Candid 'Sons of Anarchy' star Dayton Callie on that 'Red Rose' ending
Spoiler alert: At the start of the season, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter said Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie) would be the glue that holds the final ride together. He wasn’t lying.
The Dec. 2 penultimate episode ended with Unser stuck between Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Jax (Charlie Hunnam). When did Callie learn Unser would pull his gun on Jax, refuse to leave when Jax asked him to, and ultimately take a bullet in the chest? That’s just the first surprising answer in our lighthearted chat below. His good-humored, expletive-filled rant on fans questioning Unser’s love of Gemma, investigation of Tara’s murder, and life expectancy is not to be missed. Also, he originally auditioned for the role of Darby.
EW: This episode leaves fans devastated, and a lot of that is because of Unser’s death. It’s arguably its most shocking moment.
DAYTON CALLIE: Well, thank you for saying that.
Exec producer Paris Barclay, who directed “Red Rose,” told me he didn’t learn Unser’s fate until he read this actual script. How and when did you learn this was going down?
[Laughs] Actually, it was very funny. It was Katey. Katey let me know first, but Katey doesn’t know she told me.
Okay, we need to hear that story.
I was sitting outside eating my lunch. Katey came out. I knew the script for episode 12 was coming out any moment. She walked past me, and I said, “Hi, how you doin’?” “Good, how are you?” I said, “You read episode 12 yet?” And she got this sad look on her face, and she went, “Yeah.” “Oh okay, I was just wondering if it was coming out.” She goes, “I think it’s coming out this afternoon.” The look on her face said I was dead. [Laughs] Usually the crew, props, set design, they all get the script before we do, even if it’s a rough cut of the script, so they have a general idea. So it may have been props, it may have been wardrobe, I can’t remember who, but they thought I got the script. They came up and they said, “Oh, sorry, man.” I went, “Sorry about what?” “Your death.” I went, “Oh. Oh yeah. Oh okay. Thanks.” That’s how I found out. [Laughs]
Was it really a shock?
If [Kurt Sutter] kills Otto, I guess he can kill me. How do you trust a guy who kills himself? You think anybody’s safe? No.
What was your reaction reading it then?
It was kinda like, “Oh, okay. This is the way it happens. All right. Okay. Jax has gotta live with that.” [Laughs]
That’s what I think is interesting, that this may be the straw that gets some fans to finally stop rooting for Jax. My colleague Dalton Ross watched the episode, and I got an email with only a subject line: “I hate Jax.” Are you hoping fans want to see Unser’s death avenged?
[Laughs] I have no feelings one way or the other how the audience will react…. What pisses me off is people think what they see the characters see. You know what I mean? “How could you like Gemma?” I don’t know Gemma killed anybody, but the audience does. It’s like when the bogeyman is in the closet, everybody knows but the person who’s gonna open the closet door. Then they think I’m f–king Inspector Clouseau, that I should know that Gemma killed Tara. It’s been seven days she’s dead. I’ve been sittin’ in my trailer smokin’ weed. What the f–k? [Laughs] I don’t have access to the records and everything. It’s not until CCH Pounder comes over and says, “Get off your ass and do something. You know these people.” “Okay, I’ll quit smoking weed for a week and go ahead and do it.” Those are the kind of things that piss me off. “Don’t you know?” “No. Gemma’s ripped my car off many times before. She does what the hell she wants. I think she’s broken up over Jax having to turn himself in. I actually tell her that [in the season 6 finale]. So where the f–k did you miss that line?” [Laughs] People think I lived with cancer for seven years. The series only took place over two, two and a half years, tops. F–king 24 wasn’t 24 years, it was 24 hours. I’ve done my bladder cancer research. There’s a lot of steps to dying from bladder cancer. Especially nowadays, they take your f–kin’ bladder out. You don’t need a bladder. They put a little plastic bag in there and you live for 20 years. “He should be dead. He should f–king be dead.” “No, you should be dead from f–king stupidity.” That’s what the f–k I want to say. Jackass. [Laughs]
Did you try imagining different scenarios that didn’t end with a bullet in Unser’s chest?
What am I gonna say? I’m pissed off they cut the scene where I get up and I have a flak jacket on. I say, “Okay. Let me get the f–k out of here,” and I leave. I drive away in the truck and let them kill each other. [Laughs] There was a good scene that I had in my head where I got up and went, “Ow…” What other questions can I answer?
What do you think was going through Unser’s mind when he found Gemma?
I went up there to save two friends. I’m the only guy that I think could’ve gone. Nero says it’s better if I go, because if he goes, he doesn’t know how he’ll handle it. So it’s me wanting to stand between two friends with my arms out saying, “Listen, calm down. We can do manslaughter. Crime of passion. There’s a lot of s–t. I don’t think it was premeditated murder, so she doesn’t have to go get the electric chair. She doesn’t need to go away for life. I mean, unfortunately people kill people all the time and get out in five years.” So I went up there trying to get her to surrender and take her in. If Jax came in, I had no intention of ever shooting Jax.
That was my next question.
No. [Unser] just pulls his gun out to front, in my head.
And Unser wasn’t expecting Jax to ever fire, in your mind?
No. I wasn’t. So if I wasn’t, he wasn’t. [Laughs] It’s like, let’s just stop and talk about this. Let’s put the guns down. I said, “Look what we came to—a bunch of jerkoffs with guns pointed at each other? We love each other. We’re family.” I know Jax since he was born. I’m not gonna shoot him. He didn’t do anything—yet. I don’t know he killed all those people. The audience does. I don’t know what he would do, but I didn’t think he was gonna shoot me until Kurt wrote it. [Laughs] Prick.
I’ll be using a lot of [Laughs] to show you’re having fun.
I had a good run. I had fun playing the character. It was fun working with everybody. It was great. If he wanted to kill me, he killed me.
I talked with Peter Weller about episode 11, which he directed—
You should have asked him on the phone, “Are you wearing your ascot?” Peter wears an ascot when he directs to differentiate between [Peter Weller] the actor and [Peter Weller] the director.
He told me you and he are both jazz musicians and talked about jazz a lot on set.
I try to teach him as much as I can. [Laughs]
What do you play?
I played saxophone for 15 years. I played out. It never reached any kind of a level that was recording or anything. Not that I didn’t play well. If you’ve been around the record business, it’s not easy. Especially a jazz musician. You usually play for like three or four people, make four, five, six dollars a night. So I would take road gigs and I would go on and play lounge music and s–t back in the day. That’s how I made money. But I was a jazz musician who was a whore. I’d go and play f–king, who was that guy, Barry Manilow s–t. Some guy sang a bad impression of Barry Manilow. They give you $300, $400 a week, and that was it. Then you go back to being a starving jazz musician.
Do you have anything in the works that we should mention?
Well, I was just down in New Orleans for a month and did a horror movie. I’m the horror in the horror movie. That’s with [director] Darren Lynn Bousman. He did a few of the Saw movies. I don’t go to scary movies because they scare me. But I can be in them, because I know whether I’m living or dying. [Laughs] Unlike f–king Sons, I know if I’m dead or alive. It’s called Abattoir. I think it means slaughterhouse in French. I’m the main bad person, who I don’t look at as a bad person. You can’t play a bad person; you can only be a person who does bad things for the right reasons. Jessica Lowndes [of 90210 fame], she’s my leading lady. It’s me against her. And I won’t tell you who wins.
I’m rooting for you.
The good guy doesn’t always finish first. Some of us SOBs are still around. Like Zobelle.
You know, a tiny part of me thought we might see him resurface in the final season, but there’s just no time.
You know what’s funny? I went up for the role of Darby in the beginning. I didn’t get it. Too old. They approached me for the second episode and wanted me for Unser. It’s like the gods of fate actually ended up in my favor. When you think something is going not your way—Darby didn’t do much and then they took Unser on a seven-year ride. I was only supposed to be there for two episodes, and Kurt just kept writing for me. I get invited to talk to students sometimes. They want to know how the f–k I made it. [Laughs] So I give a very inspirational talk. “You can do it, too. Look at this jackass. He got there.” But it’s nice.
The Sons of Anarchy series finale airs Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.
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Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.