Tested: Sons of Anarchy’s Theo Rossi on “Juice”, Season 4

Sons of Anarchy started Season 4 with a masterpiece of an episode – heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, intense drama – and it has definitely kept up the pace since. This has been a season where the limits of SAMCRO and the relationships within in it are being tested and fragmented. Decisions are being made that aren’t necessarily for the good of the club as a whole, but rather in the interests of specific members. Then there’s true story of what happened to John Thomas Teller that continues to haunt those who know what really caused his death and how this truth could tear the club – and the Teller-Morrow family – apart.

A pleasant surprise this season for me has been Juan Carlos “Juice” Ortiz being put in the spotlight with a tragic and trying storyline, really allowing actor Theo Rossi to leave his mark on the series. In a network conference call with Rossi held earlier this season, he commented on this turn for his character:

“Kurt [Sutter] has eleven series regulars to deal with. I’ve been really blessed and lucky with this character. Through the first three seasons, I’d really gotten to do some pretty memorable stuff – some really great, memorable scenes that the fans seem to have loved. It’s really shown this guy as the soldier that he is and what an enormous and integral part of the club he is even though we haven’t really gone into his back story and really put him as the focus. So to now bring up this issue and to exploit on this story line, it’s just the right time and I couldn’t be happier.”

I asked him about the back story he had created for Juice prior to what he’d learned about the character in Season 4, and how it’s affected his performance. He shared, “The one thing I’ve always known about Juice was he was one of the newer guys; he was extremely, extremely loyal. He really wanted to emulate the older guys, and at the same time was on this level with Jax and Opie in age and really wanted to be hanging out with them. So when things happened to him – [for example] when he got his cut taken in Season 3 – you always felt for the guy because it’s almost like he didn’t fit [into] this world. He looks like he fits in, but he’s this lovable, nice guy. What I’ve created with him is making him really relatable to people, [and that] normal guys [can be part of a motorcycle club], you know, guys who still have a heart and are funny, it’s not just these rough and tough guys. [I’m] not saying he’s not rough and tough, because he is.”

I think that’s precisely why Juice has resonated with fans, because in many ways, he’s been the heart of the MC, the most human face among the members of the Sons, while still being a badass. Rossi touched on this fact when he recalled his reaction to learning about what was in store for Juice in Season 4.

“You know, we have a meeting before the season. Kurt is one of the few show runners that does that – actually sits down and talks to the actor alone, and then with all of the other writers, and basically tells you what he has in mind and what’s going to go down. My God, when I heard mine and I knew what was going to happen, and I got a loose [idea] of what was going to go down, I was so excited … I thought this was so brilliant because Juice is such a lovable character that a lot of people relate to.”

Viewers seem to be fascinated by what leads a person to join something like a motorcycle club, or any club for that matter, and Rossi had some great insight into what Juice found attractive about the Sons, and why people seek membership in any type of club:

“[Juice] definitely doesn’t seem like the typical biker. The thing that attracted Juice to the club, I think – the one thing I have always put in my head and I think Kurt has definitely reassured me on it, and will completely reassure definitely in this season – is he just wanted to be accepted … And I think that when people join clubs, as simple as a sorority or a fraternity, a football team, a baseball team, [they] want to be in a group, want to be around people. I’ve always sensed Juice as this socially awkward guy, and now he gets to have this family, maybe that he always wanted. I think acceptance more than anything is what Juice is looking for and what a lot of people [in general] are looking for.”

Now that we’re in the final stretch of Season 4, something that Rossi said is ringing loud and clear:

“Everything is tested throughout this season and not just with Juice, but with all the relationships of these guys in this club. This entire season is about relationships.”

It’s only a matter of time before we see which relationships weather the storm, if there will be any more “departures” from SAMCRO, and if there will even be a motorcycle club at the end of it all.

Photo Courtesy of FX

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