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Interview: UNT alumnus Peter Weller on directing tonight’s gripping ‘Sons of Anarchy’ episode

Interview: UNT alumnus Peter Weller on directing tonight’s gripping ‘Sons of Anarchy’ episode

Interview: UNT alumnus Peter Weller on directing tonight’s gripping ‘Sons of Anarchy’ episode
November 18
11:02 2014

Preston Barta // Contributing Writer

Tonight’s episode of “Sons of Anarchy,” “Suits of Woe,” reveals all. Fans have been biting their nails since the beginning of the season to know when the Gemma and Jax showdown would arrive, and after tonight, everything is going to revolve around Jax and how he reacts to what his son Abel told him at the end of last week’s episode. He finally knows the ugly truth.

“Suits of Woe” is undoubtedly one of the strongest episodes of the series, and the man calling the shots behind the camera is none other than UNT alumnus Peter Weller. There’s something about Weller— his knowledge of film, deep understanding of human emotion, experience in front of the camera (he was after all, the man that donned the original armored suit in 1987’s “RoboCop”)— that lends itself so well to the talent and great sense of realism that is brought to the television shows he directs, especially “Sons of Anarchy.”

I believe fans will walk away satisfied tonight with the direction that “Sons” is going in. While it’s been a long and often difficult ride, it really has been a ride. Now, that ride is coming to its end, with only two episodes remaining after tonight. But before we say our tearful goodbyes, let us look at what really makes “Sons of Anarchy” such a great show.

Dr. Weller shares his thoughts on the show’s themes, what lies ahead, and if fans will be pleased with what’s going down.

Warning: There are some spoilers below if you’re not caught up to last week’s episode.

Peter Weller as Charlie Barosky on "Sons of Anarchy" -- CR: Prashant Gupta/FX.

Peter Weller as Charlie Barosky on “Sons of Anarchy” — CR: Prashant Gupta/FX.

Alright, so, I have to pick your brain about this show’s themes because your intellect is way over my head, and I feel like I learn so much every time we talk. But what are your thoughts on this show’s themes? This whole tragedy, Shakespearean feel.

Peter Weller: “Look, you know, I’m sure the show was pitched as Hamlet in a motorcycle gang, although it’s not as simple as ‘Hamlet.’ I think it’s got a manifestation of— accountability, as opposed to Hamlet who’s indecisive and people say he loves his mother. ‘Sons of Anarchy’ runs deeper than that, essentially, in that vengeance has been the order of the day.

Jax is sort of attempting to save his family, but it has cost him his wife, his friends— everything. He’s been sinful. You can’t lead that kind of life and shake off the dirt that goes with it.

There’s an interesting thing my friend Mark Hime, who is one of the top three antiquary first edition book dealers in the world, said. Yes, ‘Sons of Anarchy’ deals with Hamlet, deals with deregulated capitalism if you want, and trickle-down economics, law versus vigilante, a white homophobic and racist bike gang- I don’t care, but what it gives the audience is voyeurism at its apex. We get to be voyeurs in a world we know is out there but we don’t want to be part of. It’s like a train wreck that you can’t turn away from. We get to see it through a keyhole, past the door of reason, into the horror of anarchy, and at the same time, we go, ‘thank God that isn’t us.’ There’s something of us in all those people— the bug, the cockroach in us, it’s clutching and scratching just to get his own— about his own survival. There’s something in all of us that will do anything at any cost to get even, or to find vengeance in a world where they took your beloved from you.

But voyeurism is the thing that I think is the magic of ‘Sons of Anarchy.’ Look, by nature of the title, ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ it’s truly not about suburban housewives. It’s truly not about spies. It’s not as clever as ‘Justified,’ which I just finished directing, where characters walk a clever line between absolute stupidity and corn-tone genius.

‘Sons of Anarchy’ hits you full in the face with a dynamic about the dignity in horror. Is there dignity in horrified acts? I don’t know.”

Sounds like it’s been hard to direct.

Weller: “It’s been hard to direct, man. It’s hard to act in as well. It’s painful stuff. Wait until you see episode 11. It will take you apart, man. And then No. 12 and 13, well, that is the end. But it’s not going to get any nicer or better.”

[Laughs] Yeah, I bet. It’s tough for me as a viewer, especially now because I don’t get to talk to my wife about the show. She stopped watching it a little after Opie died. It became too much for her, and that’s how it’s getting for me now as well. It’s really intense. Last week’s episode, we have the final moment where Abel asks Jax why grandma killed mommy, and it hits you right in the throat.

Weller: “Yeah, yeah. That’s right, man. Wait to see what happens in episode 11. Everything is revealed in episode 11. But yeah, it’s tough. My wife stopped watching after the death of Tara. It was very hard on her.”

SONS OF ANARCHY -- "Suits of Woe " -- Pictured: (center) Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX.

“Sons of Anarchy” — “Suits of Woe ” — Pictured: (center) Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller. CR: Prashant Gupta/FX.

But I bet you enjoyed it.

Weller: “Yeah. The acting is superb, the writing is superb. It’s been a great haul. I am now in Hawaii directing ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ which is like a cherry on a cake, especially going from ‘Justfied’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy’ to ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ it’s fun.

There’s a great quote from one of the earlier episodes of the season, where Unser says, “Jax is formidable. He’s smart as he is dangerous.” I feel like that quote hits the nail right on the heard with how Jax is this season. Do you empathize with him anymore as a fan of the show?

Weller: “No, no. You can’t any longer. You can only cut bait with him, because once his wife died he was a whole other animal. He became an animal of vengeance and doom. Once Hamlet makes that choice to go down the dark road – any Shakespearean character, really – you understand him, but the human being has been left far behind. However, you will see No. 11, and you will see the humanity in him again. The father of his children, lover of his wife, his attempt at bonding with Nero- you will see the last breath in him before the end.”

Episode 11, “Suits of Woe,” airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET only on FX.

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