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April 24, 2014

Comic-Con 2011: 'Sons of Anarchy' Rides Into Hall H

by Maureen Ryan, posted Jul 25th 2011 2:15PM
'Sons of Anarchy' rolled into Comic-Con Sunday, and the thousands of cheering fans in Hall H seemed to like what they heard about the new season of the FX show, which returns with a 90-minute episode Sept. 6.

The first few minutes of season 4 were shown before the panel (by the way, spoilers ahoy). Would it surprise you to learn that the clip ends with club members on their motorcycles, flipping off the prison that they just left after 14 months of incarceration? No, I do not think it would.

In the season-premiere clip, we saw Tara with Abel -- as the boy colors with crayons, she's reads some of John Teller's letters to Maureen in Belfast. We saw Gemma holding Jax and Tara's baby son. We saw Otto in prison, receiving a special delivery. And we saw Jax, with a shorter haircut and a determined vibe, getting ready to leave jail with his fellow club members.

* During the panel, which was moderated by your truly, Charlie Hunnam said Jax will still be trying to strike a balance between the club and his family, but his new resolve is that family comes first. Now that he has two kids and a relationship with Tara that he wants to solidify, he's focused, as much as he can be, on being a family man. "My sense is that when we begin season 4, that there's a deeper commitment to family than ever before. I would characterize that relationship as being more important to him, and obviously Tara has given birth to his child, so her side is more solidified," creator Kurt Sutter said. "Jax doesn't know ultimately where the next month, the next year or the next decade will lead him, but he definitely comes out knowing he's always going to have to juggle his life in the club and his personal life, but with a stronger resolve that his personal life is going to take precedence from now on," Hunnam said.

* Hunnam said he did research in prisons, talking to men about what that experience is like. For most prisoners, "the vast majority of time is spent in there is thinking about what you're going to do when you get out. We all come out with a real head of steam and a little tougher, if you can imagine it, than we were before, a little less patient." He talked about how season 3 was spent trying to get Abel back, and then the Sons went to prison very soon after that. Those 14 months in prison were spent on reflecting on what had happened and on "some really intense soul-searching and how [Jax is] going to balance his life in the club and looking after his babies."

* With the Sons out of prison, her grand-babies safe and business "lucrative," Gemma is "happy" at the start of season 4, according to Katey Sagal. I asked if that meant she did not shoot anyone in the first episode. Sagal thought about it for a moment, then confirmed that Gemma doesn't try to shoot anyone in the season premiere. But all the contentment "doesn't really last that long," she said. (Part of Gemma's time at home was spent shopping online because she was on house arrest for about six months.)

* Ron Perlman said that Jax and Clay were basically getting along when the new season began, but there were still some lingering issues, and "the longer they foment, the more dynamic they will be." A fan asked if Jax would become the president of SAMCRO, and Perlman replied, "Not if I have anything to do with it. Which I don't."

* There is quite literally a new sheriff in town -- Rockmond Dunbar will play Eli Roosevelt, a law enforcement officer who does not have a cozy relationship with SAMCRO. But the club has a new alliance as well -- they begin working with a Mexican cartel operative played by Danny Trejo.

* As far as things that threaten the club, however, Sutter said that internal divisions would be as potent as outside threats. "I've said this before, SAMCRO's greatest foe is SAMCRO," Sutter said.

* A fan asked about Sutter's portrayal of Otto, and Sutter joked that he continually injured the character in order to depict what being a showrunner does to "my spirit and my person." All kidding aside, Sutter said that Otto was mainly an exposition device used to depict what was going on with club members inside the prison system.

* A fan talked about how the first season of the show depicted the club as a big fish in a small pond, the second season expanded that world and then the third season took them out of that pond, so to speak. Is there an overarching theme or idea for season 4, the fan asked. "They're big fish back in the small pond, but the small pond is polluted," Sutter said.

* I asked what sort of mayhem Sutter was dreaming up for season 4, and Sutter said that basically, the show was a "romance novel" at the end of the day. But he promised that there would be "as many if not more [expletive]-up things this season than ever before."

I spoke briefly to members of the cast after the panel, and here's what I learned from that conversation:

* Charlie Hunnam, who was wore a delighted grin backstage after the panel, said that coming to Comic-Con was a special thing for him. When he speaks to members of the media at press events and so forth, he said, he's always aware that there's a "filter" between him and fans. "This is the only time that you're interacting directly with the people that watch the show," said Hunnam, who brought his dad to Comic-Con. "It's fun. And there's a purity to it."

* "It's a chance for people to celebrate the cultural heroes that mean so much to them," Perlman noted. "It's the final part of the equation -- if you put on a show, you have to come here" to connect with fans.

* The actors said that they were about halfway through production on the new season, and I asked if John Teller's letters continue to be a factor in season 4. They definitely do, Hunnam and Perlman said. "It's a continuation of Hamlet's ghost," Hunnam said. "It's John Teller reaching out from the grave."

* I asked about Gemma's story line for the season, and Sagal said it had to do with those letters. Her story lines are "always about threats to her family" and how she deals with them, Sagal said.

* Humman and Perlman talked on the panel about an independent film they did called 'Frankie Go Boom,' in which Ron plays a woman and their characters are a couple ("You know that's hot!" Hunnam told the crowd). After the panel, Perlman said that the director just locked the movie and is submitting it to film festivals -- the project doesn't have distribution yet. Fun fact: Sagal said the filmmakers wanted her to read for a role in the film -- the mother of Hunnam's character. "Typecasting!" Hunnam said with a laugh.

* I asked Kurt Sutter if we would see any Jameson's juice boxes on the shelves of liquor stores soon (Chibs had one in the season finale of 'SOA'). He said he didn't even know the show's production staff had created that for the finale. "I thought it was hysterical," Sutter said.

* I have to add that as someone who's been going to Comic-Con for years, being able to stand on the stage of Hall H and look out on the audience and feel the energy flowing between the panelists and the crowd was an enormous thrill. I hope the fans enjoyed the experience as much as I did.

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