Kurt Sutter Reflects on ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Creative Snags, Actors as Directors, and ‘Angry Emails’

AUSTIN, Texas — Kurt Sutter couldn’t be at the ATX TV Festival for the “Sons of Anarchy” ​directors panel, with Paris Barclay and Adam Arkin. But Barclay told fans that he had a surprise for them, and moments later, series creator Kurt Sutter joined the session via FaceTime to field a couple of questions and praise Arkin and Barclay as “two of the most talented guys to work behind the camera on ‘Sons’.”

Asked how he set the show’s tone in the beginning of the run, Sutter said, “I sent everyone angry emails, that pretty much set the tone for my entire career. It was trial and error, some ideas worked and some didn’t. I tried to surround myself with people who knew more than I did. I don’t think we found the rhythm of the show ’til halfway through the first season.”

Sutter said that the show hit a snag when FX told him they wanted close-ended episodes. “Serialized dramas were struggling and there was a mandate to do standalone episodes,” he said. All I knew how to do was a serialized drama. It was difficult. Then the serialization got so deep by episode five or six, they took the handcuffs off and I got to do what I wanted to do.”

So when did Sutter feel “Sons” found its footing? “In episode seven, there was no turning back for Jax and Tara,” he said. “That’s the fairest estimation of when the show locked in.”

He recalled Arkin first joining “Sons” as an actor, then as a director, “I knew he was interested in directing,” he said. “Actors always feel more comfortable when there’s an actor directing, in terms of vocabulary and breaking down a scene. It was important for us to find the right directors. I knew Adam already had chops coming in. There was only one guy I took a chance on directing, and that was (Peter) Weller but he’s not there, so f–k him!”

Sutter had one other matter he wanted to clear up as to why he wasn’t in Austin. “The rumor is not true, I am allowed in the state of Texas,” he said. “That ban has been lifted.”  ​

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