Lincoln Potter: A Q&A With Sons of Anarchy’s Ray McKinnon

I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited, anxious and to be completely honest, scared, about any season finale as I am about tonight’s Sons of Anarchy Season 4 finale. Part of what has made this season so thrilling has been the introduction of agent Lincoln Potter, played by Ray McKinnon. Last week, we took part in a call with McKinnon who let us into the mind of his character and spoke a bit about his role in this season’s story arc.

How did you come into this role, and did you work with Kurt Sutter to help fashion this fascinating character?

Kurt reached out to me, which was surprising. I wasn’t aware he knew me that well and I think he was forced to watch some films that Walton and [I] had made over the years. [Kurt] sent me the first episode of the season and I was just like, “Wow! What a character. I’ve never played anything remotely like this before.” So I kind of had a take on it before I came to LA … I took a lot of the queues from the script so [Kurt and I] didn’t speak that much about it. It was just me interpreting a lot of what Kurt wrote. Then he kept writing, and it became a symbiotic relationship between the writer and the interpreter of writing.

Would you say that Linc doesn’t really understand humanity, that he observes people but doesn’t interact well with them?

I wonder – does he hate humanity, or is he just baffled by them, and the emotionality of them, and the unpredictability of them? Perhaps he just decided at some point in his life to be a little detached from interacting with them. [But] I think there are rare moments in the show where he does connect with human beings, particularly Eli. About mid-way in the season, he realizes he can’t get Eli to change his way of thinking, and he can’t reprogram him. Eli’s too entrenched but he also recognizes that Eli’s a good person, and he tells him that. I think that’s the first time that there’s a genuine upending emotion and feeling behind [Linc], so he’s not a psychopath. He just has an inability to empathize with anybody, and I think he empathizes with Eli so that makes him a little more complicated.

Why do you think viewers tend to sympathize with the corrupt characters on the show rather than a law abiding character such as Linc?

Human beings are funny. If they can identify with people on a human level, which you can with almost everybody on Sons of Anarchy, you feel for them. They’re regular people outside of the fact that they kill and sell drugs and guns and do the things they do, but they have their own form of ethics. People who watch the show, I think they’ve obviously become attached to those characters. My character shows up and he’s not someone you can easily identify with, and I think that really rubs people the wrong way.

You could say Linc is an eccentric character. Where did you get your inspiration for his behaviour and mannerisms?

A lot of the behaviour, the more extreme behaviour, was Kurt … I think he’s definitely eccentric, but I think like most eccentric people he probably puts another layer of that on for show, and I kind of saw him that way. So that informed me along with Kurt’s descriptions as to how he would dress and what his manner would be. I guess it’s just kind of an organic thing the way his mannerisms were but I did enjoy jumping on the tables.

What would you say Lincoln Potter thinks of SAMCRO? Which member does he find contemptible? And on the flip side, do you think he respects any of the club’s members?

Because most of his interactions with the SAMCRO are from a distance, he certainly got to know them through observation [from] afar and through reports of their criminal histories and other means. I don’t know if he was that contemptuous. Perhaps Clay, but I think [Linc], in some ways, envied them [because] he realized that they have a code of ethics that’s for them. They have convictions that are for them. They have something that they’re willing to die for, and I always felt like he secretly admired that ability to commit to something in a way that is emotionally connected because I think he has an inability to do that. I don’t know that he would risk his life, really die for a belief, and I think he’s envious in some ways.

As far as who he respected the most, certainly I would say Gemma in a lot of ways, because first of all, she’s a woman in a male dominated smaller society, and she’s able to thrive and actually go beyond what a lot of women in that culture do. But I think [Linc], in a strange way, respected a lot of those guys, but he also understood that what they’re doing is threatening along with the other cartels and the IRA and the Russian Mafia. It’s a threat … to the security of the United States, he thought, “We’re going to take this down by any means necessary. This is war. This is not let’s play nice and play fair.”

What do you think of your character’s progression throughout this season?

I think they gave him moments of a dimension beyond his Machiavellian approach to bringing down SAMCRO and the other entities. We saw a side of him that was like, He does have an ability at times to have empathy and perhaps even compassion for humans.” I think the last episode — I haven’t seen it, but what was written – there’s a scene between he and Eli that’s very telling. I just love that scene and I hope it’s in the final episode. He’s peeled away for a minute. He’s vulnerable and he’s honest.

Photo Courtesy of FX

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