'Sons of Anarchy' Through Theo Rossi's Lens
The Makeup and Tattoo Trailer
''I am so OCD about the tattoo placement, so she is extremely patient,'' says Sons of Anarchy star Theo Rossi (Juice) of makeup artist Michelle Garbin, who's the first person he sees on set (often at 4 a.m.). The 75-to-90-minute regimen begins with Rossi trimming his own mohawk before having his head shaved. He sees the makeup trailer as both a coffee shop (everyone's getting a caffeine fix while sharing stories from the day before) and ''the quiet before the storm.'' Still, head makeup artist Tracey Anderson always has the tunes rockin'. ''It could be anything from Daft Punk to Frank Sinatra. It's really whatever mood she's in,'' Rossi says.
''The Pile of Me''
That's how Rossi refers to this mound of tattoo decals. Rossi's not sure if he has the most fake ink as Juice or if that title goes to Jimmy Smits when his character, Nero, is shirtless. ''Sadly, Opie [Ryan Hurst] had the most before me. I don't know if that means anything,'' Rossi says, with a laugh. ''I hope they're not takin' out people by the number of tattoos. Imagine that: 'He has too much time in the makeup trailer.'''
Every club member has a Reaper tattoo somewhere. ''This was Kim [Coates, who plays Tig] getting his on his pale white arm,'' Rossi says. ''Kim always comes in like a total whirling dervish. He runs up the steps. We can go into the makeup trailer at 4:45 a.m., and we're still talking and having fun.'' The laughs continue on set: ''Before every take, there's the giant mirror that the hair people hold in front of him, because nobody's got hair like Kim Coates. It's fantastic.''
''The Charlie Wall''
''We come in and that's the first thing we see,'' Rossi says, noting that the makeup department has devoted two walls to Charlie Hunnam (Jax) in the trailer. ''We love the Charlie Wall. We're super proud of our fearless leader, and obviously,'' Rossi adds, ''we all get a good kick out of everything.''
The gang had a laugh when news broke that Hunnam had been cast as Fifty Shades of Grey 's Christian Grey — because Hunnam brought his phone to set for an hour, which is something he and his close-knit costars never do. ''Between takes, people aren't running to their chairs. They're hanging,'' Rossi says. ''Literally, they call, 'Cut!', and we start bullsh--in'. Who knows what we're talkin' about: It could be the UFC, our new bike, our girls.''
''Again, I just love how we don't walk away,'' says Rossi, who snapped Hunnam and Mark Boone Junior (Bobby) between takes. ''When I see people on other shows run to their trailers to sit alone, it's like, we don't do that. The crew and the cast are super-tight. You can't see the crew members to the right and left, but there are people just talking and hanging. We're asking about what they did this weekend with their family and what they've got coming up. What are they doing in the off season? What about that other show they work on?''
A Helping Hand
Sometimes, however, no words are needed. During a night shoot, one of the twins playing Jax's son Abel, Evan and Ryder Londo, was asleep in Hunnam's arms when Tommy Flanagan (Chibs) noticed Charlie's shoe was untied. ''Just watching Tommy go down to tie it — this picture moves me,'' Rossi says. ''It goes back to family and this blue-collar/working actor mentality. We're always there for each other. Nobody said anything. It was just, sure, that's what we do. It's one of my favorite photos.''
Rossi estimates the actors who play club members spend six months a year together filming and another month doing promotional appearances and events. ''On top of that, most of us are hanging out during the off season,'' he says. ''We're together so much, thank God we like each other.'' He's particularly fond of this shot of Coates: ''The placement of the water bottle is just perfect for Kim. You don't even notice that,'' Rossi says, laughing again. ''I love that he's just being calm for a moment and his serious Kim self, because he's so not. He's just always havin' a good time. When you're doing these really intense scenes, you'll go insane if you're constantly in that mode.''
Speaking of intense scenes, Adam Rogers, the show's second assistant prop master, holds leftovers from season 4's great Chucky's chili episode. ''Here's the thing: We're not a vampire show. We're not a zombie show. We're not one of those shows where there's blood and guts everywhere, but those are severed heads,'' Rossi says. ''You walk in, there's two severed heads there, and you don't even blink an eye.'' Rossi's favorite piece in the prop room, however, is the burnt back of the former SAMCRO member whose tattoo Tig removed with a blowtorch in season 1 — which hangs on the wall. ''I always felt like there were two episodes that made people go, 'Whoa, what is this show?' That one, and then the season 2 opener when Gemma [played by Katey Sagal] was viciously raped,'' Rossi says.
Inside the Garage
Most of the actors ride their own motorcycles to work, and then hop on their characters' Harleys once the cameras roll. ''I was on the road at 4:30 in the morning today, bombing down the 134 and the 101 to get to the studio,'' Rossi says. ''You'll walk by the parking spots that are all labeled, and there's a break in between for, like, Maggie [Siff], but you just see this row of motorcycles.''
Ready to Ride
''Right there, we're about to do that thing where we mount up. It's almost like [we're] modern day cowboys,'' Rossi says. Only Hunnam isn't wearing boots. ''It's been such a hot topic for six years,'' Rossi says of Jax's kicks, which young guns in West Coast motorcycle clubs often wear. ''They have, like, 50 pairs of them, and they just rock new ones all the time. That's Jax's thing,'' Rossi says. ''The only people who've ever said anything about it are the weekend warrior-type guys. The guys who know clubs and the lifestyle know that there's tons of young guys who dress that way.''
The Wardrobe Truck
One article of clothing everyone can agree on is the club's cut (a leather vest). ''Fans always wonder where your cut is: 'Where's your cut?' 'I only wear that to work. I don't go to lunch with my cut on,''' Rossi says. ''Everybody wants to just see it. They're so enthralled by the leather.'' Rossi walked into the wardrobe truck to get a different T-shirt and saw Jax's cut hanging unattended. ''Fans would be like, 'Holy — look at that,'' he says.
''You're almost, like, gearing up,'' Rossi says. ''It's the little things. You put on your belt, you put on your knife, you put on your rings, and you're there. You're the guy.''
Getting into Character
Here, Hunnam prepares for Jax to make another heavy decision. ''Sometimes you catch people alone,'' Rossi says. ''You've almost gotta find a corner of this stage where no one is, because we're like kids, constantly joking around. Who's wrestling? Who's punching someone? I just love that he was there in his own space doing his thing before this big scene.''
The Table Read
Creator Kurt Sutter always has wife Katey Sagal on his left and the episode's director on his right. Sutter begins by giving the cast kudos on whichever episode he's been editing — ''He always talks about how good so and so was in this scene, and how good so and so was in that scene,'' Rossi says — and then he prepares them for the episode they're there to read. ''If there's something big in the script, he'll address it before we do the read, and then after, he'll say, 'If you have any questions, come to me. We can do it right now, we can do it later in my office.'''
While some people scatter, most are creatures of habit. ''It goes Charlie, myself, Tommy [Flanagan, pictured along with Niko Nicotera who plays Ratboy], and down the line,'' Rossi says of his side of the table. ''I think maybe four times I've sat in a different place.''
A Seat at the Reaper Table
It's this table fans really want to see. ''Whenever I bring visitors to set, they want to sit at the table — and they want to sit in the president's chair,'' Rossi says. ''Nobody wants to sit in Juice's chair.'' Note the marks from the actors' rings.
''If you didn't know the show and you saw that picture, you would never think for a second that he was an actor in a role,'' Rossi says of Mark Boone Junior. ''Bobby's the moral compass of the club. His bike is so different from all of ours. It's totally old-school and bare-bones. I love that picture because it's one of the ways that I'll always remember this show.''