It’s tough making a gun-running, drug-dealing, murdering motorcycle gang member someone you want to root for. But Charlie Hunnam’s done it with ease over the past four seasons of Sons of Anarchy, FX’s Hamlet-inspired slice of gritty Americana. This could be the year that the 32-year-old Brit — whose resume includes big-screen Oscar contenders like Cold Mountain and small screen critical darlings like Undeclared – receives recognition for his brilliant turn as Jax Teller, the series’ tortured prince of Charming. But after some minor media missteps, Hunnam’s careful about how he talks about accolades like the Emmys. Here, he reveals what he really thinks about his chances, his co-stars’ talent, and his show’s potential legacy.
TVLINE | What initially drew you to Sons of Anarchy and the role of Jax?
I grew up in a rough-and-tough neighborhood, so I don’t actually relate to those shows and films about twentysomethings trying to make their way in the world. [Laughs] I just loved Jax. There are a million different dynamics at play within him… This project came at a strange time in my career when I wasn’t getting any [film] roles I wanted… So, I took 18 months off [to work on a screenplay], and then my agent and manager sent me the Sons of Anarchy script. I was surprised it was for a TV show, but I thought, ‘F–k it!’ – and it was fantastic! The idea was so original, the characters were well drawn and the quality of [executive producer] Kurt [Sutter]’s writing was better than the films I was reading.
TVLINE | When do you feel the show really hit its stride?
I’d say mid-way through Season 1 it became the show we’d been trying to make. But it was early in Season 2 that I hit my stride. I felt a real kinship with Jax from early on… but I was really struggling with the accent. [Laughs] I spent all my time thinking about the accent that it just really distracted me from being natural and honest in those moments. Then, it clicked! That was a defining moment for me.
TVLINE | Accolades have always eluded Sons of Anarchy, despite its ample critical praise. How much weight do you put on that?
I’ve gotten myself in trouble talking about the Emmys … Just to clarify one particular incident where I said something silly: In the middle of our show’s life, a lot of people felt that we were due for some sort of recognition, which fueled the fires of some members of our team who felt the same way… My philosophy about the whole thing is that awards are like gifts: it’s lovely to receive them, and it is very bad form to covet them. I was trying to explain this and wasn’t articulating it exactly as I wanted to – it was coming across as incredibly earnest – so I said, “F–k the Emmys.” Of course, that’s all anybody printed and it got me in a lot of trouble. [Laughs] It’s really not the way I feel. I’d be very happy if we got some kind of recognition – and I was when [co-star] Katey [Sagal] won the Golden Globe – but I’m not mercenary enough to have the psychology of someone who goes out there and campaigns … If you go back to the essence of what [awards] were, it was about all of us getting together to say, “You did great work. Congratulations. Here’s a little trophy.”
TVLINE | So, you never get a script and think, “Man, this episode could be my award-winner”?
[Laughs] Honestly, the more impactful the scripts are, the more difficult my job is inevitably going to be because I’m going to have to go cry and kill some motherf–ker and do something crazy!
TVLINE | Sons of Anarchy’s fourth season seemed more universally accepted than in years past. Would you attribute that to anything in particular?
It felt very polished … like the show had matured. Every episode seemed like a powerhouse, emotionally charged with some sophistication.
TVLINE | Last season showcased Sons’ secondary characters, too. Do any performances stand out for you?
I saw a lot of Tommy [Flanagan] and [Mark] Boone [Junior]’s stuff … They are the two most exciting guys to work with! Maybe one of the things that set this season apart slightly from the others was featuring more of those secondary characters.
TVLINE | There was also more depth to Jax’s relationship with Tara.
Maggie [Siff] had an amazing season. That’s one of the richest creative collaborations I’ve ever had with an actor. The way their relationship’s evolved and how close we’ve gotten really translates onscreen; that’s actually one of the things I’m most proud of on the show.
TVLINE | The series has a few more seasons in it … Then what?
I’d like to do it all. I’d love to keep acting. I have a couple of scripts that I’ve sold, one of which I’m writing for myself to star in. Ultimately, I’d love to direct a film. [If I did] more TV, it would really have to be for [cable] or working with someone like Kurt — if not Kurt, directly. Because I would do another Kurt Sutter show.
TVLINE | When all is said and done, how would you like Sons of Anarchy to be remembered?
As a really smart, original, gritty drama… In same way people think of The Sopranos or Deadwood — with reverence.