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'Sons of Anarchy' Star Kim Coates Talks Season 4, Tig Tattoos and Hanging With Stephen King

by Kim Potts, posted Oct 26th 2010 4:00PM
For all its intense drama, 'Sons of Anarchy' is also peppered with plenty of funnier moments, and many of those injections of humor come courtesy of Alex "Tig" Trager, actor Kim Coates' SAMCRO sergeant-at-arms.

Tig can be crazy (he Tyson-ed a dude's ear off during a fight), crazy loyal (he was the one entrusted to protect SAMCRO mama Gemma when she was on the lam earlier in season 3) and sometimes surprisingly sensitive (like when he saved the drugged-out dogs in season one), and he's almost always good for a mood-lightening one-liner.
Of course, there's also his accidental murder of Donna, his near fling with Gemma and plenty of other instances where his foes' appendages could have ended up MIA after a tussle with Tig. As Coates so pithily and perfectly puts it, "Tig has issues."

On the eve of tonight's new 'Sons of Anarchy' installment, 'Lochan Mar' (10PM ET, FX), which finds most of the Charming crew heading off to Belfast to retrieve kidnapped baby Abel, while Tig stays in Charming to take care of SAMCRO business on the home front, the Canadian-born, Shakespearean-trained Coates talked to TV Squad about his complicated character, his newfound love of working in TV, riding those 'SOA' bikes, his fans (some of them are right inside his own family) and his hopes for the show and Tig in the show's fourth season.

Kim CoatesIt's so nice to chat with you, because I love the show, it's the best drama on TV, and I think you that you are one of the people on the show who deserves an Emmy nomination, at least, for 'Sons of Anarchy.'
Can I marry you? (Laughing) You want to live with my wife and I for a couple of days, just so I can feed you and pour wine down your throat? You know, that's so sweet for you to say that. And from the bottom of my heart, I never knew ... like, I don't know if you knew my work before, but I've done over 40 movies, right? And I obviously work hard, like all my good buddies in this business do, (but) I never knew the power of television, I don't think. I've done arcs on TV before, 'Prison Break' and 'CSI: Miami.' And I did one show for 'Cold Case,' and here and there I've done a little, you know what I mean? But I (had) never wanted to really be a part of a television program regularly like this, and I'm so glad and happy and lucky to be part of this show now that I'm just ... what comes along with a successful show like this, which is raw and real and it's like watching a little movie every week, to be a part of that has been a really not only smart thing for my career, but I'm so happy and lucky to be part of it.

So what made you jump into TV for a regular role? Had you decided you wanted to try that in general, or was it 'Sons of Anarchy' specifically?
No, it was this show specifically ... this came out of nowhere. They reshot the pilot, and when they reshot the pilot, they wanted to change up a couple of the characters, and one of the characters was my part, Tig. Tig didn't exist in the original pilot. I had met (producer) John Linson and (series creator) Kurt Sutter on the original pilot, and it wasn't going to go my way for another part. And so they remembered me, and I got the call literally at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday. And I'm on the golf course, and my wife and my agents and my people were desperately trying to get (in touch with) me, but I don't have my phone on on the golf course ... there's no room for phone calls on the golf course.

Right (laughing).
And when I got off the course, they were all freaking out with 20 messages, 'Where are you?' 'Kurt said he wants to see you ASAP, like four hours ago!' I drove in, and I saw him on the lot, and found out that they were going to reshoot the pilot the next morning. And Kurt looked at me and said, 'You do ride, right?' And I go, 'Yeah, I've been riding my whole life.' And he said, 'Would you (play) this guy?' And I said, 'Look, Kurt, I remember the pilot. I remember reading it, and I remember how good it was.' And I told him, I said, 'I have no interest in playing just a sociopath. I'm very careful with my bad boys, and if it's just that, no, I'm going to pass. But if we take this ride together, and you make this guy with a heart and sense of humor and all those things that can encompass a real tough guy, like a sergeant-at-arms should be, then I'm interested.' And I took a leap of faith with Kurt and John Linson, and I'm really glad I did, because three years now into it, I think ... wow. It's a tough cast to write for. There's 11 leads, right? I mean, we have the three top leads, but there's eight of us supporting parts that fill in this nice, big piece of apple pie. And I love what they've done with Tig, and I love going to work every day on that gig. I really do.

Was the role of Tig created for you then? Because they wanted you to be a part of the cast, they created the role?
No. They needed a sergeant-at-arms. They needed someone like that, and I think I was on a list, and whether I was on the top of the list or two or three on that list, I'm not really sure, and I didn't really ask. And that's none of my business, really. I just know that I think, deep down, they probably just really wanted me to be a part of it. And had I said no, or it didn't work out, I'm sure they had someone ready to go in the wings. But, yeah, that's what happened with me.

Kim CoatesObviously, though, you've had input into shaping the character?
I have, yeah ... we (all) are, we really are. I mean, you know, come on, Kimmie, I mean there's nothing really been done like this before. There's never been a show like this before, certainly not on television. This is a bike club, loosely based on 'Hamlet' and Hell's Angels. So there's all kinds of things that are open for discussion, and I know with some of the history that Kurt and John and some of the other producers have had in their writings, they did their homework. But once you give people their parts, whether it's Katey or me or Ron or Charlie, input is essential. It's essential. And I'm not sure that Kurt knew, not that I think I'm funny, but that I'm funny.

Definitely. That's a great part of the show, and of Tig's appeal.
I love comedy. And so I think it wasn't until Theo Rossi and I did that fourth show in season 1, where my a** gets bitten by the dog, and he's given crystal meth, and we just ad-libbed some stuff in with the great writing that it already was, and it was so funny that reviewers wrote in going, 'We need more of that.' And I think Kurt and his writing staff have allowed that to (continue). I'm either crying or laughing or burning off tattoos or riding ... it's just such a great, full part for me. So I think we've all had opportunities to share with Kurt and his writing staff as to perhaps (about) our characters.

Tig has had an even bigger role this season, from accompanying Gemma when she was on the lam and staying at her father's (Hal Holbrook) house to helping clean up the mess with his caretaker with assistance from Stephen King ... those were funny moments. And Stephen King is a big fan of the show, so what was it like to work with him?
It was really so much fun. I mean, you know, you never know what's going to happen every year, really. We have an outline, but when I found out that I was going to be on ... we call it the Gemma Island, which means she's on the lam and she wasn't going to be around (Clay or Jax), and I got to go take care of her. So, that was kind of different for Tig. I'm usually with the guys all the time. And this season, as you're about to find out, I mean, I was really just with Gemma, then a couple of shows with the boys, and now they're all going to Ireland. But Tig doesn't go. He takes care of the home fires.

So it's all been great. And the opportunity that I got, perhaps more than some of the other fellas, was I got to work with Hal Holbrook and Stephen King. They're legends, and it was remarkable because they never called me 'Kim.' They just called me Tig, they're just such fans of the show. Hal Holbrooke called me Tig the whole time, Stephen King, 'Tig' this, 'Tig' that. And I didn't even say, 'Call me Kim.' It was like, 'Fine, Tig is good. If you want to call me Tig, Stephen, I'm good with that.'

Kim Coates Katey Sagal Stephen KingYou mentioned that you've been a motorcycle rider your whole life. Have your riding habits changed with the show?
Yeah ... I'm older now. I made a promise with my wife Diana a long time ago. We'd just gotten married in the mid '80s. And I was at Stratford at the time. I was playing Macbeth. I was the youngest Macbeth ever at that time, at 27. And I was getting my bike tuned up in Stratford, Ontario, and a little old lady cut me off, and I went flying over the hood of the car. I hurt myself, but not bad at all, just scrapes and stuff. But my bike was kind of accordion-ed into the front of her car. And so my wife said, 'You've got to promise me not to buy another bike.' And I said, 'You know what? You're right. It's my second accident now over the last eight years of riding, I've been very lucky.' I'm a safe rider, but I was a little fast back then. So I said, 'Yes, you're right. I won't buy another one.'

Well, I never bought another one. But I was given a bike. Last year, six of us (from the show) were given a bike from Harley. So I have it in my garage, Kim, and I take it out to get ice cream once in a while and go to the set once in a while. And we do all kinds of tours for the Wounded Warriors in Camp Pendleton and Big Bear and charity events, a bunch of us from the show will get together. And that's kind of a wild happening. I'm really lucky to have a bike for those kinds of things. But no, I'm in the right-hand lane, and I look like a Hell's Angel. I know I do. But people go, 'What's he doing over there going 65 miles an hour?' And I'm like, 'Well, I'm over there because these freeways are crazy, and this isn't like Saskatoon or Toronto. This is L.A.' You've got to be really smart with all the cars out here.

You talked earlier about realizing the power of television ... 'Sons of Anarchy' is the kind of show, and Tig is the kind of character, that inspires loyal viewers, very enthusiastic fans. Is that something you experience a lot when you cross paths with viewers?
Yeah, for sure ... one story: the Indianapolis 500, my good buddy William Fichtner and I, we get to go to the Indy, year after year we get invited to go there. And I'll never forget being on the red carpet and they go, 'William Fichtner! Prison Break! Black Hawk Down! Go!' And then when it was my turn, it was like, 'Kim Coates! Pearl Harbor! Waterworld! CSI: Miami!' And people went mental with the 'CSI: Miami!' They were like, 'Ron! Did you kill him? Did you kill Horatio?' And I looked at this crowd, and I've done all these movies, and yet just that little arc on 'CSI: Miami,' just whatever that exposure is to these people who watched that, they went mental. It was crazy.

So, yes, I've experienced the level of exposure that television really does have out there. And it's not (about being) recognized, don't get me wrong. I barely leave my cage, my house. But it's just a simple fact of the media today, and what people are into, and they're into TV. Like 'Sons of Anarchy' ... people who are addicted to that show, Kim, they'll stop anything they're doing to watch that show. And I think, in a small part of this American entertainment pie that 'Sons' has, it's a very committed fan base out there. And I love meeting them, I do. They're crazy. They love the show.

Kim CoatesHas anyone come up to you with a Tig tattoo yet? Because I know there must be some out there ...
I don't think I have, yet, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been done. I know people have tattooed my 'Sons of Anarchy' photos, they've painted them, on their bikes. I've seen a few of those, sent to me through friends, where they've actually taken my 8x10 Tig photo and put it right on their bikes ... There's a Website out there called Tignation, from England. I haven't really gone on it, but my daughters are all over it. They tell me what's out there.

Do your kids watch the show? They're old enough to watch it, right?
Absolutely. Kyla's 21, UCLA senior, and there's like 50 or 60 of them that watch it every Tuesday night. They never miss it. And my little one, Brenna, is in 12th grade. She watches it with my wife, Diana.

Do they think you're cool, then?

Oh, come on. They must.
I think their friends do (Laughing). In fact, I know their friends do. And I know their friends are a little leery whenever I'm around. They don't know what to make of me, really. But no, my kids are great. I'm just Dad to them.

But it must be good for keeping the male suitors in line, the prospect of meeting Tig at the door?
Don't you think? I was at a wedding in Vancouver about a month ago with my wife, and my oldest, Kyla, who just came back from Tanzania -- she's trying to save the world. I love that kid. There's this nonprofit organization (she worked with) for two months. It was a really great thing. And she just got back ... and we went to Vancouver for a big wedding, and I don't know, there must have been four or five guys hanging around her. And one of their eyes was always on me, and one of their eyes was on Kyla. So it was a pretty fun wedding party to be a part of.

Ryan Hurst Kim CoatesWhat do you think was the turning point for Tig, when he became a fan favorite? Because, especially after the Donna killing in season one, he could have been written off by fans, or, as you said, as a sociopath, but that never happened. What do you attribute that to?
I love that, that you say that, because I met a reviewer in New York earlier this year. I was in New York for a function, and this gal came up to me, and she said to me, 'This is it with Tig: We love to hate him, and hate to love him.' And I thought that was really true. I don't know if there is a turning point. All I know is that from that first season and the killing of Donna, I, Kim Coates, when I read that script, I didn't want to do it ... didn't want to do it. I thought, 'Don't want to do it, Kurt. I don't want to go down that path. I don't want to be the guy.' And then you get over yourself and you realize that it's not really your call. You have to trust. When you sign on to do a series, you have to trust whatever that is. And the big fight that Jax and Tig had at the end of the first season, and the accident with Donna, and then I get to break down and run into Clay's arms, you know ... Tig made a mistake. He couldn't kill Opie, and yet ... you know what I mean? It's very rich stuff. So I don't know if there was an actual turning point for my character. I just know that I think he is family-oriented. He's the sergeant-at-arms. He loves all his boys on the show, and he'd do anything for them. And yet he's got a lot of issues. Tig has issues.

Right (laughing).
He's got a lot of issues. And I'm hoping, honestly, that we settle whatever that issue is with me and Opie. I mean, you have to keep watching this season, but I hope some day that we really settle whatever that is going to be. I mean, because Donna's gone. And it was a big mistake. And yes, Stahl was to blame, yes, Clay was to blame, yes, Tig was to blame. But how does Opie really deal with that, you know? I think it's going to be really interesting to see how this season plays out, and next season, for that question to be answered.

Now, this season, especially with Tig keeping business going in Charming while the rest of SAMCRO is off in Belfast, you have this ongoing battle with Kozik (Kenny Johnson). Are we going to find out once and for all, before the end of the season, what their beef is about?

Kim Coates Kenny JohnsonWe know it probably involves a woman ...
You know what? I'm not saying anything to anything. I'm just going to say 'absolutely.' I've been asked that a lot lately. 'So, Kenny Johnson is coming on ... What's happening? What his thing?' And all I say is, 'Just keep watching,' because, you know, we're in Charming together, me and him. And it's not pretty. It gets really frickin' whacked, man.

The show has been renewed for a fourth season. What's your hope for the character and for the show?
Well, you know, again, I can't say much, because I kind of know. I know how this season ends, obviously, and I know how it's going to begin (next season). I don't know anything else. But my hope for season four ... you know, I want to know more about all of us. I want to keep diving into more about Bobby and Opie and Juice and Chibs and all the guys in the club. I mean, I love the direction, even though I don't know what the direction is for Kurt and his people, because it's such a massive story. But if I were to have a wish list, I would just hope that we continue down the successful path of people riveted by the show, but also that we find out more about the guys. More about where Tig lives, why he drives, why he's so attracted to Latina women specifically. You know, was Juice his prospect? We've heard that he was, and I think that's a great idea. So I'd like to find out more about that somehow.

Sons of Anarchy castDo we know why Tig is called Tig?
Not really. I mean, you know, the simplest thing is that it's short for tiger. But (his full name) is Alex Trager. And everyone has a nickname, and without getting much into it, I never like to say why it is unless Kurt tells me why it is. Because he will come up with something, with why it's Tig, in like, episode four of season four or something, you know? So I've never put much into that until we find out about it. I have a lot of other stuff that I worry about, like, why I wear my bracelets, and what they meant to me, and what my rings mean to me, and the necklace around my neck and my tattoos. I think about that stuff. But that's a great question about Tig. I just always assumed it was short for tiger, but I could be wrong. I guess ... I'm just so used to playing the guy that I haven't really thought about it.

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Jim Rose

Wow, what can I say. I am totally a major SOA fan. It's kinda of kool because I am a Police Officer and work in the City of Elk Grove Ca which is a city north of Stocton/Lodi Ca. Yup you say; north of Charming Ca. Haa. I'm so into your show/characters I have shirts, hooded sweatshirts and my awesome SOA vest. Oh did I mention; I have major ink on my lower leg of the entire SOA logo. It's awesome and I love this show. MY HD Deuce is actually of the SOA website. Can't wait for the next venture. Also, on Sat Jan 15th it's the Easy Rider Show in Sacto Ca where I see sponsered by SOA. Hope to see your crew there. Keep up the awesome show.


January 09 2011 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember first seeing Kim Coates in that quick scene in Bad Boys..then as a background type in a lot of projects. But man, I'm new to watching SOA and completely hooked. Tig is a great character, and definitely rides that line between loving and hating him.

October 26 2010 at 6:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Alex's comment
Jim Rose

Tig, I have to say your show/your role is awesome. I am a Police Officer in Elk Grove Ca which is just a little north of Lodi/Stockton Ca and of course Charming Ca. Haaaa. I am so into your show as I have numerous articles of clothing with SOA and my awesome SOA vest which I wear everywhere. I also have my HD DEuce on the SOA website. Can't wait for you next season. On Sat Jan 15th Easy Rider Show in Sacto Ca where it say's SOA is a sponser. Hope to see you/crew at the show. Oh did I say; I have major SOA Logo ink on my lower leg. (Hope I don't run into a bow torch; Haaaa). Thanks for a great show.


January 09 2011 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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