‘Sons of Anarchy’ Season 5: What Kind of Leader Will Jax Become?

"Sons of Anarchy": Charlie Hunnam as Jackson 'Jax' Teller (Frank Ockenfels/FX)

When SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original) takes to the streets next season on “Sons of Anarchy,” the club will be under new leadership: Clay (Ron Perlman) is out and Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is in. But there are more changes than that, so XfinityTV.com caught up with executive producer Kurt Sutter to find out what viewers can expect when the fifth season picks up just weeks after the Season 4 finale on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Here is what he had to say:

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How will the club change with Jax as the President?: There’s not a lot of changes yet because it’s only about a month after the end of Season 4. Jax is definitely at the head of the table. All the things that were in play last season are in play, meaning the deal with the cartel. Clay is out of the hospital. It’s one of the reasons why we skipped a little bit of time. I didn’t want to play hospital scenes with Clay. We have the ongoing threat of Damon Pope, who we introduced in the finale last year, who Harold Perrineau is playing. He’s set up as more of a traditional antagonist in the beginning of the season, and, I think, that will turn on its head a little bit. This season is really about seeing Jax at the head of that table and [question is]: What kind of leader will he become? I like the idea of seeing a president inherit the mess of the previous president. How does he deal with that? And can you be the head of an outlaw organization and not become Clay? Is that possible? Or, if you don’t become Clay, are you perceived as weak and end up like John Teller? It’s really the challenges that are presented to Jax, and what kind of leader he’ll become.

SOA Season 5 Preview: Meet SAMCRO’s New Neighbors:

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How lost is Clay going to be?: I really wanted to acknowledge the physical and emotional wreckage that Clay has brought on himself, so we will see him physically debilitated. He took a bullet to the lung, so he’s moving slow. He’s hurt. And, I think, he’s dealing with the ramifications of his actions. I think he is broken — emotionally and physically. The loss of the club was devastating for him, and the greater devastation, I think, at least in the first half of the season, is the loss of Gemma (Katy Sagal).

Will Gemma ever be able to forgive Clay?: I don’t know. We’re really playing that arc out. I think the two of them are bonded in a very deep way by a lot of things. But initially, that is very damaged and broken. We will see over time if that can be repaired.

Last season, Juice (Theo Rossi) was really propelled into the forefront, but the Juice storyline wasn’t entirely resolved. Are there going to be ramifications from that?: I think so. I think it’s more of a second half of the season arc, but, I think, some of the maneuvers that Juice was forced into making last season will come up and play out towards the end of the season. It is interesting. We really see that this is a case of my actor informing the character. Theo is such a sweet guy. He’s the guy that takes care of everybody else, and, I think, that’s really bled into Juice. So this season, he really is the guy who, because of the divide between Clay and Tig (Kim Coates), that Juice really becomes a confidante of Clay and will be in Clay’s circle. I like thematically the idea that these guys both have these secrets about killing other members of the club, that neither one of them is aware of, but in a strange way, they’re attracted to each other because of that. We’ll play some of that out, in the first half of the season.

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Juice has always been on Jax’s side, so will that cause a divide between them if he is more veering toward Clay?: I don’t really see it as being on anybody’s side. It’s not like we begin this season with sides. It’s not Clay versus Jax. Clay is a broken guy, and Juice is there to help him out. So, I don’t think there’s a perception of, “Oh, he’s on Clay’s side now.”

Can you talk about the unresolved dynamic between Jax and Opie (Ryan Hurst) and how that might play out this season?: There was a part of me that, last year, would have found it very neat and satisfying for fans if Opie showed up at that table, at Jax’s side. I think that in earlier drafts I was thinking of that. But then, with everything that happened with Piney (William Lucking), and if you throw Donna (Sprague Grayden) into that mix, it just didn’t seem realistic that Opie could easily just go, “Okay, I’m your guy, Jax,” no matter how deeply he felt about Jax. For Opie to come back at that table, there really would need to be a sense of him figuring that out and Jax sort of earning his trust to get him back. That’s really what we do in the first few episodes. And then you will see, towards the end of episode two, Opie start to make those moves back to the club, and being in Jax’s camp. We’ll move that relationship forward, but at the end of last season, it just felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do, to put him at that table.

What about some of the new additions to the cast this season?: First, the idea of Ashley Tisdale … we have Joel McHale doing a couple episode arcs. For me, we had so much fun when we brought Stephen King on to play these ironic little pops. And David Hasselhoff, last season — that is really what those are. We had this episode where we had this high-priced escort that the guys have to protect, and her whole hook was that she was like a Disney girl. So I thought, “Well, why don’t we f*#*ing just get a Disney girl?,” so we did. We looked into it, and we got Ashley to do it. It’s just the irony of that. And, she’s great! She’s in two episodes. She gets to be in a couple action scenes, so she was very excited about that. And then another new cast member — we have Harold Perrineau playing Damon Pope. Harold is just a fantastic actor. Sometimes when you present these big, iconic antagonists, you have the trap of guys coming and playing the big antagonist. The history of this character, Damon Pope, is that he’s like a Frank Lucas guy, who made his money in drugs on the street, and then worked his way up and is now this legitimate businessman that is very smart, in terms of how much he gives back to the community. He’s embraced by the community and by politicians, but yet he still makes his money, to a certain extent, on the street. He’s a dangerous dude. The trap would be to have a bad-ass to play that role, so I really wanted to go with somebody who came across with a certain amount of intelligence and just different energy than a gangbanger. I think that’s what Harold brings to the role. Jimmy Smits will play a character, Nero Padilla. Nero is a gangbanger, as well. He’s a guy who will cross paths with Jax, early in the season. He and Jax will get into a business venture together. I guess he becomes a mentor for Jax, to a certain extent, in that he’s a guy who has been in the life a long time — longer than Jax — and really his whole thing is that the gangster life and the life I want outside of the gangster life do not mix. His whole thing is about making his money to get out, to have the life that he wants, and Jax can relate to that. So, he becomes this role model for Jax in the pursuit of that.

The fifth season of “Sons of Anarchy” premieres on Tuesday, September 11 at 10/9c on FX.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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