so well, for chrissake. So you know what, again, everything is in disarray, and I think Sutter needs to pull things back a little bit, in my opinion, to get ready for that final season. Because that’s when everything is gonna be tied up in a nice little bow and we’re all gonna be dead, I don’t know. I mean, what the hell’s gonna happen? Jesus. I mean, come on, girlfriend, what the hell?
[Laughs] Well, I have this whole theory that it was actually Lee Toric and Lincoln Potter, not Gemma, who got Tara arrested to see if she’d turn on the club to save herself, which I won’t get into here. [Coates laughs.] But for now, let’s assume it was Gemma. We end season 5 hating her almost as much as we hated Clay at the end of season 4 — which I love.
Because you can’t wait to see where it goes.
Exactly. As you said after the season premiere, Kurt’s not pulling punches. Everyone is f—ed.
The show is so draconian — Shakespeare, Greek tragedy — that I’m just a really blessed actor to be given some of this heavy emotional stuff that Sutter trusts me with. I love playing Tig, but I do understand that the show’s metaphorically Hamlet, it is what it is, and everyone’s gonna start to die now, I’m sure, in the next two seasons. I mean this: I don’t care if I’m dead in the third episode next year, or it’s my big nose in the final episode, final scene — I’ve had a great run with this guy. If I’m there ’til the end, then I’m gonna be there ’til the end. And if I’m gone, I’m gone. Because I can’t wait for what’s next.