Q&A: ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Star Theo Rossi on his expanded role: “I couldn’t be happier”

Sons of Anarchy started its 4th season a couple of weeks ago and with it, Theo Rossi‘s ‘Juice,’ is coming to the forefront of this season’s storyline. 

Finally, right?

Theo said that he “couldn’t be happier” about the new storyline. “Anytime Kurt [Sutter] writes anything for me, I’m more than pleased.”

I talked to Theo on a conference call where he gave some scoop on what ‘Juice’ will be up to this season, how he reacted when series creator told him the news of his expanded role and what he does on his hiatus.

Sons of Anarchy airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on FX

With an ensemble show, it’s harder for some of the other actors who aren’t in the main cast to get screen time, and I just wondered what surprises you the most about the evolution of the character over the four seasons?

Theo Rossi: I’ve been so lucky.  Kurt has eleven series regulars to deal with. I’ve been really blessed and lucky with this character, with “Juice,” because, through the first three seasons, I’d really gotten to do some pretty memorable stuff.  Some really great memorable scenes that the fans seem to have loved and it’s really shown this guy as the soldier that he is and what an enormous and integral part of the club he is even though we haven’t really gone into his back story and really put him as the focus.

So to now bring up this issue and to exploit on this story line, it’s just the right time and I couldn’t be happier “and I just—when Kurt told me what was going to go down before the season and how it was going to go, it’s just great.    

Anytime Kurt writes anything for me, I’m more than pleased because I just think he is by far—and I think it just shows in the ratings and the fans reactions and everything.   There is no writer, there’s no show running that delivers like Kurt’s. It’s just great. It’s great. I’m excited for him.  

Most actors create a back story for themselves to better portray a character.  With the new info that you’ve learned about “Juice” over the past couple of episodes, do you find that it’s changed how you portray him now or has it added anything to your performance as an actor? 

Theo Rossi: You know, there is so much stuff coming up that I obviously can’t say a lot. Having someone like Kurt in charge and steering the boat and doing what he’s doing, you get so much info from him before the season.  He tells you a lot of stuff.  I just trust in everything he does.

So for me to create—Yes, I’ve created along the points of throughout the three seasons.  The one thing I’ve always known about “Juice” was he was one of the newer guys; he was extremely, extremely loyal.   He really wanted to emulate the older guys and at the same time was on this level with “Jax” and “Opie” as in age and he just really wanted to be hanging out with them.  And I always felt like he was just this guy who was like so loyal and just wanted to do anything he can.

So when things happened to him, whether it be when he got his cut taken in Season 3 or, you know, you always felt for the guy because it’s almost like he didn’t fit in in this world.  He looks like he fits in it, but he’s like such this lovable nice guy and gets to have these comedic things, whether it be sticking fingers in some Irish guy’s … or doing a jail scene.  You  have these things, so what I’ve created with him is just this thing of making him really relatable to people as in I wanted them to see that anybody can be—not anybody can be in a motorcycle club, but normal guys.  You know guys who still have a heart and were funny and whatever.  It wasn’t just these rough and tough guys. 

So not saying he’s not rough and tough, because he is—but we’re lucky.  Kurt seriously gives so much info to the actors and he’s so great with that being an actor himself that he helps create the role. 

Were you into motorcycle culture before you got cast on the show?

Theo Rossi: I have such an incredible journey and story with this whole thing.  My uncle who basically raised—you know, helped in a big part of raising me from when I was young, had moved from California, and would just tell me these legendary stories of these motorcycle clubs that he was around and that he used to ride with and I’d sit there.  And, he used to work in a prison and he had all these stories, and I would hear almost like these tales throughout my youth.  And I heard all these different names and all these things and he used to ride and his dream was, before he passed, that we were going to ride together and this and that and we would just be riding in California.  He had moved to New York from California. 

So, I was so intrigued that when I first read the pilot it was—when I first met with Kurt—it was one of those moments where you feel everything is just happening for a reason.  You know, when everything is supposed to be what it’s supposed to be.  Yes, I’ve always had a massive fascination with the modern day cowboys.   Modern day outlaws or going against the system, and that’s always been very intriguing to me.

How did you react when Kurt broke the news to you about what the story arc was going to be and some of the depths you were going to have to plunge?

Theo Rossi: You know, we have a meeting before the season.  Kurt is one of the few show runners that does that—actually sits down and talks to the actor alone and then with all of the other writers and basically tells you what he has in mind and what’s going to go down.  You hear it and you—My God, when I heard mine and I knew what was going to happen and I got kind of like a loose kind of thing of what was going to go down, I was so excited and I thought it was brilliant because “Juice” is this really loveable—I can’t believe how much I’m realizing it more and more after just really seeing people seeing that one scene in episode three.  People are up in arms about a lot of different issue just from that one scene. 

So, when they see what’s coming, I think that the way [“Juice”] handled it, I thought was so brilliant.  I really did.  And I’m not saying it because it’s me, because I’ve always been a huge fan of this show not even being on it.  I’m a huge fan of every single part about it. 

So, I just thought this was so brilliant because “Juice” is such a lovable character that a lot of people relate to.  So when everything goes down, when this ball starts rolling, which it already has, I just think it’s going to shock a lot of people and to me, isn’t that the point of storytelling?  Isn’t that the point of television and great writing?

What did you do during your hiatus? Are you looking for work?

Theo Rossi: Oh man. I get lucky enough in off seasons to do my little things here and there.  I just did—you know I did a film last off season about crystal meth addiction called Meth Head  you know—and this year we got a couple of things lined up.  What I’ve learned, if the question is really what I’ve taken in my acting life from this show, what I’ve learned more than anything is to be around—as a young actor—to be around.  You know a young actor who has been in the business ten years, but that’s almost considered ‘young’ these days—to be around guys, like Ron Perlman, Bill Lucking, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Katey Sagal—guys and girls who have been in this business for a very long time—to learn from them every day what to do, what not to do.  To see how they navigated through their Hollywood life and to learn from that is invaluable.   You can’t pay for that stuff.  You can’t buy that stuff. 

So what that’s taught me is how to handle myself as a person in this business. How not to be—listen, the fact that most actors talk and we are just blessed enough where every single person on our show is amazing and cool and down to earth.  And to learn their work ethic there, the way they live their lives and the way they navigate through this world is something that I’ll never forget.

Are you Hispanic?

Theo Rossi: Let me tell you—this is something that I’ve been getting asked a lot lately and this is—I’m going to totally answer it like this.  I have probably about seven different ethnicities in me.  I’m going to leave it up to people to determine what those are.  My dog’s even trying to answer for me.  I would say that I’ll leave it up to everybody else because it is such a huge part of this season.  But, probably people would never assume a lot of the things I am.  And that’s it.  I am as mixed and ethnic in everything as they come.  That’s where I’ll leave that.

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