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Sons of Anarchy’s Maggie Siff on Tara and Jax, and the Heartbreaking Season-6 Finale

Maggie Siff. Photo: FX

[Spoilers ahead] Say what you will about Tara betraying Jax — and, surely, Team Gemma will have plenty to say — but her death on tonight’s season-six finale was tragic. Not just because she didn’t actually rat on Jax (he decided to turn himself in), but also because she and Jax had finally reconciled. They were in love. This is devastating. We spoke to Siff earlier today, before she’d even had a chance to see the episode herself, about how she found out she was getting killed off, why she wasn’t surprised it was Gemma who’d do it, and what it was like to shoot the heartbreaking final scene.

I’m still so disturbed.
I haven’t even seen the episode yet. I’m sort of dreading it.

The last scene is heartbreaking. You’re playing dead, so maybe you didn’t get to see exactly how Charlie Hunnam played it, but wait until you see.
That was actually the hardest part of filming that episode. That was the saddest part of it, I think. The process of letting go has been kind of a weird gradual one in my own mind. But when we were filming that scene, I felt a real sadness for the characters and for the life of the character who lives on. And Charlie was so … it was just so full.

He must have had a lot of weight on his shoulders to pull that off.
You know, it took a little while. When we were shooting that scene, it was the last day of production, and we ended up coming back the next day. Because we were shooting all of that stuff [in the kitchen] — we were shooting the killing and all the stuff with Gemma — and we just ended up having to come back the next day to get it right. Not just for Charlie but for everybody. People were exhausted and felt the pressure of what that moment was. Because it’s the culmination of everything that’s happened this year and then it’s also the culmination of everything that happens next year. So it felt like a lot of pressure.

When did you find out that Tara was going to die, and how did Kurt tell you?
I found out at the beginning of the season. I sat down with him maybe after the first or second read-through. And, you know, usually we have conversations with him before we start shooting the season, and for some reason we hadn’t — scheduling stuff — and I started to sort of think, What’s happening here? And I wanted to know, I just wanted to know more specifically where things were going and he wanted to talk to me as well. So we sat down and he started talking and I was like, “You’re not killing me off, are you?” And he was like, “Well, darlin’.” And I was like, “Oh my god, you’re killing me off!” So I found out at the beginning of the season. I’ve had all year to kind of think about it.

Did you know all year it would be Gemma who’d kill Tara?
No. Although in my own imagination it was always Gemma who killed her. I’m not really sure why. I sort of assumed if she died, it would be Gemma one way or the other. I’m not sure if Kurt always felt that way.

I never believed that Jax would do it, even though that seed was planted throughout the season. Did you ever think that was a real possibility?
It definitely showed up there in the scripts, and I had to clarify that with Kurt and the writers, because I too found that a little bit — I was like, Really? Would she really think that he was going to kill her? But I think ultimately where she ended up, it began to feel like a possibility. Partly because they became so estranged over the course of the season. And I think on some level she feels like she’s not sure what he’s capable of. So it’s not so much the certainty that he’ll kill her as the uncertainty that he won’t kill her.

In the playground scene, when they’re sitting at the picnic table, there’s a moment when it seems like Jax is hurt that she’d think he’d kill her. Or at least like it’s sorry it’s come to that.
I seem to remember Charlie and Kurt having a conversation where Kurt was sort of like, “I don’t think you know what you’re gonna do.” And I sort of believed that from Charlie as well. But in terms of the codes of this world, she’s betrayed him and the club on sort of the deepest level possible, and so there’s a way in which she can’t imagine any other alternative than that she dies. You know, ratting on the club and all of that is — I don’t think at that moment she can imagine another alternative to how it ends. Because she’s gone so far, she’s crossed over that last line.

But you’ve said before how Kurt doesn’t see Tara as another Carmela Soprano. By the same token, Jax isn’t another Tony Soprano. So I don’t think killing her would come easy. He’s very romantic and very loyal to Tara.
Yeah, and she’s been very loyal to him, until this season. And I felt like — it was really important to me that as the show ended, that we not be left with them estranged. I really wanted them to find their way back to each other in some small way. Partly because [their relationship] is one of the things that has redeemed him all along, and I think it redeems her, too, to some extent, in terms of her actions over the last year. And I think it also redeems the show in a weird way: that at the beating-heart level, these people really, truly love each other. And as an audience, we believe they love each other in a realistic way, as opposed to some of the violence, which can be a little pulpier and over-the-top. And I just wanted that to be there before she exited.

Speaking of the the pulpy violence: Your death scene is brutal.
[Laughs] Yeah. I didn’t realize how brutal it was gonna be until I read it. I was surprised. I mean, when I imagined in my mind how it could be that Gemma would kill Tara, I always imagined they’d be on bridge and Gemma would like, put her finger on Tara and Tara would accidentally slip [laughs]. And, you know, she’d drown and that would be that. I knew that would never actually be the way it happened, but I always imagined it would be something slightly more accidental and something slightly more ambiguous in terms of Gemma pulling the trigger, so to speak. So when I read it I was like, Wow, that is really, really intense. I think we all felt that way. I know Katey was very emotional about it.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Tara has transformed into Gemma, but she didn’t die with that transformation complete. She’s more like a Tara-Gemma hybrid.
I agree, I don’t think she totally transforms into Gemma, and I don’t think her conscience ever really goes away. And she is doing it for her family and her kids, which I think is an important distinction — although Gemma would probably say that everything she does is for her family and for her kids as well.

It’s just not.
Yeah [laughs].

It’s just not. That drives me insane. Kurt tweeted something not too long ago: “The smart girls are team Tara, the dangerous girls are team Gemma.” I think Team Gemma is going to feel pretty stupid after this episode.
I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m very curious to see what the reaction is going to be. You know, there’s such love for that character, she’s so larger than life. And Kurt is doing this to the characters — he’s having them do things that really test people’s loyalty to them.

Was that uncomfortable for you? Because even Team Tara can’t quite understand Tara’s actions. It’s like, How could you possibly betray Jax?
What the hell are you doing? Yeah, you know, I’m not big on reading the message boards because it’s not that good for an actor’s mental health. But I feel like people have been loyal to her because of her connection to Jax and her loyalty to Jax. So when she betrays him, people have felt very comfortable turning on her. And, you know, I understand it. The part that I don’t understand, and that I find a little strange, is the real hostility, the “She needs to die” stuff, which I find a little disturbing.

Do you think if she lived and Jax went to prison she would have waited for Jax?
I think the way we saw it end was definitely her waiting for Jax.

I didn’t know that for sure. Though, at the end, after Eli dropped her off at the house, she sort of stares into the living room and she smiles. It was like she was finally feeling hopeful again. 
It was the feeling of walking back into a room that you thought you had left behind for good and seeing all the ways in which it’s lived in. And instead of having to imagine cobwebs growing on it, life can kind of resume there. And, yeah, it was the beginnings of hope.  

SoA’s Maggie Siff on Tonight’s Bloody Finale