Lawman in a Grey Area – Sons of Anarchy’s Rockmond Dunbar

When it comes to the law, Sons of Anarchy‘s viewers know that the series operates in a grey area, and new sheriff in town Eli Roosevelt has a lot to contend with in Charming. Actor Rockmond Dunbar, who plays Eli, recently took part in a press call, and gave us some insight into the character and his role in this season’s story.

Dunbar opened up about how he thinks Eli Roosevelt sees himself as the law in this world where nothing is black or white.

“I think he’s an honest, straightforward police officer, no if and or buts. I don’t think he’s a negative, bending the rules type of guy. I think he’s a guy that is straightforward. He loves policing and he loves his job, and he can never be turned, flipped, or turned into something else that he’s not. He will always try to do the right thing and the right way of policing. Unfortunately, and fortunately because of the great storytelling, it always looks a certain way because the bad guys are actually the good guys in the series, so when you have someone who is the new sheriff in town and he’s trying to do his job, some of the things that he might choose to do then look bad or look negative but it’s actually correct policing.”

Being the law-abiding sheriff, Eli is constantly challenged by what is “legal” and what is “right”, especially when it comes to his position on SAMCRO, and not being completely on board with Potter’s goals and tactics. Dunbar gave us a look into Eli’s thoughts on the situation and how things are going to play out.

“It’s going to be very clear towards the end of the season. Those thoughts will actually be verbalized and played into action. But to give you where he is right now he doesn’t like to be manipulated or bend to do things that are unnecessary. So what’s going on in his mind right now is he’s being manipulated and he doesn’t like it, and he’s trying to figure out how to get out of this situation, but also how to police his town. It’s very, very difficult when you are under the stronghold of another government official and can be put in the position where you might not be able to do the things that you love, and so he’s trying to figure that out. He’s very, very conflicted.”

Dunbar does insist that Eli’s views on SAMCRO have remained steadfast, although he may not agree with how Potter is using them or manipulating Juice. He became Sheriff during a volatile time, and has to deal with the ramifications of what happened before his arrival.

“I don’t think his views on the Sons have changed. It might look like his views on the Sons have changed because of where the line is being softened but if he wasn’t being manipulated it would still be the same thing. I think his view of the situation is changing because he’s being manipulated. I don’t think he’s doing anything differently [from his predecessors]. He’s being himself. He’s absolutely just doing what he does best and trying to put it into place in the situation where everyone is treated the same, but, again, that manipulation is being turned over.”

Dunbar made it very clear that although Eli is sympathetic toward Juice, he won’t ever partner up with Juice or anyone who is involved in illegal activities like the Sons are.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see a pairing [between Eli and Juice] because there is a hard line between criminal and law enforcement and that line will never bleed over. It hasn’t so far. But I think my character definitely has sympathy towards Juice because not only am I being manipulated, but he’s being manipulated and that’s just not good policing to Eli. It’s not [that] one’s not fair or it’s interesting. It’s just not right, and he constantly wants to be on the right side of the law. So pairing up with [Juice] and becoming partners and doing something that is illegal, I doubt that will happen. It’s so much more interesting with my character actually working against the Sons but having a hard line of like how he’s going to do it.”

Eli Roosevelt wasn’t supposed to last as long as he has. Dunbar shared some details on his initial meeting with Kurt Sutter, how things have changed, and if his character has a future beyond this season.

“Initially our first conversation was, ‘Hey, look man, we’re going to bring you in for a ten episode arc. You’re going to die. It’s going to be great. I don’t know what your demise is going to be but of course it’s going to be brutal because you know our show.’ And that was my contract. I signed up for it at the very beginning. But once the tenth episode came, that changed so I don’t know what’s going to happen with the character. I have no idea if there will be some type of continuation, but I don’t die so that’s one good thing. But we’ll see.”

SOA has a passionate fanbase that tends to side with the MC, and they’ve had varied reactions to the new sheriff.

“It’s really interesting because I already had a fan base from Prison Break and a small movie that I did … so my audience that I brought to the show [find it] really interesting and new. A lot of people from my Twitter and also from Facebook love the character. The people love to hate him. There are people that are fans from the very beginning, and they were like, ‘You’ve got to die in the next episode. There’s no way.’ But then you start to love to hate him, and it’s really interesting how the character is starting to take new legs. The original fans of the show – even though they love the MC – they’re really kind of pulling for my character at the same time. I think that is just all in the hands of the writers. They created a really great character and I’m trying my best to keep up with them.”

Photo Courtesy of FX

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