Spoiler alert: The Nov. 4 episode of Sons of Anarchy was a big one for Sheriff Althea Jarry (Annabeth Gish). She had a physical confrontation with Gemma (Katey Sagal), uncovered game-changing intel on Chris Dun, and asked Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) to prove he has feelings for her by “taking her” on the hood of her cop car in the parking garage in front of Quinn (Rusty Coones).
EW: I’m just going to jump right in with the scene I think fans will be talking about. Do you have a guess?
Gish: The sex on a cop car scene. [Laughs]
Correct. I knew we were getting a sex scene in uniform, but I was thinking a kinky office romp. Were you told this was where it was headed?
I think what Sons does best is keep everybody on their toes, even Tommy and I as actors. So we didn’t know exactly what was coming down the pike, but we knew Chibs and Jarry are not traditional. [Laughs] So I think they deserved something really hot. And what better way to bookend: The first time we meet outside of the club is in the parking garage when I take money. But I have to say, at the table read, when we read that scene, it was like, “That’s sexy. Ohmygod.” I think it’s sexy to both men and women—ripping the uniform off, like male strippers, think Magic Mike or whatever. There’s something about a uniform. And then Tommy did this thing with my belt. [Laughs]
The logistics were difficult because the uniform is stiff polyester. I’m wearing a lot of accoutrement between my sidearm and my flashlight and all of the things on a cop’s belt, a Sally Browne or a Sam Browne. So to get all of that off was a whole choreographed dance. And of course, we are literally outside, in a parking garage. [Laughs] As an actress, I have to get over the fact that the scene is being filmed by a crew. These kind of scenes are always nervous-making for everybody. I find I usually just have to get in front of it and giggle—giggle out of my discomfort, really. But you gotta be bold, too. You gotta go for it. Who would have thunk that at 43, I would become a sexy cop? [Laughs] I will say this: This not the last time you see Chibs and Jarry get busy.
The first time I watched this scene, I couldn’t get past Quinn being there. That was shocking. Did you have to wrap your head around what Jarry was thinking in that moment? Is it that she just needs to know now if Chibs has these feelings because they get so little time together?
I think that is her moment of really revealing her vulnerability, and also, she obviously doesn’t have an issue with sex in public. I think it speaks to the fact that cops and criminals walk very fine lines of the gradations between danger and what is right and wrong. To be a cop, you have to be an adrenaline junkie, you know. So I think that was fitting for her. I think she really has these feelings for Chibs, and with the extreme stakes of where they both come from, it was like, “If you want me, take me now.”
I talked with Peter Weller, who directed this episode, and he said he wanted the sex to be face-to-face, and that his one note to you was to not dare him with the ultimatum but to invite him.
I loved that, and I think that’s what Peter Weller did with the scene: He did it in a very respectful, non-objectified manner from a woman’s perspective. Jarry initiates it, so it already puts her in a position of strength, even though it is an invitation and it is vulnerable. That’s why it’s kind of so beautifully complicated: She is seducing him, but because she has a need. We haven’t seen a lot of sex scenes like that on television, where a woman is inviting/seducing but also demanding/asking.
This is both of them admitting they have feelings and wanting to pursue something. And it’s interesting that this desire for intimacy is confirmed at a moment when it seems she’s questioning him most, in terms of Chris Dun, the intel that leads to Marks getting arrested, and how much the club is using her.
That’s an astute observation. I think it speaks very well to the conflict that she has within herself. It’s not like they can have a normal relationship. They can’t just go have dinner at a restaurant and go on a date. They gotta get busy when and where they can, in the quagmire of all the conflict of the club versus Charming’s law. So I think going forward, it sets up how much of a battle it is internally for both of them to find and feel this real attraction—I don’t want to say love, but I think that they have a real chemistry, for sure—and how to express that chemistry in this messed up world.
Let’s move on to the scene between Gemma and Jarry. I was there on set that day, so I know you had stunt doubles.
We actually had to go back and reshoot something because the door was open in my office. Kurt [Sutter] went back, and he’s very meticulous, of course, as he should be, and it didn’t make sense that Gemma and I have this altercation in my office with the door open, so we fixed that. It’s sort of an odd pleasure to be in this cat fight with the matriarch of Charming. To get to go head-to-head or toe-to-toe with Katey Sagal and Gemma, that’s like a steak dinner for an actress.
They threaten each other at the end of that scene, so I’m hoping we see this kind of confrontation again. Should we at least expect them to have more scenes together?
Yes. There is another conversation. With Chibs, she sees an ally and she sees a lover. And with Gemma, when you’re a strong woman and you see another strong woman, there’s a sort of respect there. But she also knows that there is a wicked, twisted woman at play. I think she knows that Gemma has the finger on all of these guys.
There’s also that scene in Unser’s Airstream where Jarry reveals that Dun was picked up by Vegas PD on the night that Tara was killed, so Gemma and Juice are both lying. That was a great twist. What was your reaction reading that?
I thought, this is gonna be fun. That scene in particular is a crucial turning point because it reveals so much. I literally had to draw my own map so that I could coordinate all of where Dun was, where Lin was. It’s a huge turning point for the Charming Sheriff’s department: Last episode, s–t starts to unravel, but now the law is on to the unraveling and the truth is gonna be told.
I’ve always appreciated that Jarry has a respect for Unser.
Absolutely. I think she always gives a massive amount of respect to Unser, even though she knows that he’s been dirty. But she is, too. The difference is that she’s not just dirty taking money, she’s also philandering. [Laughs] She’s consummating with the club.
You’re on Twitter. How has the reaction been to Jarry from fans, in general?
It’s been wonderful. Some jobs come along, and they’re great. But this job from top to bottom—whether it’s the set environment, the fans, the actors and actresses—it’s been pretty superlative for me. I love the fact that there’s #Charry for Chibs and Jarry. I think one of the SOA Addicts coined #LadyLaw. It’s just fun banter and an engagement with these people who are diehard fans. I think I knew a little bit about those kind of high quality fans from X-Files, but this isn’t just sci-fi. This is blood, and sweat, and brotherhood, and motorcycles, and allegiance—it’s deep. It’s kind of unprecedented for me in that way.
How emotional was the end of filming for you?
The emotion that was evoked in my heart and my sentiment, just from one season—I can’t imagine what everyone else has felt after seven. It’s a real sense of loss already, and I was there for a blink.
Did you get to take the uniform?
[Whispers] I did. I took the uniform. [Laughs]
I took the uniform. To a producer who shall remain nameless, I said, “Can I ask your permission? Can I take my uniform?” And he said, “Absolutely not. That’s Fox property. FX property. Blah, blah, blah, blah.” I said, “Okay, but what if I tell you that I’m stealing it? What if I’m confessing that I’m just sticking it in my bag and incase somebody needs it, I have it?” I don’t know if printing that will get me in trouble, but I had to keep the uniform. My first and only.
What has the role of Jarry meant to you?
The idea of being a woman in the midst of all of the other women on this show—it’s sort of an under-discussed topic. I think everybody just thinks the show is all about a male motorcycle club. But the women on the show—Drea [de Matteo], Katey, Maggie [Siff], Ally [Walker]—what driving forces they have been. To Kurt’s credit, and I say this about Jarry, he has written some complicated, messed-up, amazing women. And I just feel honored as hell to be able to jump in on the last ride.