Please note: This interview with Theo Rossi contains Sons of Anarchy spoilers up through last night’s episode, “Some Strange Eruption.”
When the seemingly doomed Juice (Theo Rossi) got into the car with Gemma (Katey Sagal) near the end of this week’s Sons of Anarchy, you couldn’t help but flash back to Silvio taking Adriana for a fatal ride in the woods on The Sopranos. Yet somehow he survived and even managed to pull a gun on his would-be killer. Fan favorite Rossi gave Vulture the rundown on how his character keeps cheating fate.
When you first read the script for this episode, were you convinced this was going to be it for you?
Listen, ever since season four, I’ve been afraid it was going to be it for me. But Kurt [Sutter]’s really good about giving you the heads up and letting you know what’s going on before you read the scripts. My assumption at the time was, unless my email wasn’t working or my text messages weren’t coming through, I was okay.
What was it like shooting that scene in the car?
That was super intense. Katey and I have had some really great stuff this year, and that was the pinnacle. We really loved doing it.
Do you think Gemma was going to kill Juice? Why would she change her mind after protecting him for so long?
Juice has gone off the reservation. Have you ever noticed in life, when you hate something about yourself and then see someone else doing it, you get mad at them for it? Like if someone is overweight and they see someone else gaining weight, they say, “Oh, look at that slob!” Because they don’t want to say that to themselves. Gemma sees Juice breaking down and saying, “I don’t want to be alone,” and that’s almost exactly the way she feels. If she ever lets herself get to that place, she’s dunzo. It’s all over. So her thought is, Do I have to take this guy out?
Juice is such a troubled character and has made so many bad choices, yet he’s beloved by fans. Why have they embraced him?
We were just in Canada doing a charity event at a hospital, and people were literally yelling, “Save Juice!” Here’s what happened: For a long time, people wanted Juice dead because they said he betrayed the club. People would throw the word rat around. Then, slowly but surely, they began to realize what he did wasn’t so wrong. He was in an emotional state, and he only did what he was ordered to do by Jax. He was just trying to help the club and make everything better. He’s become almost — and it’s weird to say — the polar opposite of Jax, who’s out to avenge his wife’s death, right or wrong, and he’ll take out anyone in the way. And Juice is literally fighting for his life. Because of the complex situation Juice is in, people are saying, “Please leave him alone.” They just want him to be okay and happy. And that’s just not the way it works in this world.
How does it feel for the show to be coming to an end?
I don’t live in L.A., so any time I think about coming back to New York, I start to get this feeling of closing. There was always that thing of, “Hey, in May or June, I’ll be going back to L.A. to shoot another season.” It’s weird, man, because we’re all really tight and we all hang out together. It’s great. This stuff doesn’t happen — it’s like lightning in a bottle, this kind of show. Even shows like The Shield and The Wire, which were my favorites, they never had the fandom of this show. I don’t think anybody who watches Sons of Anarchy is ever going to be able to see a motorcycle pass them and not think of Jax Teller. That’s the legacy Kurt has left.
When you started out on the show, you weren’t a regular cast member. Did you have any idea how central a figure Juice would become?
I never could’ve guessed it was all going to play out like this — the setting up of Clay, Juice trying to take his own life. When all that happened, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. And after the Tara thing last year and all of a sudden having an unholy alliance with Gemma, man, I just felt like, What’s gonna happen now? And what’s coming up has just been truly the ultimate dream as an artist. The word uncomfortable can’t be used enough. The greatest thing you can do in life is be uncomfortable because it makes you push yourself in different directions you might not want to go.
Speaking of uncomfortable, does Kurt give you a heads up before you have a nude scene so you can hit the gym?
It’s so funny, I literally ask the PA’s, “Have you read the script yet? I don’t need to know what’s happening or who dies. Am I naked in it?” The good thing is I’ve had to train every single day because I want to be ultimately prepared. I thank social media for that, because they freeze-frame shots and put them everywhere. People send my mom pictures of my ass on Facebook. It’s interesting.
You’re from Staten Island originally. Will you be coming back East to work after the show wraps?
Yes, my production company just did our first movie, Bad Hurt, in Staten Island. That was the greatest experience — with the community and everything that happened after Sandy. I long for New York like a Woody Allen movie, like an homage that Scorsese does. I just have this massive love affair with New York from growing up there. I think it’s the greatest place in the world. The second I get any type of break, I am back home and in a place of 500,000 people who could care less that you’re on a TV show. All they want to know is if you’re going to get the fuck out of the way with your car.