The Writers' Room (2013) s02e04 Episode Script

Sons of Anarchy

I really encourage them-- Like, I want to walk into the room and go, "holy [bleep].
Pull it back, man.
" You know what I mean? "That's even too much for me.
" It usually goes the other way.
I-- Someone's got to die, and I'm racking my Catholic school, Pollyanna brain for, like, the darkest thing I can think of, and Kurt thinks about it and says, "that's good.
Or" And then it's something that I go home and have nightmares about.
"Aghh!" You know? Tonight on The Writers' Room Sons of Anarchy has been called one of the best TV shows in our current golden age, and the most overlooked drama since The Shield.
This story of an outlaw motorcycle gang with dysfunctional family values has hit a nerve with fans drawn into its violent world.
Going into its seventh and final season, this story of an outlaw motorcycle club is one of the most talked about shows on television.
Sons of Anarchy is about a biker club, but it's so much more.
They run drugs.
They run guns.
They shoot people.
There's no way to count how many murders there are in this show because in some scenes they kill 50 people within one second.
The head of the household is Gemma with her husband, Clay, and their son, Jax.
It's really a Shakespearean tragedy with bikers.
Every episode I watch, I got everything I wanted to get, and I'm so stoked for the next episode.
They have me ready.
So Kurt Sutter's got me.
Sons of Anarchy right now on The Writers' Room.
Outrageous success, horrible mistakes, last-minute changes.
The creators of today's most groundbreaking TV shows tell all in the place where it all starts Joining me in The Writers' Room, Sons of Anarchy creator and showrunner, Kurt Sutter Golden Globe award winner for her role of biker matriarch Gemma, Katey Sagal Writer, co-executive producer, Charles Murray And writer, co-executive producer, Mike Daniels.
I want to go to the beginning because I always love the sort of inspiration behind some of these great TV shows.
So take me to the moment where you decided to tackle this world.
I was finishing up on The Shield.
I had one more season, and I was trying to figure out, you know, what I wanted to do.
And I'm at a meeting with two of the executive producers on the show, John Linson and Art Linson.
John was so immersed in this subculture and knew that the characters and the stories and the world was so visual that this would make a great TV show.
And this was the hook for me, is that most of these guys came back from World War II, war heroes, guys who were essentially adrenaline junkies, they tend to sort of-- branched off and created their own little fringe subculture.
But then in a very short period of time, like, 12 to 15 years, they became what the federal government would categorize as an organized crime syndicate.
So, to me, that arch was really epic.
You know, like, how did that happen? And looking back now, what do you think-- We see the fans talk about it.
What do you think struck a nerve with this show? It allows you to tell male relationship stories.
Yeah, that's so true.
And so the idea that you have people watching a show where men are hugging each other and saying, "I love you," and saying, "I'll sacrifice for you" Yes.
As a guy, there's a wish fulfillment that comes in like, "I wish I had those male relationships.
" I take pride in the fact that I had more men kissing men than any other show on TV.
Good for you.
That's fantastic.
I think at its core, it's a family drama.
And that, you know, what you're seeing is a subculture that we're not really familiar with, but they have the same situations that you would find - in any family.
- Yeah.
So in families, we are not always honest - Yeah.
- And we always have secrets, yet they are bonded.
- You know, they all - Yeah.
They-- They stay together.
And maybe on some, you know, subconscious level that's one of the things people respond to, is that we all do not the most admirable things even to our family members, but we love them.
In a sense, you found a world where people fantasize about being a badass.
I mean, I-- You-- They have to be.
- Don't you think? - Yeah.
But what's more interesting-- Or equally as interesting is not only do they fantasize, but there's so much about the characters that they recognize from-- with people around them.
Take me into the writing process, when you attack the seasons.
You go from season to seasons and you go into that writers' room, what's the first step? Kurt comes in, weight of the world on his shoulders, you know? I make fun of myself.
He laughs at me, not with me.
The mood lifts a little bit, you know, and he tells us where he wants to go.
It's not even really a blueprint.
It's like-- It's like mile markers, you know? I know I want to kind of do these things and get-- And head in that direction, and I've realized that the looser I hang on to those ideas, - the better the season is.
- Yeah.
For me, the process really works well, is I go in, in the beginning of that, and then I'll plug in throughout the course of the day and kind of steer it, and I'll say, "that doesn't work.
I don't want to do that.
" But I find that the energy of allowing these guys ownership in story and in the show - just makes it a better show.
- Yeah.
So what's the most interesting and unexpected way to get from point "a" to point "b" in that-- In any situation? So I really encourage them-- Like, I want to walk into the room and go, "holy [bleep].
Pull it back, man.
" Do you know what I mean? - "That's even too much for me.
" - Yeah.
- So - That's a good meter.
- I'd say usually-- - That's a good meter.
- "Too much for Kurt.
" - It usually goes the other way.
I-- Someone's got to die, and I'm racking my Catholic school, Pollyanna brain for, like, the darkest thing I can think of, you know? And then I throw that out, and Kurt thinks about it and says, "that's good.
Or" And then it's something that I go home and have nightmares about.
"Aghh!" You know? I'd say that's part of the theater of being in this room, you know? 'Cause we come in last year, and he'll come in and sit and down and he'll say, "so I'm thinking about doing a school shooting.
" And you're like, "huh? What?" Yes, yes, okay.
You know, and so it's like he comes, you know, ready to shake the trees.
It's very interesting 'cause I think, as a storyteller, I'm much more of a provocateur, you know what I mean? Like, I enjoy, like, setting the fire and watching and seeing what happens.
If you strip this all down, it's really about my fascination with human behavior.
So obviously you guys have a relationship, as husband and wife.
And did you write Gemma with Katey in mind? I did.
I always say that she influenced the role - Phew, thank God.
- And then when people-- What made you fear, Katey? Did you think he was gonna say something else? You know, it's an awesome, rare situation that this really brilliant-- He is my husband, but he's brilliant-- Writer says, "oh, by the way, I'm gonna write you a part," so I was right away thrilled.
He said to me, "you know, she is-- She has intense loyalty.
- She is a fierce mother.
" - Mm-hmm.
Which I tend to think my own personal experience sort of inspired that.
I don't carry a gun when I drop them off at school Okay, good.
But, you know, that's sort of-- That's creative license.
Right, honey? Well, what is that-- What is that-- I love you look to him like, "please say that's not true.
" What does that energy look like in that subculture? Yeah.
It's not that she walks around Gemma-mode at home.
- Sometimes.
- Sometimes.
But that sort of fierce maternal determination in terms of "I'm gonna put my kids first, and my kids are everything.
" And-- You know, 'cause Not to go down this road, but I didn't have that growing up, so, um You don't need to whisper it.
It was sort of like-- It's okay, we're safe here.
It's okay.
So it was sort of like, "wow, that's what a mother does.
" - So, um-- - I love that.
Poor Kurt.
So, it was-- Aww, I'm sorry.
No, this is basically therapy, Kurt.
Is there things that you-- I mean, he wrote it with you in mind, but are there things that connected to you from the very beginning of understanding Gemma? When we got together as a couple, I already had two children, and-- She didn't tell me that till after we were married.
I knew it.
I knew it.
"Wait a minute, the kids carrying the flowers are yours?" Can I tell the-- A story about one of the bumps? - Remember with the script? - Which bump? When you were like-- We were-- Oh, well, I guess you're going to.
You basically told it.
You sort of half told it in that moment.
- I think you have to now.
- What happened? In season one, we were in the kitchen talking about something and you just inadvertently, like, leafed through the script and you're like, "well, it doesn't really matter 'cause I'm hardly in this one.
" - And I was just like-- - That's fantastic.
I'm just like-- I'm like, "what the [bleep]? Did you just [bleep] say that to me?" - Did I really do that? - Yeah, yeah, you remember it.
And that's when-- Probably the last time I said that.
Yeah, that's when we decided, "we should go talk to somebody about this.
" The relationship there, yeah.
But that-- But then we didn't-- - You didn't do that again.
- Well-- But I like that you would go there and-- You wrote me in more, didn't you? It worked.
It worked.
- Did I embarrass you? - Yeah, you did.
You embarrassed me.
It's okay.
- Well, while they-- - I've done my job.
When we come back, we'll ask the writers to defend some controversial scenes they've written, and insider secrets when The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Sons of Anarchy.
You have fans who obviously are gonna have scenes that got them worked up.
Let's find out what they are in a segment we call Why did you have to kill off Opie? He's the one guy that was so good.
It was rough.
It was, um-- That decision.
And everyone understood it creatively, you know? And everyone was a little off that season emotionally.
It was a rough season, you know? - First we lost Piney - Mm-hmm.
And there was definitely an emotional response to that.
But when we lost Opie, I mean, people were pissed.
I mean, they cold-cocked the [bleep] out of him.
You know? - Mm-hmm.
- And it was so-- And he took-- It was like he took it for the team.
I love writing action, you know? I love, you know, the dark humor.
That stuff is really fun and juicy for me to write.
And I look at all that stuff as sort of the candy that gets people excited and that sort of pulls 'em in and they show up.
But then at the end of the day, you know, I think when that all falls away within that, I'd like to think that there's really three-dimensional characters.
There's really poignant and potent relationships.
And that the reason they keep coming back, and I think the reason why they're connected to the show is because of that-- The emotionality of it.
- Yep.
- You know what I mean? Ryan Hurst played Opie, and when-- After his demise, I think he had a hard time letting go.
- Yeah.
- So, I want to show this video.
You can sort of tell us about it.
Yeah, I wasn't there for this.
It was really the actors who took it upon themselves to do this and record it.
Ryan had grown that beard, and it really had become such an iconic part of the character.
He was having trouble shaving.
He just-- He was having trouble letting go of Opie, and so they got together and they bought him this present, which was this actual Samurai sword.
And then they used that as part of the ritual to essentially purge the beard, but also to help Ryan sort of purge that character and essentially let him go, you know? It's really, really heartbreaking.
Let's see the scene that the fans were most shocked about in all of your seasons.
It's the Otto love scene.
Is it? You think? In the end of last season, Gemma killed Tara in such a violent, brutal, and bloody manner.
Oh, yeah.
Why did you decide that Jax's wife had to die? And why did she have to die that way? Now let's watch that scene.
Holy [bleep].
Oh, my God.
Had to be done.
Had to be done.
I have work to do.
Had to be done.
I love "it had to be done.
" 'Cause that is sort of what we're talking about, you know? It had to be done.
What was it like shooting that? It was choreographed, and it was somewhat, you know-- The physicality of it was really mapped out.
It was one of those things where, in the character's mind, she has committed the absolute worst thing she could do.
- Mm-hmm.
- And it also comes off a scene with her love interest, Nero, who's played by Jimmy Smits, where he's telling her, you know, that this is pretty much over, and she's just had it.
There was so much push and pull and promises broken, I just felt she had gotten to this place, in the light of everything that's happening, that she could no longer take another broken promise.
She could no longer take anything else that potentially, you know, could put her family into harm's way, and-- And the kids are gone.
The grandkids are gone.
Everything that means anything to this woman is gone, - and it's her fault.
- Yeah.
And that was the commitment.
You know, that's where I was committed to go.
In terms of structure and the series, this coming into our last season, I knew I wanted to begin it with Jax in a very specific emotional place as a result of obviously losing, as we tend to call her, sort of his moral compass, his true north.
Tara was somebody that really, you know, was his sort of, you know, beacon.
- You know? - Mm-hmm.
You know, that was his sort of source of "who am I?" "Oh, that's what's important.
" You know, there's a very thin line now between the truth and the secret, and that's sort of where I needed him to be at the start of this last season.
And that was really the only way to get there.
You know, I'll tell this funny story.
I did a signing a week after the episode aired.
And I'm standing in li-- There's people standing in line, and I'm autographing, I'm autographing, and all of a sudden there's about ten people that show up with a carving fork.
And they want me to sign the fork, and I thought, oh-- I mean, it was so bizarre because I did have the thought, like, "oh, I think everybody's gonna really hate Gemma now," but they were actually-- They were on the Team Gemma side of things.
They went and got their meat fork.
- Carving forks.
- A carving fork, yes.
- Yeah, it was wild.
- Oh, that's fantastic.
When we come back, we'll ask Kurt and Katey about the importance of fan interaction when The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Sons of Anarchy.
Now, we have writers, we have creators and showrunners, and the actresses and the actors involved, all sort of available to them through social media.
They can find you.
That's a new thing.
- Very new.
- When you become a celebrity - Right, right.
- Among all these people, 'cause you're giving them an inside track that they can only get from you.
Correct, yeah.
So do you love your celebrity? You know, I really do.
I think it, uh-- I think it helps the show.
I definitely feel like as a result of that, the show's benefitted.
I've definitely benefitted from that, you know? It's definitely raised my profile in the industry, and, you know, as a result of that, some of that profile is not necessarily a good thing, but it's-- It's there.
Yes, well, that's a perfect segue.
Thank you, Kurt, because I do have a few of your tweets that I would love the honor of having you read.
This is during the Emmy's.
I think it was season two.
It was after the great work Katey had done, and we didn't get any love.
And I think, you know, there was a co-- It was one of those years where, like, the typical, usual suspects were yet once again nominated.
It was just frustration, and it's really-- You know, was done in the context - of making fun of myself.
- Mm-hmm.
And I was laughing my ass off as I was sending these things out, and had no idea that they would be taken literally.
Read that for us.
"If my mom and dad were alive, "this Emmy snub would kill them.
"That's not true.
"They were too old to understand my show.
Just like the Academy.
" The stuff I tweet is insane, and do I really think that? - Do I really-- - Yeah.
I just like to go, "if I said that, what would the reaction be?" And I was caught off guard by the response - and the impact that it had.
- Yeah.
I have to ask you about this letter, because it just thrills me.
- Oh.
- I think this was a framed-- - Yes, I framed it.
- You framed it? - Yes.
- Which is fantastic.
You framed it, and just to give a little backstory, if I can, I'm gonna sort of-- I guess it was-- There was some budget issues, and it feels like someone, an executive - Right.
- Needed to make that point - Right, right.
- To you or to someone.
And I'm just gonna read this one little part of it.
"As you are aware, most recently, "when Fox's Executive Vice President of Production "approached Mr.
Sutter about scheduling a budget meeting, "Mr.
Sutter responded, 'here's what's gonna happen.
"'You're gonna crawl the [bleep] out of my ass and Cremin and I will deliver our show on budget.
'" and now you framed it.
I did frame it.
There's a learning curve, uh, with everything.
And sometimes, in my case, that learning curve involves lawyers.
It was season two of the show.
Fox did not have a great year at the box office, and, you know, there was a lot of internal movement happening, and they were just crunching us, like, literally, like, to the point of every line item.
Like, everything we wanted to do they were hammering us.
I just felt like we-- Everything we wanted to do was sort of being shut down.
I just chose very specific language - to express that point.
- Mm-hmm, yeah.
So that's on my wall to remind me I have a bigger impact than I think, and that when I do something like that, it's not just me that gets impacted.
It's-- It involves a lot of people and it serves no one.
It's like that moment you're supposed to take after you write a really angry email - Right.
- And don't send.
And then you're supposed to just take a break - before you send it - Right.
And then you go back and either go, - "no, they deserve it--" - He had to learn that too.
- Really? - Yeah.
- You need to take a five? - I don't like that rule.
On the other end of the spectrum, we know that you guys had actually a parody on Sesame Street.
- Like, "Sons of Poetry.
" - Right, we did.
So that-- That's a huge honor.
Yes, it is.
It is.
- We clearly have made it, yes.
- Yeah.
No, you've made it when you are a Sesame Street puppet.
I know.
Let's watch how they made your show into a teaching moment.
We're the Sons of Poetry.
We rhyme all the time.
What? It's not a crime.
Just a hobby.
Right, Bobby? No big, Tig.
You need a rhymin' word? That's what we heard.
Um, yes.
I need a word that rhymes with "blue.
" The rhyme is "shoe.
" Shoe? "Shoe" rhymes with "blue.
" They end the same.
Yeah, ask the dame.
I love that.
I love that.
- That's so great.
- You've made it, Kurt.
Can I tell you? It's-- Not only is it really smart in the way they've structured the lesson behind it, but, like, they have the relationships down.
They have character traits down.
It's clearly whoever put that together has watched the show.
- Oh, absolutely.
- Which was so cool.
- That's very cool.
- Yeah.
When we come back, we'll talk about the final season of Sons of Anarchy when The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm here with Kurt Sutter and Katey Sagal from Sons of Anarchy.
I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't at least ask if there's anything that you can hint towards things you need to do in season seven.
I think what we have now is we have a hero who has been cut loose of all the things that kept him a decent and somewhat responsible man.
You know, he's writing in those journals, "here's what I want for you, sons.
" And does that even matter now with-- - Oh, the children.
- With the loss of this? You know, where-- Where do the-- What's his rel-- How does that change his relationship with his boys and his relationship with the club? You know, with that-- You know, with that gone, what fire does that set, you know? - Yeah.
- So there'll be fires.
Yes, there will be fires.
But I want to thank you both.
And I also want to show you the power of television and suggestion because Katey shared a story, so we had to send somebody out because I'm going to get one of these signed for myself.
All right? Because I want to be in on that.
So we'll get this signed afterwards.
Thank you for being with us, and we'll see you next time on The Writers' Room.
In the meantime, because, Kurt, you've got - that wonderful twisted mind - Yes? I want us to look around this room and decide what would best to bludgeon someone - in an upcoming episode.
- Oh, wow.
My choice is the typewriter or these weird spheres in this-- No, dude.
No, dude.
What you do is you strap them to that wheel, and you just keep going around, and you just dig it further into their face with every rotation of the wheel.
- Just keep going and going - It's so-- It's-- Till there's treads, like, up and down with just the body parts.
That's what you do, man.
- It's so easy for you.
- It is.
Well, you can take that home and write season seven.
- Thank you, thank you.
- Congratulations.