Interview: Kurt Sutter Talks Outlaws, Loyalty, and Racial Stereotypes

Interview: Kurt Sutter Talks Outlaws, Loyalty, and Racial StereotypesInterview by Shannon Metzger (@ShannonAM); Photography by Chris Shonting

The creator of the gnarliest show on TV has a fear of dolls, but that's about all he's afraid of.

Kurt Sutter isn’t a people person, which is ironic considering the Sons of Anarchy creator manages a cast and crew of hundreds. His outlaw biker soap opera is the highest-rated show on the FX network and that’s turned the 48-year-old, who started out as a staff writer for The Shield in 2002, into one of Hollywood’s biggest showrunners. Season 5 premieres tonight and FX has already renewed Sons for two more seasons. The recluse life will have to wait.

An abridged version of this feature appears in Complex's August / September issue.

I read you have a fear of dolls. Where did that come from?
It’s dolls with life-like features. Dolls have always creeped me out. In fact, when Katey and I first started dating, she had these weird dolls in the living room of her house. I’d always get up and turn them the other way whenever she left the room because I felt that they were watching us. They didn’t come to the new house with us. I get to live out some of those fears through some of my characters. I gave the character of Tig that same phobia.

What are you into that people wouldn’t expect?
Gaming, being a dad, birds as pets. I wanted a falcon but the state of Cali said no.

Which role do you prefer?
I’m a writer by nature, a storyteller. It took me a couple of years to figure that out because I did a lot of different things, but I’m a writer who enjoys doing other things.

What do you have in store for Otto the following seasons?
I felt last year that character played an integral role in the story line. It‘s really the most we had ever seen that character, other than popping up for exposition. I think I was actually in five episodes last season, which is quite frankly a little bit too much.

 

I don’t have a lot of gray area with people. There’s very little in between with me, and I’m not saying that as a good thing.

 

As a really big fan, I’m just hoping for Otto to somehow get something. I’m rooting for him.
He’s sort of my Picture of Dorian Gray. All of the bad things that are happening to me emotionally I get to physicalize with Otto. [Laughs.] It’s just a steady downward spiral. Besides the fact that I enjoy acting, and it was my first love, and I’m the only one who will hire me as an actor, it was an opportunity to do that. It really was just because these guys spend so much of their lives on the inside that it was an expositional device to get information and make those connections. That’s the role the character served in the first three seasons.

Then last season we had this arc with Rico that we were able to touch into a bigger emotional arc with Otto and play that out, which was fun. What we do this season with him will not be as integral in terms of story but we’ll be able to play out a little bit more of that Rico arc with him this season.

The big thing about Otto is his undying loyalty to the Sons. Is there anything in your life that you could be as loyal to as Otto is?
By nature I’m a pretty black and white guy, so I don’t have a lot of gray area with people. There’s very little in between with me, and I’m not saying that as a good thing.

There are a lot of things I feel that way about. I feel that way about my show. I feel very proprietary and protective of my show, and therefore of all my actors. I am really clear—as dramatic as this sounds—that I would fucking take a bullet for any of those guys. Of course, my family as well. So yeah, I understand the nature of that.

For me on a personal level, I grew up with two older sisters whom I adore, but growing up without older brothers I just always had this sort of desperate need for camaraderie. I think I’m drawn to that. I’m drawn to characters that need that, that connect to that, because I didn’t have that. So to me it’s a big issue, one that I obviously seek out creatively, and get to write to and play with, but also emotionally I have that desire and that need as well.

Tags: kurt-sutter, sons-of-anarchy, fx
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