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article imageHenry Rollins' long journey from Black Flag to Sons Of Anarchy Special

By Earl Dittman     Oct 28, 2009 in Entertainment
The one-time Black Flag front man, current talk show host & spoken work performer is now a full-fledged actor with a leading role on Sons Of Anarchy. The SoCal punk forefather talks about his role on SOA and why fans shouldn't expect a Black Flag reunion
Henry Rollins, the former lead singer of the seminal 1980’s Southern California hardcore punk rock band Black Flag, a dramatic/comic actor (Heat, BadBoys 2, Wrong Turn 2), host of IFC's controversial talk fest The Henry Rollins Show and a highly acclaimed spoken word artist (as seen on IFC's Henry Rollins: Uncut) is now a key player and costar of Season Two of the FX Channel's critically acclaimed series Sons Of Anarchy. Long considered the Godfather of SoCal punk rock, Rollins continues to be a cult hero to music lovers of all ages. Rollins latest love, however, is acting. On the sophomore season of Sons of Anarchy, Henry Rollins portrays A.J. Weston, a ruthless Neo-Nazi working for a Machiavellian-like, White Power-leader Ethan Zoebelle, played by Adam Arkin, who plans to take over the fictional Northern California town of Charming by flooding it with illegal drugs and guns -- which also means bringing down the Sons Of Anarchy motorcycle club.
An intense, brutal and take-no-prisoners type of series that continually pushes the creative envelope, Sons Of Anarchy is the creation of writer/producer Kurt Sutter (the mastermind behind The Shield) and it chronicles an international outlaw motorcycle club that brandishes their own kind of law in Charming.
The Sons Of Anarchy
The Sons Of Anarchy
Fox
Back from its highly-rated debut season are Charlie Hunnam (Nicholas Nickleby), who stars as Jax Teller, a man whose love for the brotherhood is tested by his growing apprehension for its lawlessness thanks to the birth of his newborn son and the discovery of a life-altering journal written by his father years ago. He lives his life under the watchful eye of his force-of-nature mother Gemma (former Married With Children star Katey Sagal) and his stepfather/club president Clay (Hellboy star Ron Perlman), Jax is forced to keep his friends close and his enemies closer as he slowly begins to distance himself from those he considers family. Behind the SOA's familial lifestyle and legally thriving automotive shop is a ruthless and illegally thriving arms business — and the always present seduction of money, power, and blood. With white supremacists, gunrunning hoodlums, meth-dealing rivals and crooked cops always out the get them, the Sons of Anarchy live an exciting, risky and chaotic life that makes for brilliant television viewing.
During a frank interview during a recent press outing in Los Angeles, Rollins talks about his role on Sons Of Anarchy, what it is like portraying such a despicable character and if he actually rides a motorcycle. Also, the former Black Flag leader confesses that he was once a big Jackson Five fan and talks about how knowing all the lyrics to their hit “A-B-C” saved him from daily beatings, he discusses his work with a charity that brings water to Ugandans and Rollins explains why he continues on with his spoken word tours but how witnessing a performance of a reformed Van Halen convinced him that he’ll probably never participate in a Black Flag reunion
Charlie Hunnam on Sons Of Anarchy
Charlie Hunnam on Sons Of Anarchy
Fox
How do you like being on Sons of Anarchy? “It’s been great work. All the people on the show are all real cool, and it’s people you respect. To get to be on a show with Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal, forget it. They’re the nicest people. And the lead, Charlie Hunnam, is a guy with nine trucks of charisma behind him. He’s amazing. I don’t even think he understands what he’s got. He’s got that James Dean thing. He’s all instinct, and it’s just great to watch him work because he’s super-impressive, and he’s a nice guy too. He’s one of those guys I’ll be keeping my eyes on, just because I think he’s going to be big. It’s nice to be around these people, and there’s no hierarchy on the set, in that there’s no one you have to tip-toe around. Everyone is cool and funny, and we’re hard-working, so it’s been a blast.
How do you describe your character on the show? “I’m an awful man, named A.J. Weston. He’s a neo-Nazi, a White separatist, a White supremacist type. He has no redeeming social qualities, except that he likes his kids. Past that, he’s incorrigible and awful. My boss is even more awful because he’s a Machiavellian character, played by Adam Arkin, who is brilliant. I’m a bad guy that does bad things, and my enemy is the Sons of Anarchy. And, they hate me, too, believe me.”
What was your reaction when you got the call about playing a character like this? “Well, my reaction was initially, my manager said, (producer/creator) ‘Kurt Sutter would like to speak to you.’ So I got in my mighty Subaru Outback and jetted over to his office as quickly as possible just to shake the hand. (laughs) So when we got into discussion about the character, I thought it really interesting, and I went at it with all speed. So there was no hesitation on my part.”
Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins
IFC
Is it difficult to play such an unlikeable character like A.J.? How hard was it to get through that final scene (raping of Gemma) in the first episode of Season 2? “It was a little much. It was tough to shoot, for all of us -- the whole crew and all the actors involved. It was not cool. It was part of the story and we had to do it, but it was a huge relief when they said, ‘Okay, we’ve got it. That’s all we need.’ We shot that one fast, with as few takes as possible because no one wanted to be staying on that one very long. It took about three hours to shoot, and it was a long three hours. That made the rest of the things I had to do a lark, in comparison. Just being violent and hitting someone, or hitting a stuntman, is a relief. It’s easy for me to play bad guys because it’s a very linear acting. Bad guys aren’t empathetic. Being a bad guy is great because you’re not friendly and you don’t have to do much with your face. It’s like, ‘Good morning. I want to kill you.’ That’s it. So, for a guy with limited capability, it’s good for a guy like me.”
It sounds like you see your character, A.J., as a bad guy. “My character actually thinks, if you let him and his people take control of America, it would be a better place because we’d get rid of all the non-Whites.”
You’re not sympathizing with him to play him are you? “No. I can be very removed and just execute the scenes very well. I’ve been around people like him. I get hate mail from people like him. I’ve seen documentaries on all of this. I contribute a large amount of money to the Southern Poverty Law Center, so I’m on their mailing list for all their Klan watch newsletters. I’m very well aware of White Power movements in America. They followed me around and came to my gigs for years, handing out propaganda, so his ideology is not foreign to me, at all.”
Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins
IFC
Do you ride motorcycles? “Not on the show and not in real life. No, they terrify me. I’ve got no interest in that kind of thing, at all. Skydiving and motorcycles are not where my courage lies. I need to get some courage.”
We lost some major musical legends this past summer. What were your thoughts on that? “I felt broke up about Sky Saxon. Sky Saxon from The Seeds is gone. He and I used to hang out, every once in awhile. He was something else. The Michael Jackson thing is sad because he seemed like a nice enough guy. Too bad he didn’t have some people around him who cooled him out. It’s a shame. No one should die when they’re fifty. I’m an old person. I remember when Jackson 5 singles were being released. One of the only reasons I didn’t get creamed every day, at the all Black school that I went to, was that I could sing all those songs. And so, it spared me some beatings and I got to keep my lunch more often than not because I could sing ‘A-B-C’ with my classmates. I have many fond memories of that.”
Are you still touring with your spoken word show? “Yeah. I’ve been doing talking shows non-stop, since about ‘06. The last band tour with Black Flag was 2006. I loved doing the music, but it ceased being a thing that I didn’t know everything about already. I felt like I was in year five at a university. It was like, ‘Shouldn’t I be moving on?’ And then, I saw Van Halen play, the following year in Chicago, on a night off, and they were great, but I used to see them when I was fifteen and, to see men in their fifties play music that they wrote in their twenties, although they played it well, artistically, it was a non-starter.
The Henry Rollins Show
The Henry Rollins Show
IFC
And, I said, ‘Okay, I don’t want to do that. I want to keep challenging myself, like Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington.’ I’m not equating myself to them, but I liked the way they just kept erasing the chalkboard and starting over again. In music, I’d have to go up there and play those fifteen songs that, you know, unless everyone wants to riot, and I don’t want to do it. If I was Mick Jagger, I wouldn’t want to sing ‘Satisfaction,’ so I don’t want to do my own microscopic version of that. The talking shows change day to day because the information changes. So, I’ve been taking more photographs, writing more, speaking more and doing more fundraising. The greyer I get, the more money I try to raise for people in the world.”
What type of charity work are you doing at the moment? “I’ve been doing stuff on behalf of different African countries, like drilling water in Uganda. I’ve been trying to raise money for water well drilling in Uganda. There’s an outfit called Drop in the Bucket, and I was the keynote speaker at their last fundraiser. They’re trying to make water closer to the village, so the women who have to carry the water don’t have to hike three miles and get attacked on their way home. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff like that. If someone said, ‘Go out and do a music tour,’ I’d be like, ‘Really? Do I have to?’ I’ve done twenty million of them. And, I’m not dissing the music. It’s been good to me, and I’ve tried to serve it well, but I must admit that I felt a little old up there, last time around.”
Black Flag live in 1983
Black Flag live in 1983
Wikipedia
Do you feel bad about the fans who are just discovering your music now, but can’t see you tour and perform? “Yeah, it’s weird. When you get old and you’re finally good at all this stuff, your hair turns grey and that’s when all these people go, ‘Hey, you guys are on to something?’ It’s like, ‘Where were you, twenty years ago?’ I’m sure, if I went out and did all those old songs this summer, it would be very well-received, but I’d feel like a sell-out doing it. Believe me, I miss those songs. I like eating pizza every day, too, but I know I can’t. And so, I’d like to go out and sing all those old songs. I love them. I love them as much now, as I did the first day I played them. But, I think it’s artistically lazy and I have to respect myself. That’s it. It sucks to have some integrity, or to think you do ‘cause it cuts down your fun factor. The problem that I encountered in ‘06 was that I had a problem revisiting that stuff. I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t want to go back to this. It’s yesterday.’ I felt like I was in the way back machine. It was instant nostalgia, every night. And then, when I saw Van Halen do it, and they did it very well, I realized that I didn’t want to do that.”
Untitled
Fox
Sons Of Anarchy: Season One now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Catch Sons Of Anarchy every Tuesday 10:00p.m./9:00p.m. (EST/CST) on FX.
Henry Rollins: Uncut and The Henry Rollins Show on IFC (Independent Film Channel). Check local listings.
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