Kim Coates On Sons of Anarchy Chaos + Charlie Hunnam’s Ascending Stardom

Last night’s Sons of Anarchy season premiere was chaotic: Sodomy, nude heroin use, torture porn, shootouts, prison fights, drowning a man in a tub of urine, adultery, and a child gunning down his classmates with a semi-automatic? Kim Coates warned us about the insanity that would ensue in season six, but we turned a deaf ear and tuned-in anyway. Welcome back to Charming, y’all.

Before Kim Coates was scooped up by show creator Kurt Sutter to play Tig, he had never been a regular on TV. Small guest-stints on Entourage, Prison Break, CSI: Miami, and Smallville were more within his wheelhouse, and Sutter had to convince him to join the Sons of Anarchy cast. A lifelong biker, Coates dove in to motorcycle club folklore and began immersing himself in the mentalities surrounding brotherhood.

Tig Trager is a complex character. He’s impulsively violent, but his loyalty, sentimental nature, and sense of humor make you forgive his sociopathic tendencies. “He does so many things wrong, and he does so many things right,” Coates told me of the character he’s nurtured along this six-season journey when we spoke over the phone last week. “I think the fan base has come to closely appreciate him and love that about him.”

Since Tig’s been put through a number of disturbing situations on the show, Coates has prepared for the role by doing extensive work with his friend and licensed physiologist Dr. Sam Alibrando. “I’ve spent many a session with him, talking about human behavior, and talking about human emotions. How in the world could you ever prepare for watching your own daughter burn in a pit in front of you, and you’re chained with handcuffs like an animal?” Good question. And after going so deeply into the human consciousness, Coates admits to having to shuffle those dark feelings aside until the season five finale when Tig was finally able to get revenge and off his daughter’s killer Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau). “It’s one of my favorite episodes.”

As last night’s season six opener continued to demonstrate, Kurt Sutter’s world of Charming is twisted and overflowing with bad guys. But as Coates pointed out during our conversation, “there always seems to be badder forces out there than us.”

“Season four was huge for Theo [Rossi, who plays Juice] and season five was huge for me. This season is just — oh my god — f—ed up,” asserted Coates. And he’s right.

SPOILER ALERT! The premiere opened with Sutter’s Otto being punish-raped in prison and continued to spiral out of control from there. Porn star Ima sets Lyla up to be brutalized by Iranian pornographers, and Tig revisits the trauma from his daughter’s death and kills a man over being goaded. Clay is locked up and might take a deal to save his own skin from Pope’s incarcerated army, and Tara’s getting in prison brawls while her husband, Jax, the reason she’s in there in first place, is breaking his marriage oath and having sex with new brothel-running character, Colette. Yuck!

Just in case that’s not enough for viewers, a little blond boy with a semi-automatic is shown opening fire inside his school toward the end of the 90-minute episode. His mother, unfortunately for Nero and the MC, is the girlfriend on of Dave Navarro’s new character, Arcadio, Nero’s cousin. (Sutter defended the decision to include this thread in the show during an interview with EW that launched directly after the premiere aired.)

Episode one was disturbing to watch last night, but beyond the premiere party, Coates doesn’t screen the seasons until they’re completely finished filming them. “For me, honestly: what they keep in, what they don’t keep in, how it’s cut… it drives me crazy sometimes.”

With all the interwoven sub-plots, the Sons of Anarchy actors generally don’t cross paths if they’re not shooting scenes together, but according to Coates, they all get along famously when the cameras stop rolling. And it makes sense; with such a successful series that’s carried by a multitude of strong stars, what’s not to like?

“We’re that show that’s done what no other show’s ever done in cable, and that’s go up every year,” Coates waxed about Sons’ growing ratings. “That’s really crazy if you think about it.” And now that Charlie Hunnam has signed on to play Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey out in 2014, will Sons see an influx of even more new fans this season?

Charlie’s being torn apart right now,” confessed Coates toward the end of our phone call on Friday. “I don’t know what it’s like to be Charlie Hunnam… The kind of TMZ stuff that’s out there now, and the photographers that must be flocking around [him] and his house, it’s insane-ville now for him.”

Despite the press hullabaloo surrounding Sons of Anarchy’s leading man, Coates made mention that — whether it’s on set or at charity events to support the troops — there’s been no change in vibe among the cast members as a whole. Moving on to new ventures is expected with this bunch, and he, too, is looking forward to projects outside of the show in the future.

“It’s tough when you’re shooting a series like this to be available for everything you want to be available for, but shame on me,” he noted with sarcasm, “I’m in a hit television series.” Usually shooting one or two movies on his off season, the Canadian actor brought up a future collaboration with “dearest buddy” William Fichtner. Coates has appeared on Europe-set crime show Crossing Lines with Fichtner, and hopes to come back in future episodes to “cause some more trouble.”

In addition, Coates and Fichtner are looking to work on a film together, one that Fichtner wrote and would direct, and the two would co-produce and star in. “Fingers crossed that we’ll be shooting that next year as well.”

Overall, things are all falling into place for the Sons of Anarchy star. And while his co-star’s spotlight might be growing to a size larger than he’d want for himself, Coates has nothing but kind words for Hunnam’s new ventures. “I really care for Charlie and I hope he stays really focused… I know he will.”

Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10/9c on FX.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images, FX]