10 Wild Facts About Sons of Anarchy

FX Networks
FX Networks

Influenced by Hamlet, Sons of Anarchy centered around a family (both blood-related and not) of grim reaper patch-wearing outlaw bikers in a club known as SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original), based in the fictional town of Charming, California. The show debuted on September 3, 2008 and, over the course of seven seasons, became FX’s top-rated drama.

Katey Sagal played the matriarch, Gemma, whose Harley-riding son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is the "Hamlet" character; he’s caught between pleasing his mother and his stepfather, Clay (Ron Perlman), and honoring his dead father John, a founding member of SAMCRO.

SOA courted controversy because of its grizzly scenes of violence, everything from a tattoo being burned off to a character being forked to death. But the show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, explained: “For me, all that violence—because it’s not who I am and it’s not where I come from—it’s all fantasy. I might as well be writing about wizards and fairies,” he told The Hollywood Reporter

Before creating SOA, Sutter had been a producer and writer on The Shield. Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield, recommended Sutter to producers Art and John Linson. They pitched Sutter a show about outlaw bikers and allowed him to build it from scratch. After 92 episodes of family drama (and multiple major character deaths), the show aired its final episode on December 9, 2014—though FX will premiere a spinoff, Mayans MC, this week. Here are 10 fascinating facts about the beloved biker drama.

1. KURT SUTTER WROTE THE PART OF GEMMA WITH KATEY SAGAL IN MIND.

Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and Married... With Children star Katey Sagal married in 2004 and have since collaborated on several projects together. In an interview with NPR, Sagal said Sutter wrote the character of Gemma with her and their family dynamic in mind.

“If you asked him, what he would tell you probably is when he came into my life, I already had two children, and he’s their stepparent, and I was very protective of my children," Sagal said. "... He hadn’t been around that kind of energy quite so much, so I think that’s what was the springboard for Gemma. It was not so much the heinous things she does; it was that at her core, her motivation is her children, is her child. At any cost, she will protect him and her club.”

2. RON PERLMAN WASN’T THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY CLAY.

The original pilot featured Scott Glenn as Clay Morrow, president of SAMCRO. “The network decided that they weren’t getting what they were hoping to get and ... they loved the series enough [that] if they thought they found the right actor, they were willing to reshoot the pilot and restart the clock and green light the show for a whole first season, which is 13 episodes,” Perlman told NPR. The producers felt Glenn was too subtle and not dynamic enough. “So I understood going into it that, you know—that they were looking for a more operatic version of this guy,” Perlman said. “I happened to be free that week.”

Perlman auditioned for the show, unsure if he could play a character that lacked duality. “He has no feminine side whatsoever and I really didn’t know whether I could, whether I had the chops to pull it off,” Perlman told Collider.

3. TARA WAS “THE MORAL CENTER” OF THE SHOW.

Prashant Gupta, FX Networks

With chatting with Entertainment Weekly, Maggie Siff—who played Dr. Tara Knowles—agreed that her character was "the moral center of the show" for part of its run. “I think Kurt used her as a window, through which the audience could experience the club and the life of the club,” she said. “You could see her loving these people in spite of herself, in spite of knowing better. I think she remained a moral center in that she continues to be one of the only in the world who experiences real emotional conflict around the violence and the difficulty and the pain of the life and wanting something better for her children.”

4. PEOPLE LOVED TO GIVE CHARLIE HUNNAM KNIVES.

On the show, Charlie Hunnam's character Jax carries around a Ka-Bar knife. Hunnam said knives were part of biker culture, and California allows people to carry them. “You’re allowed to carry a knife with a no longer than six-inch blade," Hunnam told GQ. "Still, six inches is a pretty big knife!”

That signature accessory became a popular gift from Hunnam's fans. “I have dozens of Ka-Bars that military guys have given me and I’ve been told that a couple of them ‘have been used.’ Which is a little bit ... grimy, you know? I’m not sure about the energy of that.” 

5. SUTTER RAN INTO ISSUES WITH STANDARDS & PRACTICES.

Because FX forbade the use of the F-word, characters replaced it with “Jesus Christ.” “There was one season where they were, like, counting my ‘Jesus Christs’ because somebody on the Fox food chain thought it was so blasphemous,” Sutter told Entertainment Weekly.

John Landgraf, CEO of FX, took issue with some of Sutter's ideas, including the castration of a clown—Kurt wanted the visual, FX did not. “I totally acknowledge the need for violence,” Landgraf said. “It’s a violent world and a violent show. He’s portraying really tragic, dark consequences of violence. Kurt wants to show it in very graphic detail, and I want to leave more to the imagination.”

Sutter told GQ that all of the violence had to be organic, not gratuitous. “When we’re f***ing burning a tattoo with a blowtorch off a guy’s back, that is one of the most extreme decisions these guys may be making, but it’s real to the world,” he said. “I love being able to do things like that, and playing in worlds that allow me to do that.”

6. SAGAL WORRIED HER CHARACTER WOULD ALIENATE FANS.

Prashant Gupta, FX Networks

[SPOILER ALERT] During the season six finale, Gemma unexpectedly murders Jax’s wife, Tara, using a carving fork. “When I first realized that Gemma was going to kill Tara, I had a moment like, oh s**t, man, nobody’s going to wanna see Gemma again. She’s killing beloved Tara!” Sagal told People. Fortunately, the death didn’t alienate fans like Sagal thought it would. “The very next day, I went to do an autograph session and people were showing up with forks for me to sign,” Sagal said. “And I thought, 'Oh, okay.'”

7. SUTTER LIKED THE IRONY OF MOTORCYCLE CULTURE.

Sutter, who rides motorcycles in real life, told The Verge that he'd always been "fascinated by the irony of motorcycle clubs. Because they say they’re all about 'ride free' and 'f*** the establishment.' But within the structure of these outlaw clubs, there are more rules and regulations than you or I have. They’re like little military units. And I love the irony of that."

Sutter further explained that the club represents the ideal of how Americans “take care of our own,” which is the theme of the show. “Yes, it’s about family, but it’s also about community and village and the organization you belong to … That’s part of the positive stereotype we represent as a nation—that sense of no matter how f**ked up or damaged these people are, and they are, there’s something wholly familial about them.”

8. STEPHEN KING WAS A MAJOR FAN, AND MADE A CAMEO.

Stephen King was a big fan of the show, writing in an Entertainment Weekly column that “it’s one of those shows that seems to have gotten better as it goes along.” Sutter contacted him and asked him to appear in an episode.

“He assured me that he’d write me a suitably nasty part (in various films I’ve been stuck playing a series of mentally challenged country bumpkins); most important of all, he said he’d put me on a bitchin’ Harley. How could I say no?” King wrote on his website. In the season three episode “Caregiver,” King played a cleaner named Bachman—a reference to Richard Bachman, a pen name King used to go by.

9. WALTON GOGGINS CONVINCED SUTTER TO LET HIM BE TRANSGENDER.

FX Networks

Sutter invited some former cast members from The Shield to cameo on Sons of Anarchy, but he was initially against having Walton Goggins appear. “It would be very hard for our audience to accept them as anybody else,” Goggins told Entertainment Weekly. “I called and said, ‘That’s bulls**t! Come on!’ And we went back and forth, like how would we do it? I wouldn’t want to do it as anything that would be compared to The Shield. And then I just said to Kurt, ‘I’ll do it if I can be a transgender. I would like to play a transgender.’ He said, ‘No, you wouldn’t.’ I said, ‘Oh yes, absolutely, I would. Let’s do it as a transgender.’”

For six episodes, between 2012 and 2014, Goggins played Venus Van Dam, a play on Goggins’s Shield alias Cletus Van Damme. At one point, Venus began a romance with SAMCRO member Tig (Kim Coates).

10. CHARLIE HUNNAM HAD A DIFFICULT TIME LETTING GO OF JAX.

Hunnam played Jax for eight years. When it came time to end the show, he said it was emotional for him to separate himself from the character. “I found myself going back to set a lot,” he told Glamour. “I knew the security guards and for a couple of days said, ‘Oh, I forgot something,’ so they’d let me onto the set, and I’d just walk around at night because I wanted to be in that environment and go through a personal process of saying goodbye. After a couple of nights I didn’t really need the alibi to get in, and then after a while I just said, ‘OK, enough, this is done.’”

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping Newsletter!

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

What Movie Do You Want to Watch? This Website Analyzes Film Critic Reviews to Help You Choose

She's smiling because it only took her two minutes to choose a movie.
She's smiling because it only took her two minutes to choose a movie.
Rowan Jordan/iStock via Getty Images

Much like sommeliers can detect subtle notes of who-knows-what in a sip of wine, film critics are fantastic at identifying influences and drawing parallels between movies. Cinetrii is a handy website that crowdsources all that movie knowledge to help you find your next favorite film.

Basically, you enter the name of a movie you enjoyed in the search bar, and the site will show you a node graph with film recommendations splintering off the search query. Click on one, and you’ll see a quote from a critic (or critics) who referenced the films together. This way, you get a list of recommendations based on different aspects of the movie, and you get to decide for yourself what you’d like to see more of.

If, for example, you were blown away by the special effects in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, you might like Doctor Strange; according to Variety, it boasts “a staggering visual effects innovation, in which the building-bending seen in Christopher Nolan’s Inception is taken to an extreme that would blow even M.C. Escher’s mind.” If what the Chicago Tribune calls an “elegant brain-bender” quality appealed to you more, The Matrix might be a perfect fit.

Films above your search query were released before the movie you typed in, while films below came out after it. The shorter the line, the more closely the films are related, as calculated by the website’s algorithm. And, as Lifehacker points out, that algorithm doesn’t give any special treatment to massive Hollywood blockbusters, so Cinetrii is an especially great way to find hidden gems. Because it shows you the critics' actual quotes, you’re not left to wonder why a certain film landed on the recommendations list—which can’t always be said for “Watch next” lists on streaming services.

You can explore Cinetrii here.

[h/t Lifehacker]