HB: How did the idea for Sons of Anarchy come to fruition?
I was finishing up on The Shield and curious about doing my own show but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I loved the genre and had a fascination with the outlaw subculture. My main agent, Nicole Clemens, knew that I was an avid rider, had ridden cross-country, and had a Harley. So when my other (future) executive producers father and son, Art and John Linson, were looking to do a project to push the outlaw community, it made sense for John and I to get together. Most times people come to you and they have a story, life rights, a book, or a property that they’ve optioned and they say, “Do you want to turn this into a feature or creation?” But rather than say here’s a book or here’s a property, John knew instinctively that it [outlaw bikers] was a great genre and that it really hadn’t been explored on TV. So they sort of came to me asking if I thought it would work. It was a lot more work on one hand because there was no foundation to build off of, but on the other hand, it allowed me to have complete freedom in terms of the world, story, characters, everything.
“It was a lot more work on one hand because there was no foundation to build off of, but on the other hand, it allowed me to have complete freedom in terms of the world, story, characters, everything. ”
I started doing some basic research on clubs and as most know, when these MCs began they didn’t begin necessarily as outlaw entities. For a lot of the bigger clubs, they were just these war veterans coming back from WWII and Korea getting together to try and recapture some of that sense of adventure and excitement they’d experienced while in service through their love of motorcycles. They really just started out as a pack of guys getting together to have a few beers and blow off some steam. And in a very short period of time, some of them sort of morphed into an organized crime component. And that’s really where I got the idea for the show in terms of what would that first guy who put on a jacket and said, “Lets go grab a few beers and have some fun,” what would that guy think looking back 15 years later at that same group of guys that are now ultimately perhaps involved in much more nefarious activities? What would his point of view be? Would he have regrets, remorse? And that’s where I came up with the idea for the character of John Teller. John Teller started the club for one reason and ultimately it turned into something else. What would his point of view be about that? And from that idea the Hamlet paradigm sort of became a natural fit; that ultimately that character would be gone and we would have his son, the mother, and stepfather that were perhaps responsible for the demise of the father. And that’s where the Hamlet paradigm fit very well, then spun a pilot from that paradigm, and then ultimately the series. But John and Art were very instrumental in making sure I had everything I needed to build the pilot and create the show.