Sons of Anarchy's Ron Perlman Talks Clay's Undoing
After four seasons of gravel-voiced domination, the reign of King Clay has come to an end on Sons of Anarchy. When the series starts its fifth season on Tuesday, Sept. 11 (10/9c, FX), stepson Jax (Charlie Hunnam) will be at the head of the SAMCRO table, though Clay will still be prowling the sidelines. Ron Perlman, who plays the dangerous, power-hungry Clay, talked with TV Guide Magazine about what to expect from the dethroned Clay this season (and why he's not on Twitter).
TV Guide Magazine: So, where to start with Clay? Creator Kurt Sutter tweeted a picture of you from the premiere, looking not unlike Piney, with the oxygen tank.
Perlman: He tweeted that, did he? That little devil. That little tweeter.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you on Twitter?
Perlman: No. I don't want anyone knowing what I'm thinking. I want people knowing exactly what I want 'em to know, and that's that. [Sarcastically] I just don't know how we lived without Twitter prior to the 21st century. Or Facebook, for that matter. What did we do? How did we communicate?
TV Guide Magazine: I couldn't tell you; I grew up with the Internet.
Perlman: Oh, please don't take my disdain for the 21st century personally.
TV Guide Magazine: Nah, it's okay.
Perlman: [Laughs] You'll get over it?
TV Guide Magazine: I might go cry a little bit, but...
Perlman: You can tweet your feelings!
TV Guide Magazine: "Ron Perlman was mean to me!" Well, you like to keep your thoughts to yourself, but where's Clay at when the season starts, mentally? He's still recovering, physically.
Perlman: He's lost everything in his life. He's lost his wife, he's lost his club, he's lost his presidency, he's lost the faith people had in him, the goodwill, pretty much all of his friends. And he's not even really sure why he's still breathing. Because what he was caught doing was grounds for termination. But... permanent termination. Not canceling your cable subscription. So he starts the season in a highly compromised state, not just physically. He's lived 60-some-odd years building up to whatever it is he's achieved, he's now back to square zero. And he's been so desperate to create an exit strategy because he's got more years behind him than in front of him. He gets to be a certain age and the wake-up call is kind of unequivocal. It's time to start thinking about how you want to spend your old age, if God is good enough to give you one. And I know the feeling.
TV Guide Magazine: Clay doesn't strike me as the kind to go down without a fight. Is he just biding his time until he...
Perlman: Oh no. He's not wasting a minute. You're absolutely right. He's not going down without a fight. As long as they've been foolish enough to leave him alive, he's gonna make his positions known and take what he thinks he has coming to him. And the fun of Season 5 is watching how he does that.
TV Guide Magazine: Gemma [Katey Sagal] and Nero, Jimmy Smits' character, they start to get close. Does Clay start scheming to take Nero down?
Perlman: Hold on, I just put you on speakerphone, I hate speakerphone but I have this new Bluetooth thing, and we've already established how terrible I am with 21st century stuff. ... So anyway. I'm not going to give away what Gemma has decided to do in light of the fact that she's now without a husband. In her mind, they're done. But it's more important what Gemma's feeling toward Clay, in Clay's mind, than what she's doing and who she's doing it with. He's obsessed with, "Do I have any kind of chance of getting her back?" And one of the interesting things about Clay having the slate clean is that you get to find out what he finds a deal breaker to live without, and what he's more than happy to live without. And one of the glaring things of Season 5 is that he cannot live without Gemma. He doesn't consider himself whole without Gemma. So whatever else he's doing with regard to maneuvering his way back to the living, she is an integral part of his plan. We're shooting the eighth episode out of 13 right now, and things have gotten so convoluted, in such a dramatic fashion, that I have no idea where we end up at the end of the year.
TV Guide Magazine: Jimmy Smits was talking the other day about the intense script security you guys have, which was interesting.
Perlman: Oh yeah. We're at that point now where, the good news about it is, we only have to be that way because people seem to care about what we're doing more than ever. We used to fly so far under the radar that no one ever gave a s---. Also, what I'm starting to notice is that Kurt is really looking to how this thing ends up at the end of the day. Now that we're past the halfway point of the arc of the show in general, he's looking for the wind-up. I'm not gonna say who will end up alive or dead because if I did I'd be lying, I have no idea. All I can tell you is if we are following the structure of Hamlet, no one ends up alive, except for Horatio.
TV Guide Magazine: Regardless of whether Clay ends up alive or dead, do you think there is redemption for him, or that he cares about redemption at this point?
Perlman: That was a big discussion between Kurt and I for Season 5. Because if I am going to start like Oedipus at Colonus, where I've lost everything... In the case of Oedipus, you know, he has this complete epiphany about the evilness of his deeds, they've left him literally blinded and with no one and nothing. I had a lot of discussions with Kurt as to, "What kind of opportunity does that engender?" I will not tell you anything beyond that, other than where Kurt went was not where Ron would have gone.
TV Guide Magazine: Oh really? Did you try to dissuade him or...
Perlman: No. I did not try to dissuade him. I had a sense, in terms of how I was playing it, and I needed clarification in order to play it the way he needed me to play it.
TV Guide Magazine: Ah, I see.
Perlman: So we had a discussion about it. Clearly this is Kurt's world, and clearly I'm thrilled to be a part of it, and he's taken me places I've never been before as an actor. For me, the biggest fun is playing Clay under a completely different set of conditions than I've had to play him before. It's been fun exploring him as he's limping his way through life, not being as sure-footed, sure-handed, sure-minded as the Clay that I've played for the first four years.
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