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Interview with Jimmy Smits Sons of Anarchy Part 1

    I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a conference call with Jimmy Smits of Sons of Anarchy this afternoon. Smits plays Nero Padilla on the hit show.  I think, like his character, he is something of a “companionator” as he spoke thoughtfully and in-depth about the show and his character for a little over an hour. What follows is some of the highlights from the conversation. A full transcript will be available in a day or two, but I wanted to share some of what was said before tonight’s new episode airs.

    Smits returned several time to the importance of the theme of family in the show and how there were multiple transgressions between characters this season. He also mentioned several times that he likes that Kurt Sutter keeps all the characters off kilter – they can never seem to be on firm footing. Another recurring theme is that characters always end up paying for their actions at some point on the show. Smits has really liked how his character has developed, but he’s most concerned that the character maintains his edge, that he stays three dimensional. Nero is about take a turn, and Smits says it’s not going to be pretty.

    What follows is a loose transcription of some select questions. Q = question and A = answer.

Q: Does Nero want to embrace Jax or throttle him?
A: Kurt’s been good about people getting their comeuppance. There is a sense of family and betrayal and what that means.

Q: Favorite scene to film this season?
A: The physicality with Jax. It was great because I got to exercise a different kind of muscle. We had great stunt people who did great work, but in the end it’s almost entirely me and Charlie. It was a long night and fun to do. I give Charlie a lot of credit. The way he comports himself on set funnels down. He’s really bright and loves to talk acting. There’s something that transpires between people shooting that kind of sequence that takes their relationship to another level. I feel closer to Charlie now.

Q: Jax has struggled to find a father figure. Is that relationship threatened?
A: Jax has had many voices to listen too. His Horatio hasn’t been just one person. Nero is this kind of brother relationship and with the age difference if floods into a father relationship. Kurt deals with what betrayal is in family and what that means. That is a deep chord in this episode as everyone feels betrayed. “Shit that you do, comes back to bite you.” Everyone is trying to find their own revenge. It’s not clear yet if Nero will find or get his.

Q: Could Nero be seen as Fortinbras in Hamlet?
A: laughs. No! I don’t think so.

Q: Is this the best written series you’ve been on? How much in advance do you know what’s going to happen?
A: Kurt and I had much more of a dialogue last season. The initial meetings were of what he wanted to do with A character because Nero wasn’t really a formed character yet. I got his feelings about the show. I felt more connected last season because we checked in more. We didn’t have the option to do that this season. Kurt is so busy; there is a lot going on, and he has his attention on the end of the series which is projected for next year. Though maybe the people in the room here from FX might not want that!
We’ve talked but I mostly put my trust in him and the writers. My trust factor with them is solid. I am adamant of him showing different sides. I want him as three dimensional as possible. The edge needs to keep going. They’ve showed a lighter, humorous side. We’ll be having some serious conversations in the next month or so to see where we go.
[This last comment seems to indicate pretty strongly that whatever happens, Nero makes it out of the season alive!]

Q: Your relationship with Gemma seems to be a tight bond.
A: Gemma’s character – she doesn’t forget. If you cross her, she’ll come back and get you. The bond between them, there was a piece that was missing in each of them and they filled it for each other. They have to find a way to negotiate their lives. There’s a good reason they both have those scars over their hearts.

Q: Nero’s endgame?
A: It’s still important to him. It’s the engine that keeps him moving forward, but he now has all these other entanglements. He has the relationship with Gemma. The business with the MC. The relationship with Jax. His ties to his past and the streets. It’s the Godfather syndrome: you keep getting pulled back in.

Don’t forget to watch Sons of Anarchy tonight at 10pm ET on FX, and watch for more from this interview.

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