Sons of Anarchy has been on a rampage ever since the controversial season premiere, and the explosive ending to this week’s episode has forever changed the landscape of the show. Basic concepts like trust, loyalty and brotherhood are seemingly a thing of the past, and the future of the club is quickly becoming uncertain.
As Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz, Theo Rossi has been a SAMCRO mainstay from the very beginning, and has been involved in some of the show’s most complex and complicated storylines, particularly during the fourth and fifth seasons. We caught up with Theo on Wednesday morning for an exclusive interview to talk about the fallout from this week’s episode, and what lies ahead for Juice and the rest of the club.
[Editor’s Note: Spoilers for Season Five can be found below. Proceed at your own risk.]
Last night, we saw one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Sons of Anarchy universe get destroyed when the Teller Morrow clubhouse exploded. What was going through your mind when you read the script for that episode?
This is another example that this show doesn’t run forever. We are coming to, as Kim [Coates] so eloquently says, “the other side of the mountain.” We’re getting to the point where we’re wrapping a lot of things up and a lot of things are occurring, and seeing the clubhouse go that we’ve been sitting in since ’08 when we did the pilot… it was devastating.
To other people, it’s just a set piece, but to us it’s a tremendous part of our lives, and that’s just as an actor. As the character, this year is so insane. I can’t wait for everybody to see this season as a whole, because it’s amazing.
At the end of last season, we saw Juice help frame Clay for murder, and this year we’ve seen him smother Darvony with a pillow to help cover up SAMCRO’s ties to the school shooting. It feels like Jax is asking a lot of Juice these days, and I’m wondering, as we see the resentment start to build up, when is this guy finally going to snap?
Obviously, I can’t really say anything, but I’ll just say the greatest thing, and the most masterful thing that I believe Kurt Sutter does, in my mind, is that everything makes sense if you just watch it all. He wrote recently in a Tweet, he said “before you say anything, before you judge anything, before you do anything, just watch the entire season. And then say what you want to me.”
And that’s exactly how we all feel. Before you say anything, even about Season Five – if you’re still thinking about Season Five, watch Season Six, watch it all come together. I think this is gonna be the most satisfying season for the diehard fans, the people that know the mythology and the ins and outs. Not the fairweather SOA fans, the ones who really know and are invested in the club members.
So with Juice, it’s really just navigating in this world, and we’re gonna start seeing a lot more of that, starting next week. Next week is the beginning of a really cool arc. This season is easily my favorite season, maybe it’s because so many things are being answered and so many things are happening. I’m such a huge fan of the show, I’m a huge fan of all the actors. Jimmy Smits is not just one of my favorite people, but one of my favorite characters on the show, and CCH Pounder is absolutely incredible. I just think everybody is playing on a whole different level.
Let’s go back a little bit, all the way to the beginning. In the past you’ve talked about how, when you first came in and read for the show, the character had a different name, a different look, a different feel. What elements did you bring to make Juice your own, versus what Kurt had originally written?
The show is very serendipitous. Kurt does things and writes things – for me – that somehow, on some microcosmic level, have mirrored something in my life. I’ve never told him, we’ve never talked about it, and somehow he seems to do it. And I think it’s because Kurt knows his characters better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
And then what happens is, he gets to know you, and then by getting to know you he starts playing off your strengths. Juice was always this happy, just trying to fit in, loyal puppy, until Season Four. And ever since the revelation of my dad, and being put under the thumb of the sheriff and the ATF, and stealing that coke, it’s been this crazy journey.
It’s so funny, the world we live in. Somebody came up to me at the gym the other day, and like they were saying the most normal thing in the world, they said “I’m glad you’re not dead yet.” And then they just kept walking. And I was like, are they talking about Theo or are they talking about Juice? It’s so weird.
I think with every episode, people think something is gonna happen to him, so I love that Kurt has given me a character that people are so concerned with.
Do you think, at the very beginning, Juice realized what this lifestyle would have in store for him?
I think he had no idea of the depths of it. I don’t know if his innocence was prepared for what he thought it was. It’s almost like some young kid who goes to college and pledges a fraternity, and then goes into the whole hazing process, and he’s like “wow, I didn’t think it was like this, I thought it was like Animal Houseor Revenge of the Nerds.”
He got thrown off by it, and then realized it was too late and he didn’t wanna back down, and he was kind of in over his head. I think Juice wanted connection and wanted family so bad, and that’s why his whole thing with SAMCRO came. I don’t think, in his mind’s eye, he ever saw the consequences that can come with living this lifestyle that’s created in the Sons of Anarchy world.
And I think, because of that, he’s been devastated ever since. And now he’s been kind of backtracking, but there’s no way out now. He’s in way too deep, and I think it’s survival now, at this point.
Do you think Juice feels like he’s been taken advantage of by the club, or more specifically, by Clay or Jax?
In my belief, I think he’s so busy looking for acceptance that he’s too innocent to even think about it.
It just never occurs to him?
I just think that any time anybody says “good job” or anything, anytime that anybody shows him any type of affection or any type of camaraderie, I think that he’s happy and I don’t think that he questions it. I don’t think he’s smart enough to ever turn around and go “I wonder if this person’s using me.”
You know, right before Chibs beats him senseless in the first episode, he says “I love you, brother.” He needs [Chibs] to know that he loves him. And Chibs says “I know,” but he still needs to do this to make himself accept [Juice] again.
So I believe that he doesn’t even think like that. And who knows? There’s so much stuff coming up. Is there a point where the snap occurs, and he does start to think like that? I just don’t think, right now, that he does.
I wanna switch gears for a moment. You and Kim Coates are pretty heavily involved in a lot of charity work. I know you’ve done some stuff with the USO – can you talk a little bit about how that got started and what you’ve been involved with recently?
This all started in ’09. Henry Rollins was on the show, and Henry has been an idol of mine for as long as I can remember, so it was really cool getting to know him and hang out with him and become friendly with him. He kind of turned us onto the USO, and right away, before we knew it myself, Bobby Elvis, Chief Unser and Tig were in Iraq, Kuwait, and that was it. We were hooked.
We hooked up with a nonprofit called The Boot Campaign, and we traveled all around the country. We’ve been to every single base, most of them twice, and now I’m an ambassador for The Boot Campaign, and I was able to launch my own nonprofit, Staten Strong, which The Boot Campaign launched as a program so we could immediately start rebuilding Staten Island after [Hurricane] Sandy hit. Now Staten Strong acts as a community-based program – we’re gonna build parks, we’re teaching kids to have a sense of self and community.
I’ve said this publicly a couple of times – I think that if you’re in the position of being in any type of public forum, and you don’t use it to really help the rest of the world in one way or another, I’ve gone on record saying a million times that I think you’re a jackass. I’ve got no time for that kind of stuff, that self-centeredness. I think that if you’re in this business, and you’re in this position, you should use it for good because you’re one of the fortunate people that gets to make a living doing this, and have people hopefully pay attention to one or two of the things you’re saying.
So with Kim… listen, it’s no secret that Kim and I are best friends, he’s my brother, we do everything together. With his charity, One Heart Source, with Staten Strong, with The Boot Campaign, we’re just doing as much as we can. You look at a guy who did it right, a guy like Paul Newman. He’s arguably one of the greatest actors to ever live, and on top of it he’s probably one of the greatest philanthropists to ever live. So if we can be a tenth of what he is, we’re doing something right.
Absolutely, and that’s really admirable. We’re about out of time, but one last thing – apparently, you’re gonna be in my neighborhood this weekend. You’re coming to Scottsdale?
I am! I just found this out kind of last minute. I haven’t been to Scottsdale, Arizona since 1999 when I drove through to come to LA. I used to go there all the time, because my best friend went to ASU. I’m coming in Saturday, I’ll be there all day Saturday, and I’m really looking forward to it. I just got all the info for the event, and I’m excited to come.
Right on, man. Thanks so much again for taking some time with us. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the season.
Just wait til next week. Next week is really interesting.
Theo Rossi will appear at Harley Davidson of Scottsdale on Saturday, October 12th as part of Bob’s Biker Blast 2013. Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10pm, exclusively on FX.