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Sons of Anarchy Postmortem: Dayton Callie on Unser's Tragic Twist

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesdays' penultimate episode of Sons of Anarchy. Read at your own risk.]Although Sons of Anarchy's penultimate episode featured three major deaths, one of them was certainly more shocking than the others...

Adam Bryant

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesdays' penultimate episode of Sons of Anarchy. Read at your own risk.]
Although Sons of Anarchy's penultimate episode featured three major deaths, one of them was certainly more shocking than the others.
While Juice (Theo Rossi) had long been marked for death, and the fatal showdown between Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal) ached with tragic inevitability, the death of former lawman Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie) delivered a different kind of sting.
Sons of Anarchy postmortem: Katey Sagal breaks down Jax and Gemma's showdown
Once Nero (Jimmy Smits) learned that Jax knew Gemma's location, he called on Unser to bring Gemma back to Charming before Jax could get to her. Although Unser gave it his best effort, he wasn't quick enough: He arrived only moments before Jax and was unable to convince Gemma to come back home with him and face charges as Tara's killer. Once Jax arrived, however, Unser refused to let a son execute his mother. "This has to end. Here," he said.
Unfortunately, that was the end of Unser, as Jax put a bullet into his heart before also killing his own mother in the rose garden.  TVGuide.com chatted with Callie about saying goodbye to his character, how much Unser's feelings for Gemma played into his decision-making and why Unser wasn't a hero.
For more on Tuesday's bloodbath of an episode, read Sagal's thoughts on Gemma's demise and Rossi's take on Juice's heartbreaking choice.
When did you find out that Unser was going to die?
Dayton Callie: When I read the script. I had no idea. Well, actually it was before that. Somebody came up to me and said, "Oh, man, sorry they're killing you." I said, "Really? Oh, OK, thanks."
Postmortem: Sons of Anarchy star Theo Rossi weighs in on Juice's big choice
I guess making it to the next to last episode is pretty good for a guy who's had cancer the entire series.

Callie: Yeah. I mean, I'm a gun for hire. That's what we all are. It really annoys me when people think I had cancer for seven years. The whole show only lasted two, maybe two, two-and-a-half years tops from start to finish. And bladder cancer doesn't have to be terminal. They take your bladder out. I did a lot of research. They do a lot of things before it actually kills you. It's not like a f---ing brain tumor.
Were you gratified that in this final season, Unser sort of reactivated his lawman side as he hunted for Tara's killer?
Yeah, very much so. There was no discussion about it. Kurt just picked up on the same things I was thinking. He's not the kind of guy who's going to let it really sit for too long. Some people think, "Oh, he's nosy." Well, he wants the best for the club. I mean, I've been on everybody's side. I've been against them, and I've been for them. I've been against Jax and some of his decisions. I've been against Gemma and some of her decisions. I've been against Tara and some of her decisions, and I've been for them. I looked at the character as always wanting to be fair.
What was Unser's gut reaction when he learned that Gemma killed Tara?
Callie: It's shock. First, it's shock, and then, my second thought is, "Are you bullsh---ing me or what? What kind of game is this?" There's smoke and mirrors, and they've been leading me down different paths. So, the first thing is, let me find out if this is true. And if it is true, it's a f---ing tragedy. So, it's shock, disbelief, and then when I get in the truck, it hits me a little bit emotionally. I hope it ain't true, but it's a sadness if it is true.
When Nero asks Unser to go bring Gemma in, he says, "It's not about saving Gemma, it's about saving Jax." Is that true for Unser? Or do his past feelings for Gemma make him want to protect her from Jax?
Dayton Callie: Well, I don't know. Nero says, "I can't get in the middle. It wont be right. You should go." I figure I've always been able to work it out with those two and. So, I figure I'm going up there to take her back and not judge her. I think he gave up on romantic things a long time ago. It had to be friendship, and doing the right thing. That's what I think drove him up there, and I think that's why he wanted her to come back and do the right thing.  You give your friend the best advice you can, even if they don't want to hear it. That's what friends are supposed to do, and I think he considers her a lifelong friend. He was going to give her what he considered the best advice and the right direction to go in.
When Jax shows up, does Unser think he can diffuse the situation, or did he assume it was going to go badly?
Callie: Yeah, I thought I was going to diffuse the situation and let's go to court. It was a crime of passion. It wasn't premeditated or anything like that. ... There's a lot of things that can go into a prison sentence. It could be manslaughter. So, it doesn't mean she's going to get the electric chair. I was never going to kill Jax, I know that. The gun was a  bullsh-- show, from my perspective.
Photo Gallery: Check out the most heartbreaking TV deaths
Does Unser think that Jax won't kill him?
 No, I didn't think Jax would kill me, no.
To me, it seemed like Unser refusing to leave Gemma alone with Jax was heroic — that he was going to stay there even if it got him killed.
Callie: I didn't think of it as heroic. I really didn't think of the consequences. I was thinking this has got to be the right thing to do. You're going to put your gun away, I'll put my gun away, and that's it. Let's get on with the show here. When he looked at Jax, he said, "I can't do anything else, this is it." She's my friend, you're my friend, and this is the f----ing decision that's got to happen. This is what's got to happen. Even for Jackson's sake too. I don't want any more trouble between him and his mother. It's just getting into the middle of a fight with two people you love. You just keep your arms stretched out holding them apart. I approached it as a friend helping friends.
So, were you satisfied with this being the way Unser's story ended?
 I really had no opinion about it. If [Kurt] wants to take me out, he takes me out. It's his show. I don't have any opinion of it. It was a good seven years, and then, it had to end a week earlier for me. If I'm alive or dead the next episode, what does that matter?
Sons of Anarchy Postmortem: The show's latest victim speaks out
In the same way that outlaws live and die by the sword, do you think part of Unser always knew that his involvement in this world could someday get him killed?
 Yeah, I guess so. If you're a lawman, you've got to have some sense that you might die by the gun, or the knife or whatever. And he did have the cancer, so it wasn't going to be easy. His friends are all screwed up. He really had nobody, so I don't think he was living [a great life]. I don't think [dying] mattered to him that much. I try to do the right thing and make the best decisions, and that was the character I was playing.
Sons of Anarchy's series finale airs Tuesday at 10/9c on FX.