Interview: CHARLIE HUNNAM from SONS OF ANARCHY

Charlie Hunnam

Recently, Daemon’s TV took part in a conference call with CHARLIE HUNNAM who plays Jax Teller on FX’s original series, SONS OF ANARCHY.

Charlie Hunnam talked about what originally attracted him to the project, what’s in store for Jax’s future, his own future projects, and more.

Don’t forget to watch Sons of Anarchy Wednesdays at 10pm on FX, premiering tonight, September 3.

For now, enjoy the interview below.

Could you talk about what we can expect as far as the introduction of the IRA elements with the gun running from Ireland.

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, I mean it’s a continuation along the same trends that I’ve been taking. You know I feel like the way – you know as opposed to the guys that founded this club I was born into it. And I just feel – my overall feeling is that we’ve come a long way from the original genesis of the idea for the club, which is a simple social rebellion and living outside the box you know away from the constraints of regular society.
I think a little bit more of the same until just a kind of a questioning and a slight reluctance to fully get involved in the darker elements of our business, until I think probably ultimately I’m going to realize that until I become president or until something dramatically changes. There’s a dramatic shift in the overall psychology of the club. I’m fighting a losing battle, and I’m going to ultimately I think probably have to bide my time and for the meantime just succumb to the realities of this club a little bit more than I have been doing.

Are there societies or clubs like this in England? I know you’re from Newcastle. I mean is this a purely American phenomenon – this whole bicycle clubs that are all over the country and the sort of white organized?

Charlie Hunnam: No, I think funnily enough, it’s one of America’s you know prior to I guess MTV taking over – you know long before that, one of America’s biggest exports were motorcycle clubs. I think there are several different American-based or American started motorcycle clubs you know all over Great Britain. And they’re definitely – as far as I believe they’re definitely that reaches up as far as Newcastle and Scotland, too.

Is there any point where you guys are going to travel outside of the country?

Charlie Hunnam: I hope so. I don’t think the budget would allow for that of our show in the first couple seasons. But it would definitely be you know an interesting thing and a very true and real thing from what I understand about these clubs. The members tend to travel a lot. One of the kind of founding tenets of being in a motorcycle clubs is wanderlust, and you know the joys of the open road. And that doesn’t necessarily constrain these members, or keep them just in America you know. They go far and wide. So it would be a really smart thing and I think very true thing for us to explore, but I think it would just be a monetary issue whether we could eventually afford to do that or not.

How is Jax going to run things while Clay is being detained. Is he going to do it the same way or has he got a different style?

Charlie Hunnam: You know I mean I think that that’s one of the kind of ironic things is that, you know, Jax would like to do things in a much more quiet – much more kind of methodically thought out way and a much more sensible way. And he realizes once he gets in that position where he has to deal with a couple of things that he’s going to have to take a kind of a page out of Clay’s book and the way he handles the situation because you know Rome wasn’t built in a day. And it didn’t fall in a day either. It’s going to take me a little while to be able to pull back from what we’ve evolved into. And unfortunately I’m not able to do that in the timeframe that I’m dealing with. So you know something comes up and has to be dealt with and I actually you know definitely follow Clay’s lead on how to handle it.

I noticed there was no voice over from Jacks’ dad on the last episode. Are they getting rid of those?

Charlie Hunnam: I mean eventually you know Jax is a relatively fast reader. You know eventually I’m going to get through that journal and there’ll be no more journal to read, which doesn’t mean they’re getting rid of it at all. But eventually, yes. You know, kind of a very neat and I think convenient way to release that information, which will obviously inform so well the journey that I was going through at that time.
And I think that after a while that device will become redundant and the journal will be read and we’ll move on. But I have a feeling that the journal is always going to – well no, really for the first couple of seasons if we get that far, knock on wood, that the journal would definitely be a recurring theme.

As we understand it, you’re one of the few actors that started the show with riding experience.

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, very limited riding experience. I’d done like a few days on a dirt bike you know many years ago. But, yes, I mean I guess my brother and my father both ride. So I’ve grown up around bikes.

So how did it feel to get onto a cruiser?

Charlie Hunnam: Oh, fantastic! It felt fantastic! You know the reason I’d done only dirt bikes – not out of kind of desire to ride to myself, but you know through professional obligations I’d ridden on Children of Men. I had to ride a dirt bike on that. So that’s where my dirt bike you know introduction came from, but I’d always been much more interested in big dogs. So, yes, it was good to get on a hog. It was exciting, especially to take it out onto the road for the first time.

Have you been converted over to a cruiser guy?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, for sure. Absolutely. I haven’t got a bike of my own yet. But as soon as I have the time and I feel like it’s already time to do it, I’m going to get myself a Harley Super Glide. I mean a Dyna Super Glide.

What got you interested in the show and your character in the first place?

Charlie Hunnam: I think originally it was Kurt [Sutter]’s great script. I hadn’t really been thinking about doing a TV show. I’d really been exclusively pursuing film. You know it’s somewhat of a straining process because often filmmakers – you know the director of the film would end up falling in love with me and decide that he wanted to use me. And then the studio would feel like I didn’t have enough – you know I wasn’t exciting enough to the financiers and I wouldn’t get it.
So you know I ended up – my agent got sent this. And I ended up – you know he sent it to me and I took a look at it and just thought the quality of the writing was just as good as the majority of screen plays that I’d been reading. And I just got very excited about the whole thing. I thought that it was such a seldom explored world – the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs – and it wasn’t a world that I was particularly familiar with, but instantly got very interested in and felt like this show could potentially have a long run.
And I just thought surreally – I’m waffling a little bit, but what initially got me very excited was the quality of Kurt [Sutter]’s work. And then I met with him and we’d kind of confer. He’d ask me if I was interested or if I was willing to make a seven year commitment to something you know as like being – coming from really only doing film and a couple of mini-series. And I just said, you know look, man, as long as the quality stays the same, I would be happy to do this for 15 years. So you know we kind of – he made a deal with me that he was definitely not going to go anywhere or turn the show over to anyone and would continue to be writing to try to match the same quality through the course of the show.

When we talked to Ron Perlman a little while ago, he said that both in acting and reading ahead that some things shocked even him. So have you had that as well?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes. I mean a couple of moments – you know the most shocking moment that has happened so far for me, which has already aired, was to see castration of the clown I found fairly shocking. And you know I thought that as the day became closer and closer to us actually shooting it, I just kept expecting to get a rewrite out where it was suggested or we did something else you know that wasn’t quite as dastardly as that.
But that day never came. We went and shot it exactly the way it was written. And then I haven’t actually seen the show because I don’t watch them. I haven’t been watching them while we’re filming. I’ll watch them more when we finish, but I believe that it was aired pretty much exactly the way we shot it. So that was fairly shocking.
And then even this last episode that had the burning off of the back tattoo was fairly brutal and shocking. But in terms of you know some of the story points, I – Kurt [Sutter] is fairly brilliant you know and I’d said that in my initial meeting. And he basically talked me through the first – you know his idea in detail for the first 13 episodes and then in slightly less detail for the second 13 if we got picked up for a second series. And so in terms of storytelling and the story points, you know I hadn’t really had the opportunity to be shocked by too much of that because Kurt [Sutter] had already you know filled me in beat by beat what was going to happen.

Will Jax’s father’s original idea for the club influence Jax in the future? Maybe change his way?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, I think definitely. I mean I think it’s a different time, so there are certain realities to the original vision that you know become impossible or redundant. But I think that we had very similar souls – John Teller and Jax Teller. And as I move up through the ranks and if and when I become president, it’s definitely Jax’s intention to just try to pull back and make money in slightly smarter ways. You know I mean it’s really – it’s not any of the politics of the club, I mean we’re always going to have enemies, and you know we’re always going to run into various problems.
But it’s really – the fundamental problem I have with the club is the way in which we generate our money, which is the arming, because not only are we putting ourselves in bed with terrorism – you know dealing guns with the IRA, which will put us all in jail for a long, long, long time – we’re also – the underworld of you know California and the surrounding area is relatively infamous to work. We’re arming ultimately what are – I’m sure at some point – inevitably we’re going to arm our competition, which is just a bloody and ill-conceived plan.
So mainly that, and I think I myself have a few ideas for what Jax – the direction in which Jax would take our business. But you know I’m not sure exactly what Kurt [Sutter]’s planning and if and when that will all come about because while Clay’s in the picture, I don’t think there’s too much room for change. So he’s either going to have to have a heart attack or I’m going to have to whack him.

What about Jax’s relationship with his son? Does he go back to the hospital a little more in the next episodes coming up?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, well eventually – yes, yes, is the short answer, but eventually you know Able is going to come out of the hospital and I’m going to become a full time Dad. And a lot of the storyline, which I really love this idea – a lot of my storyline is how I’m juggling being a full time Dad – single parents with being the vice president of this club, which I like. I like anything – any storylines in the show a lot that becomes immediately relatable to the general public – you know the people that aren’t necessarily living you know in the underworld, but see that these guys experience all of the same problems that everybody does.
So the family side of it I think makes it instantly relatable. You know I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of single parents out there that are struggling to raise enough money to raise their children well or you know actually raising their children. So I think that will be some really interesting meaty stuff.

Do you have any upcoming projects apart from “Sons of Anarchy”? I saw that you were in a movie called “The Last Full Measure.”

Charlie Hunnam: That film never happened actually. I was supposed to do that and the money fell through at the eleventh hour. You know I – yes, I mean I hope so. I don’t have anything in the can. I’ve been talking to a few people about a couple projects, but I also am a writer. In between shooting Sons of Anarchy and Children of Men, I wrote and sold my first film. And so I’m halfway through a second draft of another thing that I wrote that I want to finish up and see if I can you know sell that. And then there’s a third project that I want to start writing. So whether I’m acting or writing, I’m going to keep myself busy.

Can you tell us the name of the script you sold?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, it’s called VLAD. It’s based on the true story of Vlad the Impaler – you know the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a 15th century king living in Wallachia, which is one of the principalities of present day Romania. And it’s all about the Last Crusade and him opposing the expansion of the Ottoman Empire.

How difficult is it for an actor from England to play a tough America motorcycle dude, especially when it comes to accents and cultural differences?

Charlie Hunnam: I mean the accenting was – you know it’s something that I always felt confident that I could do you know given the right environment. You know it’s just a process. I mean it requires a lot of work and I work with a coach or I worked with a coach you know certainly a lot more in the beginning of shooting the show.
And it really just requires when everyone else goes home and maybe does half an hour to an hour’s work looking over the scenes for the next day. I have to go home and do two and a half to three hours work because I look over everything and then you know have to run the scenes a lot and figure out the right ways – you know the ways to deliver it all in the American dialect. And then if I have any problems with that, I call my dial a coach and she’ll talk me through some difficult sound combinations and stuff.
So I mean I wouldn’t – I mean it’s not particularly easy. You know it’s just one extra thing to have to worry about, but you know it’s not been getting in my way too much having to do the accent. And my accent – because I’ve traveled around so much – doesn’t really exist anywhere in the world. You know it’s very – a big mixture of both northern and southern English and then a lot of California. So generally no matter what project I’m doing – whether it be England or America – I’m always having to do some form of an accent. So it’s kind of part of my process at this point.

Lots of actors say they prefer stage work or performing Shakespeare. You starred as the title character in a film version of the classic Charles Dickens “Nicholas Nickelby”. Do you have preference for classic versus modern material or English versus American?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, I do. I prefer modern material than classic and American material over English in general. I mean I came to America to move when I was 18 – eight years ago – I mean ten years ago really looking to have an American career. And I like a lot – I mean I think there’s some truly phenomenal British films. The industry is so small there that you can’t – you know it’s much easier to do it over here – and much more opportunity. And the press isn’t quite so brutal over here. But I’ve always – I grew up obsessed with film and although you know a portion of that was English films, the vast majority of it were the great American filmmakers whose work I would watch over and over.

Could tell us about some of your favorite scenes and some of your favorite characters on “Sons of Anarchy”?

Charlie Hunnam: Well, you know it’s tough because I haven’t really watched any of them. I mean I can definitely talk from you know my experience shooting the scenes. But it would be really interesting seeing all of it. You know I’ll probably be a little more informed once I’ve watched them all. But right off the bat – Mark Boone Junior you know has become a dear friend of mine and is a real favorite of mine to work with and to hang with. We spend a lot of time together kind of talking this world through and riding bikes together before we started. And I have a long history with Tommy Flanagan. I’ve known him for years and we’ve been really, really actively looking to do something together for years and years. In fact, we actually have been attached to two projects together that neither of them actually got made and both of them we had gotten each other involved in. And my initial audition for – all of my initial meetings for Sons of Anarchy – Tommy Flanagan was walking out of the room as I was walking in. We gave each other a big hug and everything. And then the first piece of press that came out about the show was a piece in Variety and it was accompanied by a photograph of me and Tommy together. The only two members of the show on the photograph were me and Tommy riding our bikes together. So it was a nice little detail for us.
Tommy’s wonderful, but I really actually love all of them. I think it’s by far and away the best cast I’ve ever worked with and certainly have stronger relationships in this cast than I’ve ever had with any group of actors I’ve worked with before. So it’s really a delight you know and everyone’s so different. I mean I love working with Maggie Siff also and of course Katey Sagal and you know Ron [Perlman]. And really there’s not one of them that I don’t enjoy. They’re all very different and they bring different energy. Today is where I work with Casey and Tara and Maggie Siff or you know energetically very different from the days when you have all the boys in. You know so it’s nice. I get to do it all a little bit.

Jax and Gemma are definitely a very quiet unspoken tribe of two. And do you feel that in your character?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, to a certain degree. I mean I definitely feel out of myself. I haven’t – I mean like I say I haven’t watched the show and so I don’t see Katey’s work outside of the dynamic we have together. And she’s pretty outspoken in her dynamic. But, yes, I mean I think that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And I think that you know that wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Are there any motorcycle mishaps with either yourself or your costars that we’ll never ever see on the television show?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, I would say that’s fair to say. Yes, a couple of bikes have gone down – none at any great speed thankfully. I actually have put the bike down once myself. Ron Perlman I think holds the record for dropping motorcycles. He’s up there you know in double figures at this point. So he’s pretty good at putting the bike down. But you know thankfully we’ve actually managed – knock on wood – to avoid all injuries so far. Wow.

[FX’s publicist reminded Charlie Hunnam to mention an incident between him and Jay Carnes who plays Agent Scott Kohn]

Charlie Hunnam: We got into a little bit of a – we were in a fight sequence. And when you’re doing a fight sequence, if you’re throwing punches or kicks – they’re very, very easy to you know fake for the camera. But any kind of wrestling you know or rough-housing like in close proximity gets much more difficult to fake and usually have to kind of actually do it a little more. And Jay Carnes and I ended up getting into a little bit of a tussle. I was supposed to pull him out of a barber’s chair and spin him round and throw him against the wall.
Long story short, he ended up hitting the wall a lot harder than we had intended to – face first – and cracked the bridge of his nose and I didn’t realize. So I continued the scene where I just throw him up another wall and spin him around and then pretend to throw him through a window. And he was going ouch, ouch. And I said… This guy is a really good actor. And then once we finished the take – by the time you know 15 seconds later – both nostrils were pouring with blood and the bridge of his nose was cracked completely open. So I guess that also could be considered a minor mishap.

You and some of your costars are going to be riding in the Love Ride at the end of the month. Any thoughts on that? Was this something you came to FX and said I really want to do this or-?

Charlie Hunnam: I don’t know how it happened. I think actually vice versa – I think that FX brought it to us. I wasn’t aware of the Love Ride because I don’t know too much about the world of bikes and bikers. But, yes, it got brought to our attention. As soon as I heard about it, I was really eager to ride in it. And I already have my license, but I know some of the other cast are feverishly you know going and taking tests now so they can ride in it, too, because I think you have to have a full California license to ride in it.

Have you had any meetings with real Hells Angels or do you guys have you know consultants on the set?

Charlie Hunnam: Yes, I mean I wouldn’t – I’ve met a lot of different people – a lot of different club members from a lot of different clubs. I mean I wouldn’t feel comfortable naming any one specifically. But, yes, I mean I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of different guys like I say they’re from all different clubs – you know some of the very kind of – I’m trying to think of the right like maybe – I can’t think of the right way to describe it, but all different types of clubs you know. And it’s been great. It’s been a wonderful education and everybody you know has been very gracious in giving time and their information and thoughts on what this world is and what this lifestyle is.
And you know even from the aesthetic point of view, I was fortunate enough before we started shooting to hang out with like a lot of various people that were living this lifestyle or at least close to it. And I was able to put together an aesthetic that really made sense to me and I really enjoyed. I mean a lot of people have been – I don’t read any press or reviews or anything like that – but there’s been some debate as to the legitimacy of my wardrobe in the show, which I like because it obviously is flying in the face of people’s preconceived notion of what this world is. And it’s obviously coming from people that don’t know this world, because if they knew the world they wouldn’t be questioning the wardrobe, because in reality it’s absolutely correct. I saw many, many, many guys my age dressing exactly the way I dress in the show, which is why I dress that way in the show. So I take a certain amount of satisfaction in people’s doubts because you know to me, which is the exciting thing about the show, educating people in a world that they don’t necessarily know anything about.