Speaking with TVLine about Tara’s recent roller coaster ride, Maggie Siff is quick to hail the “exciting season” FX’s Sons of Anarchy (Tuesdays at 10/9c) unfurled this fall. And with that excitement came dark twists, which in turn presented cast members with new challenges. Has Tara’s promising future in fact been crippled by the damage done to her hand during the botched hit? What “nail in the coffin” will she be threatened with next? And can Tara and Jax’s love withstand so much woe? Here is what Siff shared with us about the good doctor’s run of very bad luck.
TVLINE | When you first read the scene where Tara’s hand is crushed by the van door, were you as devastated as we were watching it?
The week before the script was released, [series creator] Kurt [Sutter] said he wanted to talk to me, and I was like, “Oh god….” We sat down and he was like, “Don’t worry, you’re not getting killed off.” He then told me what was going to happen, and I had this really sinking feeling in my stomach, because I’m so invested in the character.
TVLINE | I felt a pit in my own stomach just seeing those scenes.
It was interesting how there was a part of me that was so upset, but then my actor brain kicked in and was like, “No, no, this is really good. This is really good.” I had two simultaneous reactions – the part of me that is so personally connected to her felt the deep tragedy of it, the horror over the loss of that gift….
TVLINE | Her surgical skill is one of the few things she owns.
It’s the only thing she owns, really. But like I said, simultaneous with that I was like, “This is going to make my job really interesting for the rest of his show,” as long as she lasts on it. It’s going to make her journey a really good one.
TVLINE | What specific challenges did it present you with as an actress?
Kurt talked about it with you — he really felt like he needed to “knock her off the fence,” and as we went into the [hospital] scene I wanted to make sure that whatever change I made as a character would be believable, because she’s the one I think a lot of the audience identifies with as the most normal, least outlaw character. I really want people to believe that this character is going to go the places Kurt wants her to go to. For me it was like, “How do I make this as truly devastating as it would be to the extent that it could crack something in this person that doesn’t necessarily come back together again?” Kurt said to me, “Something had to have happened to Gemma to make her Gemma, and this is the thing that’s going to make Tara the Tara we see her become” — and honestly I don’t exactly know what that is. I’m not inside his head, but he has something in mind. As we worked on the end of this season he was laying the foundation for that.
TVLINE | That said, this week Tara’s boss does offer a tiny ray of hope, with one lingering job offer. So she’s not entirely damaged goods.
Not entirely, as far as we know, but…. I think when Tara sees the X-rays of what has happened to her hand, it’s pretty clear that there’s not a lot coming back from that. And this week’s episode is when Wendy (played by Drea de Matteo) shows up, right?
TVLINE | Yeah. Just when you think things can’t possibly get worse, Abel’s birth mother pays a most unexpected visit.
I think for Kurt that was kind of the nail in the coffin, the thing that really pushes her over the edge. Wendy comes and sort of threatens to take away one of the remaining things Tara feels like she has. [Tara even says] “Oh, you thought now would be a good time?”
TVLINE | When you and I spoke in August, you said the John Teller letters would play an important role this season — but I can’t imagine you knew just how much havoc they would wreak. Is Tara going to feel blame for Gemma’s beating? Will she eventually shoulder some guilt over Piney’s death? Isn’t that all born of the letters?
One of the things I was really was struggling with as we worked on these episodes is that there’s so much information that starts to come out — how do you even begin to digest it all? Tara has a pretty sensitive psyche, so even though she’s strong, things move her. It’s almost like a perpetual state of post-traumatic stress disorder, because bad stuff is always happening, so as an actor you’re like, “What would that be like?” And the answer is that there are some things you can process, and some things you can’t. You feel some things acutely, and you go totally numb around others. But yeah, she is a character who takes a lot on herself, and something in her has really snapped. After losing her hand and that gift, and with the possibility of losing her child, there’s something in her that snaps, and then a lucidity and a calm settles in. When you lose so much, you’re like, “What else can there be?”
TVLINE | Did you and Charlie [Hunnam, Jax] have any conversations as you approached this storyline, about the extreme places you wanted to go?
We really didn’t, but we have a lot of trust working with each other. We always leave enough room in the work and in our consideration of it to let things arise spontaneously. I would try to imagine what [filming the scenes in the hospital] could be like, and I had lots of ideas about what it should be, and then once we actually got in there and started working on it, it ended up being something really different. I trust him so much as an actor, and he just responds to whatever comes his way.
TVLINE | Before we go: Are there any encouraging words to offer the Jax/Tara fans out there who are distraught?
[Nervous chuckle] Hmm, encouraging words….
TVLINE | “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Want to break out that old chestnut?
“Love never dies, no matter what happens”? [Laughs] Uh… I don’t know. It’s unclear whether she’s going to even make it out of this season alive. There are a lot of threats left out there. I don’t think their love ever really goes away, no matter what happens — but I can’t speak to their future necessarily.
Remember, Sons of Anarchy fans: This Tuesday’s episode runs 90 minutes.