As we gear up for tomorrow night’s Sons of Anarchy Season 4 finale, I thought I’d share this Q&A with David Labrava taken from a conference call last month. Labrava shed some light on his character, Happy, and shared a bit of his experience as a writer this season.
What do you think Happy’s role is in this motorcycle club, and how has he changed this season?
I think Happy is getting a little bit more vocal, but like in [any] club, there are all kinds of members, every kind you can imagine. Some guys are basically just soldiers, [like] Happy. He’s there, he’s a solider, he’s not an officer. He doesn’t desire to be an officer, he’s there to just make things happen for the club.
As we near the end of Season 4, what is Happy’s stance on the current situation SAMCRO finds itself in, and who would you say Happy relates to in the club?
No question, Happy relates the most to Jax. You will see it sort of near the end. You’ll see little moments between those two. I have to say Happy respects everybody, but there’s a lot of emotion, it’s a lot of expressions. If you watch closer, you can see the on faces of the actors [that their characters know] they’re getting in deep with this cartel, [but] that’s not who they are.
Happy doesn’t have a lot of dialog, but if you watch closely, he’s watching Juice. It’s painfully apparent [to Happy] that Juice is a rat. Juice has really screwed up with a lot of things going on, and Chibs and Happy are looking at him very closely. But I have to say on just a member level, Happy is basically just a soldier. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not looking for a way out. He has no escape plan. His plan [is] to be in the club and that’s it.
In the YouTube video “Behind the Cut with Happy”, you mention that Happy’s calling is killing people. What is it about Happy that makes him a natural killer?
I remember when Kurt [Sutter] explained to me why I was called Happy, [I asked] “Why didn’t you call me Psycho?” He’s like, “No, because your name is Happy, you’re an assassin for the club and you’re never happy. It’s like ironic.” Like I explained before, Happy is just soldier. I look at Happy, [and] he’s got his aunt and he has his mom, but the real family to Happy is that club. Those are his brothers. That’s his little world. He’s there to do whatever. He is an assassin for the club. This character is this guy who’s ready to do whatever [it takes] for the club. He’s gotten very good at it through time … it’s Happy’s calling to do whatever it takes that the club needs, which is – a lot of the time – killing people.
In your view, what is the writing process like on SoA compared to other writing you’ve done?
Writing a TV show is totally different than writing features. You write a little bit more organically. You start from the beginning to the end – beginning, middle and end. In the TV world, there’s probably at least 25 points that have to get carried over from episode to episode to make the show work. It’s an incredibly creative process to sit in that writers’ room with six other people and pitch ideas until you have a great story, and Kurt comes in. He is an incredible writer, and you pitch ideas until everybody gives feedback and everybody signs off on it. And then you move away to write the dialog and fill in the blanks on the show.
You starting working on SoA as a technical advisor, which turned into acting on and writing for the series. What are your thoughts on that journey, and what would you like to do next?
It seems like the Hollywood thing sort of found me a couple times, because I wasn’t living here trying to do this at all. I’m an artist. I’m a tatoo artist and I went to school to paint and that sort of thing. I started writing and getting published, and I have to say I think every American kid grows up dreaming about being in the movies. That’s completely normal for us. But I mostly wanted to be a writer in my life. Then I got taught the script writing program, and I got a chance to act. I have to say the acting is extremely fun, extremely vital. It’s an incredible crew that I work with.
I enjoy the acting. I didn’t plan on that. It sort of fell into me and I’m having a lot of fun with it, but I’m definitely moving towards directing because I’m naturally a writer. And I think a good director edits, writes, has acted a little bit. He’s done a little bit of everything and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Photo Courtesy of FX