Sons of Anarchy packed a lot of plot into its fifth season kickoff Tuesday might, but make no mistake — the hour belonged to Kim Coates’ Tig.
In a moment that will forever be seared into viewers’ psyches, the FX drama’s 90-minute opener climaxed with Big Bad Damon Pope (Lost‘s Harold Perrineau) burning Tig’s daughter alive as SAMCRO’s ex-Sergeant-at-Arms looked on in horror.
Not only did the retaliatory strike (Tig accidentally killed Pope’s daughter last season) raise the stakes in the war between SAMCRO and Pope, but it gave Coates the kind of material that prompts talk of Emmy nominations. Below, the actor recalls the moment SOA creator Kurt Sutter informed him of the impending tragedy, explains how he prepared to act out a parents’ worst nightmare come true, and previews the “mind-blowing” fallout to come.
TVLINE | What was your reaction when you first read the premiere script?
I saw [Kurt] Sutter in New York at the end of March. He came up to me and said, “You might want to sit down.” I said, “No. I don’t want to sit down. I want to stand up.” He goes, “Well, this is what’s going on with Tig.” He started telling me about the scene and about Pope and about what he does… and I got such tingles; I almost started to tear up a little bit. It was very emotional for me. I have two beautiful daughters myself. It was so epic in a streamlined, f—ed up way. I was so thankful I hugged him. But I was like, “How in the world am I going to prepare for something like that?”
TVLINE | How did you prepare for it?
The first thing I did was I went and talked to my really close buddy, Dr. Sam Alibrando. He’s a therapist. He’s just an amazing, amazing [resource about the] human condition. I told him about [the scene] in strict confidence — as a doctor to a patient, even though he’s not my therapist. We spent four hours discussing the human condition. Sam freaked out when he read it. You could just see his mind going. What he told me about the human condition when it comes to fight or flight, adrenaline, shock and numbness was undeniably the greatest thing I could listen to.
TVLINE | But then you had to go shoot it.
It was two nights of filming at that incredibly dusty, dirty train yard. Harold hit it right out of the park. I didn’t want to meet him before [we shot it] and he didn’t want to meet me. It was as fresh as you saw it [in the premiere]. The props guys saved my hands. I’m an internal actor — I mean I’m in it. I would’ve ripped my hands right [out of the handcuffs] had the props guys not gotten this incredible rubber leather strap for each wrist that the handcuffs were able to go over the top of. It allowed me to scream like a trapped animal and not worry about ripping my fingers off.
TVLINE | Did any part of you think, “What kind of sick mind comes up with this stuff?”
Sutter’s just Sutter. Just when you think you might have him somewhat figured out he just f—ing does it, doesn’t he? He’s not afraid. I thanked him for trusting me enough to give me something like that.
TVLINE | Did Kurt explain to you why this had to happen?
No. He didn’t have to. I mean, Tig killed [Pope’s daughter]. It’s part of the journey. He didn’t have to explain it to me. But wait until you see where it goes. We’re on the 11th episode right now. We’re coming down the backside of the mountain in Season 5. Sutter must know where this is all going. We don’t.
TVLINE | How does this tragedy affect Tig?
The first four episodes are going to be as shocking as anyone’s ever seen. It’s mind-blowing. Tig’s completely off the leash. He has no loyalties to Clay anymore. Clay and him are on the major outs… Jax puts [him] back on the leash for much of the middle [of the season], but with two or three [episodes left to shoot], it’s becoming evident that there’s going to be some sort of a bookend. I could be wrong. But [I sense] another bookend [coming] at the end of this season that will be an epic thing for Tig — good, bad, and ugly.