"Sons Of Anarchy" took a brief break from its usual brand of high-intensity violence and got a little romantic in this week's episode when Tara (Maggie Siff) and Jax (Charlie Hunnam) got married in a brothel. The union was a significant milestone for the biker drama, and for Siff's character Tara Knowles in particular, who spent much of last season dreaming of a new life for herself outside the motorcycle club's criminal orbit.
But after a gruesome hand injury dashed her hopes of becoming a pediatric surgeon, Tara seems to have come to terms with the life she's chosen this season, taking a more active role in the club's affairs and relishing Jax's newfound power. In an interview HuffPost TV, Maggie Siff discussed Tara's evolution into Gemma 2.0, explained why it's a relief to no longer have to play such a conflicted character and told us whether Jax Teller or Don Draper is more unknowable man.
Congratulations on your TV wedding. You guys really kept it classy.
I myself am about to get married in October, so I'm using it as a model. A few plastic orchids scattered here and there I think will go far.
During the scene where Jax proposed, he told Tara that "nothing says endless love like capital murder," and you seemed to play it like that line turned her on. Is Tara learning to thrive on the danger of the "Sons" world?
You know, one of the very first thoughts I had about the character was the fact that she's this surgeon, and she kind of deals with life and death and blood and guts all the time. And I think there has to be some place, on some level, on which it does excite her. That's never a conscious thing, but it's something I poured into my little feeding ground for the unconscious motivations fo the character. How could she possibly stick around otherwise? He's actually making reference to the very first time they came together, which was over a dead body. So there's something in that. The thing that I think the show gets at is this adrenalized, hyper-violent world that they all live in. I think on some level, that kind of danger and excitement must fuel all of them.
There was another moment in that scene where Jax told Tara that he plans to make an honest woman out of her and she rolled her eyes and said, "Good luck." Where was she coming from there?
Honestly, we did it so many different ways, and I tried a lot of different things with it ... But what I was thinking about was, she's so far down this road, and I feel like the character has been the moral center of the show for many years, and especially in the last year, she's really slid away from that position. And I think it's her own awareness that she's in really deep, and it's really because of her love of this man that she's gone down that road. And having a little bit of awareness and sense of humor in that moment, which is such a mix of joy and really solidifying her connection to this life.
Later, after being initially sort of excluded from the wedding, Gemma (Katey Sagal) gave Tara her rings. Have those characters reached an uneasy understanding this season?
Yeah, I think this season they really go in-and-out, and in-and-out of having an uneasy understanding. The deep level truth about them is having a mother-daughter relationship, and as painful as it is, Gemma really is her only mother figure. So to take the rings from her and in a moment to sort of accept that she wants her and needs her ... there is some way in which she wants her there.
Is Tara becoming Gemma 2.0?
It's true, she's taking a lot of lessons from her. And one of them is, "How do I play this?" -- being in the moment but also having this conversation with herself, seeing all the manipulation and dealing with the opportunistic question of what's going to work best for me in this situation.
Tara has started to smoke pot this season, yet she still sort of lashed out at Gemma for being drunk and stoned around the kids. Is she in some sort of denial?
Yes, she has. And this is true, though I would say she's doing it in her own time when she's not around the kids. But it is the beginning of something. She's trying to find ways to take the edge off and numb out a little bit. The season opens up on Gemma in a much more fucked up place with regards to substances. But I also think that's a part of how these people have to live their lives. They can't be alive to their pain at all times, or else they'd just be little balls of pain in the corner.
Has Tara's hand injury, which forced her to give up on her dream of being a surgeon and leaving the club life, ignited a new chapter of how you approach the character?
Umm, yeah. When Kurt [Sutter, the show's created and executive producer] first told me about the hand last year, I had a real dual reaction. One was just sort of this horror. My emotional investment in Tara as a human being was sort of shattered by it, "I just felt so bad for her," and I felt that incredibly strongly. But then my actor brain was really excited. I was like, "Oh no, that's interesting." Because the feeling that a door has closed really does something to our psyche that's like a scar. And figuring out what that is and how that evolves with her ...
It's not entirely black and white either, because her hand is healing. There's somewhat of an open question about whether she'll get it back or not and to what extent. But I'll say that there was this big, terrible rupture that happened when that happened. It's been really interesting. It's been fun, actually.
It seems to have given her the freedom to embrace the life in a way that hasn't before.
Well, I think like anything that happens, in life it's true, when one door slams shut ... Literally. [Laughs.] There's a kind of relief or relaxation that also happens. Now she can embrace the club and this man, and all these things that she's held herself at bay from. She can relax around it, on one level, and surrender to it a little bit more. So she's not so constantly tortured. That's one of the things as an actor that I was happy to let go of.
Was that taxing to play?
A little taxing. The show is based on "Hamlet," so the question of conscience is sort of at the heart of the story, and particularly in the Jax character. But I also think it plays out in the Tara character, and yeah, it's exhausting. But I think it is exhausting for any human being, that feeling of being stuck between a rock and a hard place in life. And I'm very indecisive in my life, so it was also just a very big magnification of something that I'm very familiar with and hate in myself.
What did you think of the premiere? That was a pretty dark episode.
It's so funny because we're still in the middle of shooting the season, and it's "Sons Of Anarchy," so terrible shit happens all the time, and I started watching that episode was like, "Oh no, this is the one where the daughter gets burned alive." It kind of is one of the most gruesome things television has ever seen.
I've recently been re-watching "Mad Men" Season 1, and your character Rachel Menken character plays a big role. Do you think Jax Teller or Don Draper is the more unknowable man?
Don Draper probably has a bigger hole in his soul than Jax Teller. All Jax knows is this criminal life and this world and these people, and the world is pretty small. I think Don has more holes in his history, and little less control over what he can't feel. He goes through the series, and he's so blind and numb to these things in himself. But, I don't know, Don's making progress, who knows where he'll end up.
What TV shows are you watching these days? "Sons" aside.
I just started watching "Homeland," that's my new television addiction currently. It's so, so interesting. I'm just getting started too -- we've only watched the first four episodes. I'm really excited about it. I really do love television right now. We're all caught up on "Breaking Bad," and "Game Of Thrones," and "Mad Men." I've just been like, "What is the next great series?" So we started "Homeland." Now that I'm all caught up, I have to do it episode by episode, which is maddening. It was so ahead of me, but over the last couple of years, I did those marathons and sort of caught up with it all.
"Sons Of Anarchy" airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on FX.