Wednesday, June 13, 2012

GQ BLOG: Kurt Sutter's Anarchy Diaries: 504 -- We Are TV Family

We began shooting episode 501. It feels all new and all familiar. I sat at that table during the first read-through and looked at the faces. It's fascinating watching the cast members grow over the years. I notice the shift in energies, personalities, and relationships. Some folks have embraced the flow of the show and have taken the success in stride; some, not so much. 

Charlie Hunnam, not unlike his character, has matured into a strong, gracious leader. Early on, I think Charlie struggled with the concept of being number one on the call sheet. The attention and that identity made him uncomfortable. Now, he owns it. He is the president. He sets the tone for the rest of the cast. He shows up early, comes prepared, and gives more than he receives. In Charlie's own words, he's come halfway to meet Jax. Meaning, he's dug deep to tap into his primal, outlaw nature and keeps that accessible. As "actory" as that may sound, I know the work that entails and the struggle it presents. "Being raw" is not something that is easily turned on and off. It's that struggle that separates performers from actors. 

TV is littered with performers. 

My wife, Katey Sagal, has transformed herself from a sitcom cartoon to a dramatic powerhouse. I've taken her to some very dark places as Gemma and she continues to dive, balls first, into whatever comes her way. I knew the chops that Katey had before we started this project together, but she continues to surprise me with the depth and nuance she adds to Gemma Teller. It's a sensitive, sometimes difficult situation for Katey. She loves being part of an ensemble, loves her cast members, but yet, she's married to the boss. So understandably, there's a bit of distance that people put between themselves and her. Most days it's a non-issue and she navigates it with grace, but I know sometimes she feels that separateness. 

Ron Perlman probably enjoys his character more than any other actor. He'd play golf with Clay if he could. He wears Clay Morrow like a tailor-made sharkskin suit. He's almost as much fun to write for as he is to watch.

Sweet Maggie Siff brings to Tara Knowles a complexity and sensitivity matched only by her own. More so than any other actor, I use Maggie's personal traits to inform my choices for Tara. I'm sure that happens with all actors and writers on long-running shows, but it still fascinates me every season that often Maggie's concerns about Tara parallel Tara's emotional life. I've said this before, but the character of Tara is often the most difficult to write. Tara is the bridge between the civilian world and the outlaw world. Often adopting the point of view of the audience--wondering why she's falling in love with men that do such bad things. Her opinions and feelings ping-pong back and forth across the emotional table. Sometimes her arc feels like a runaway train. Fortunately, in the hands of Maggie, that runaway train is always real and fascinating to watch.

I love all my guys, Boone, Kim, Ryan, Tommy, Theo, DL, Dayton... I could spend pages talking about every one of them. But I think you get the point, I'm grateful and aware of what a tremendous cast I have. We've become a big artistic, dysfunctional, outlaw family. And whether they like it or not, I'm your daddy.

As we break episode seven and eight, I'm very aware that this is a different kind of season of Sons. Yes, there are large thematic and serialized arcs. Yes, there are new antagonists and allies. Yes, there are high stakes and testosterone driven narratives. But for the first time, intentionally so, I've not locked down my endgame. I'm letting the season unfold, seeing where relationships and emotional lives lead us. Basically, my grip is looser. I'm trusting my writers, my directors, and my creative team much more. Not unlike my personal life, I've realized that my obsessive need for absolute control ultimately leads to absolute stagnation and ultimately, remorse.

Unfortunately for the interweb, my life, my struggles as an artist are an open fucking book. This is the "Rolling with the Cunts" chapter.