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Sons of Anarchy’s Tommy Flanagan on Those Facial Scars, This Final Season, and Chibs

Photo: Gregg DeGuire/Getty

Warning: Mild spoilers for this week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy.

Love, or something like it, was in the air on the latest Sons of Anarchy, “Faith and Despondency.” The episode opened with a montage of couples doing the dirty deed, including SAMCRO VP Filip “Chibs” Telford (Tommy Flanagan) and his paramour, sheriff Althea Jarry (Annabeth Gish). They later shared another, more violent sex scene. Glasgow-born Flanagan spoke with Vulture about his nickname, his trademark facial scars, and his thick Scottish accent. Oh, and watch for a cameo by his 2-year-old daughter, Aunjanue.

What was it like shooting that first sex scene with Annabeth?
It was very comfortable. She’s a very good actor, and we hit it off right away as friends. We kept it very professional, and [director] Paris [Barclay] always makes it light. It was easy, a lot of fun.

How about the second one — were those slaps real?
My God, if I slapped her across the face, I would’ve sent her across the fucking room. It’s just a game they play, push-and-shove, rough-and-tumble sex, what have you. It was kinda passionate, you know?

What does Chibs see in her?
It’s an escape from the brutality and the inhumanity of the life he leads. Just to have that moment of human touch and almost love, if you like. That’s the life in the relationship so far. Whether it goes to something else, you’ll just have to wait and find out. It’s a moment of being himself, not being this fucking psycho who runs around killing and shooting, all in the name of God-knows-what.

What does she see in him — is it a sleeping-with-the-Devil kind of thing?
It’s definitely that, but also, who the fuck can resist Chibs? Come on, how could she resist the Chibs-monster?

This is true. But where do Chibs’s loyalties lie now? Can he be trusted by Jax when he’s sleeping with the enemy?
That’s a seed that’s been planted. It may just be the audience that’s planted that one. You’ll have to wait and find out for that one as well. But Chibs has always been loyal to his boy Jax.

[Aunjanue walks into the room.]

Hi! Can you give Daddy just a moment? I have to finish this phone call and then we’ll go play. Where are you going? What are you looking for, my love? For Mama? Mama! Sorry, baby. You cheeky monkey!

You’re shattering my image of Chibs now, with all that sweet baby talk.
I’m just a TV tough guy. I’m a hermit who lives in the middle of nowhere with my baby and my wife. I’m happy as a pig in shit.

What’s the mood been like on the set through the final season?
Oh God, it’s incredible, the gamut of emotion that you go through. It’s kind of mind-blowing. I had a moment near the end where I was sitting watching a scene on the monitors, and I had this massive feeling of nostalgia and grief and heartache. I just looked at all these guys I’d worked with for so many years, and I thought, Oh my God, this is over! It’s a real up and down. It’s bittersweet. Because really from day one, the cast has connected, and the crew gelled. We had to, because it was guerilla filming when we started. There was no money. It’s been a long time together, and we became dear friends, and we always will be. When I produce movies, I’ll take that crew with me to the fucking ends of the Earth. And most of the cast.

Was your biggest challenge over the years being understood with your accent?
I said to them at the very beginning, “Listen, if you want me to do a Glasgow accent, I’m doing a Glasgow accent. I ain’t going to fuck around, I ain’t going to play games, but no one’s going to understand me.” And they said, “No, we love your accent!” So I just try to keep my character as genuine as I possibly can. If I’m going to fake it, then why the fuck do my accent? Why do Irish, or whatever the hell they want, something that’s more audible or intelligible to audiences? I didn’t get any complaints from Scotland! It’s just another layer to [creator Kurt] Sutter’s ensemble of craziness.

How has your relationship with Kurt evolved?
That guy’s just unbelievable. It takes a long time to get to know him. I can finally call him a friend and a brother. All these little things are starting to tie together, and you go, “What a clever little bastard he is!” I’ve been impressed with this season. I’m happy he’s finally bringing characters like mine to life. I’ve been in the background a lot. That was tough, as an actor. But it’s just the way the story has to be told. It’s nice to go out this season with a bit of a bang.

Do you feel like the scars on your face, which you got in a real-life knife fight back when you were a DJ, have helped you get work as a tough-guy actor?
In the movie world, for sure. But I think I can hold my own. It’s not about the scars anymore. I don’t see the scars anymore. They’re just ancient history now. It was a horrible thing that happened 20 years ago. I don’t give it a second thought. It’s just like a big wrinkle on my face.

You had the nickname “Chibs,” which is Scottish slang for “knife,” before SoA. How did your character come to be called that?
Sutter obviously Googled it somewhere, way back during the pilot. He said, “Do you mind if I call you Chibs?” At the time, I didn’t give it much thought. Then I thought, Why the fuck did I agree to that name? It’s just too personal.

Too late, I guess.
Yeah. Way too fucking late!

Do you ever get confused with the late jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan?
Oh my God, I loved that guy. I always wanted to meet him. Yeah, Tommy Flanagan, the black American jazz player, and Tommy Flanagan, the crazy Scottish actor. Slight differences there. But we both have a lot of soul.

Sons of Anarchy’s Tommy Flanagan on Chibs