Sons of Anarchy charted the fates of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Redwood Original club, or SAMCRO, as they ran guns, took on rival biker gangs and generally lived the outlaw lifestyle – much to chagrin of the residents of Charming, California.
Created by The Shield writer and executive producer Kurt Sutter, Sons of Anarchy can be summed up as Hamlet on two wheels. In the show, Jax Teller, the Hamlet character, is torn between the memory of his father and his feelings towards his mother and step-dad, who also happens to be the man who usurped his father as club president. Only in this version Hamlet is heavily armed and rides a Harley.
When Sons of Anarchy premiered in 2008 it averaged 2.8 million viewers. But by the time its seventh and final season aired, it was pulling in over 10 million viewers, making it by far the biggest hit on FX. Among the cast were up and comers, veteran character actors and real-life Hells Angels. But who crashed into the A-list, and who got stuck in the character actor slow lane?
With that in mind, here's Sons of Anarchy: 8 Stars Who Became A-Listers (And 7 Who Flopped).
15 A-Lister: Walton Goggins (Venus van Dam)
When Kurt Sutter stated he wasn’t going to cast Walton Goggins and Michael Chiklis in SoA because of their associations with his previous show, The Shield, Goggins got in touch. Suggesting that he play a character that no one would ever associate with disgraced detective Shane Vendrell, Goggins entered SoA lore as the transgender Venus van Dam. Seriously, Goggins is barely recognizable in make-up, blond wig and prosthetics.
Touchingly, Venus featured in one of the show’s few happy endings when she get together with Tig.
Chiklis would have a more fateful part to play in SoA’s final episode.
While he was stealing every scene he was in as Venus, Goggins was also making a name for himself in the career defining role as Boyd Crowder in the Southern Fried crime drama Justified. A role that led to Goggins being cast by Quentin Tarantino in both Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. From there it’s been nothing but high profile turns in major TV shows and movies, including Lara Croft’s antagonist in Tomb Raider, the co-lead alongside Danny McBride in Vice Principals, and as captured Navy Seal Richard ‘Rip’ Taggart in Six.
But perhaps most exciting is Goggins' upcoming role in Ant-Man and the Wasp, where he’ll be playing the villainous Sonny Burch. A truly awesome addition to the MCU.
14 Flopped: Niko Nicotera (Ratboy Skogstrom)
Niko Nicotera was a late addition to SoA when he joined the show in its fourth season as prospect Ratboy Skogstrom. Ratboy’s time as a prospect can be politely described as ‘intense’. Not only does he endure a bout of Russian roulette to prove his loyalty, but also has to keep secret Opie’s attempted elimination of Clay. Ratboy always had that special look of crazy, so it made sense when he posed as the mentally not-quite-there Tig’s son to infiltrate a farm. By the time the show ended, he had taken part in the final vote that sealed Jax’s fate and been made a fully-patched member of the club. Way to go, Ratboy!
However, German born Nicotera’s post-SoA career hasn’t exactly burnt rubber. Nicotera has gone on to minor parts and guest appearances in network and cable television shows, including Halt and Catch Fire, Gotham, MacGyver, where he played despicable bomb maker The Ghost, and three episodes of You’re the Worst. In the world of film, his most notable credit in The Purge: Anarchy as love rat Roddy who meets his fate in the annual purge.
13 A-Lister: Taylor Sheridan (Deputy Chief David Hale)
For those who stayed with the show for its entire run, it’s easy to forget Deputy Chief David Hale. Idealistic and committed to ridding the small Californian town of Charming of SAMCRO, Hale was one of the show’s lead characters for the first two seasons. Starting off as an antagonist of Jax, the two men start to come to an understanding of sorts at the start of the third season. Not that it matters when Hale is shockingly, and unexpectedly, taken out when he is hit by a van during a drive-by shooting at Half-Sack’s funeral.
Sutter has suggested that the reason for Hale’s unexpected demise was Sheridan’s desire to move on to other projects. Well, if the other project was to get behind the camera, then Hale’s sacrifice was for the greater cinematic good.
Since leaving SoA, Sheridan has become one of the hottest screenwriters around. Turning in brutal, no holds barred screenplays for Sicario, its truly epic looking sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Hell or High Water and Wind River, which he also directed, he hasn’t yet put a foot wrong. Next up is directing and writing duties on Yellowstone, a 10-part modern western starring Kevin Costner.
12 Flopped: David Labrava (Happy Lowman)
Having ridden a Harley since he was 17, real life Hells Angel David Labrava was originally hired as a technical advisor on SoA. When Labrava asked Kurt Sutter if he could having a speaking part on the show, the show’s creator said yes and fan favourite Happy Lowman was born. One of SAMCRO’s chief enforcers, Happy enjoys taking people out. So much so that he gets a tattoo of a happy face every time he takes a life – hence the name. In a nice touch, Happy also shares his name with Happy Loman, the lead character in Arthur Miller’s revered play Death of a Salesman.
As well as doing double duties as the show’s technical advisor, Labrava co-wrote the episode Hands. In this heartbreaking episode, Jax and Tara enjoy a momentary glimpse of domestic bliss before their short-lived peace is broken by an attempted kidnapping.
Since leaving SAMCRO, Labrava has only notched up a couple of other acting credits. But, to be fair, Labrava has always been busy running other enterprises, including a tattoo parlour opposite the Oakland Hells Angels club in California, his own production company and a clothing company. Tragically, Labrava was recently in the news when his teenage son sadly passed away.
11 A-Lister: Maggie Siff (Tara Knowles)
Maggie Siff was already making a name for herself with memorable roles in Mad Men and Nip/Tick before she took on the role of Jax’s love interest Dr. Tara Knowles. Tara returns to the town of Charming after an eleven year absence, calling the town the safest place she’s ever known. Tara, you couldn’t be more wrong.
After getting with her ex-high school boyfriend Jax Teller, she is once again plunged into the world of SAMCRO, eventually marrying Jax and being framed for conspiracy. She also has numerous run-ins with Jax’s domineering mother, Gemma. In what is one of the most hardcore sequences in television history, the two women’s rivalry comes to a head when Gemma beats Tara and eventually eliminates her entirely. It was a brutal act that has far reaching consequences for Gemma in the seventh season.
Since Tara’s gruesome demise, Siff has become a feature of A-list television with her starring role as in the critically-acclaimed hedge fund drama Billions, where she plays performance coach Wendy Rhodes alongside heavyweights Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis. She's also had roles in a few different movies and is currently filming another entitle The Short History of The Long Road, which also stars Danny Trejo.
10 Flopped: Johnny Lewis (Half-Sack Epps)
Played by Johnny Lewis, Kip 'Half-Sack' Epps was an Iraq War veteran and prospective SAMCRO member who, as the nickname suggests, lost one of his privates in combat. Constantly hazed by the other members of the club in the show’s first two seasons and sometimes simple-minded, Half-Sack is surprisingly tough. Half-Sack’s most memorable storyline was competing in a bare-knuckle boxing competition to raise money for the club. When instructed to take a dive so Chibs and Tig could win a bet, Half-Sack refuses and instead knocks out his opponent. This results in Half-Sack being in a $35,000 debt to the club. In an ill-conceived, yet typical, plan to make good on his debt, he steals an ambulance with the intention of selling it.
Despite being something of a goofball, Half Sack passes while bravely defending Jax’s son Abel Teller from Cameron Hayes at the end of the second season.
Tragically in real-life, actor Johnny Lewis had several run-ins with the law, including prison sentences for assault. This ended with him passing moments after an altercation with landlady.
Kurt Sutter wrote on his website at the time, “It was a tragic end for an extremely talented guy, who unfortunately had lost his way. I wish I could say that I was shocked by the events last night, but I was not. I am deeply sorry that an innocent life had to be thrown into his destructive path. yes, it's day or mourning, but it's also a day of awareness and gratitude."
9 A-Lister: Katey Segal (Gemma Teller Morrow)
Having appeared as Peggy Bundy an incredible 260 times on Married... with Children and provided the voice of one-eyed, no-nonsense intergalactic delivery driver Leela in Futurama, Katey Segal was an A-lister well before she took on the role of SAMCRO’s Old Lady Gemma Teller. She also had a role in Sutter's previous project, The Shield, and was the female lead on 8 Simple Rules, the charming comedy that was John Ritter's last before his passing.
Unscrupulous, married to Clay Morrow, and with an undying loyalty to SAMCRO, Gemma’s decisions and her single-minded dedication to family prove to be her demise – along with plenty of others – when she is finally taken out by her son Jax for what she did to his wife, Tara.
Following SoA, Segal went on to star in show creator and husband Kurt Sutter's next project, The Bastard Executioner. In the short-lived show, Segal played Annora of the Alders, a mystic healer with a wild accent (is it Welsh?) who serves as counsellor to the eponymous executioner, Wilkin Brattle.
Since that show got cancelled, Segal has appeared in lighter fare, such as Brooklyn Nine Nine and the recently renewed Superior Donuts.
8 Flopped: Tommy Flanagan (Filip 'Chibs' Telford)
Calm, level-headed and experienced, Scottish-born Filip ‘Chibs’ Telford was the club’s only non-American member and one of Jax Teller’s most loyal confidants. By the time SoA had crashed out of the schedules, Chibs – so-called because of the scars on his face – had earned the club's president patch, settled a score with his arch-enemy Jimmy O’Phelon and been a father-like figure to Juice – although that last part didn’t turn exactly as planned. He was also one of the few members of SAMCRO left breathing at the end of the show's run.
While SoA wasn’t the path to leading man status, it did provide Flanagan a long-term gig for the noted character actor.
Before climbing onto Chib’s Harley Davidson Dyna Street Bob, Flanagan had consistently appeared in major TV shows and movies on both sides of the Atlantic. Early in his career he put in a memorable performances fighting off the English in Mel Gibson’s Oscar winning Braveheart, was part of a John Woo Mexican standoff in Face/Off and played Russell Crowe’s loyal servent Cicero in Gladiator.
Following the show, Flanagan has continued to flourish in supporting roles, including Tullk in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II, Netflix’s Sand Castle and Redliners opposite Sharon Stone. Next up, he’ll be reunited with Charlie Hunnam in the remake of Papillon.
7 A-Lister: Titus Welliver (Jimmy O’Phelan)
Before he was the most hardboiled of hardboiled police detectives in the truly awesome Bosch, Titus Welliver played True IRA gun runner Jimmy O’Phelan in the show’s third season. One of SOA’s true lowlifes, O’Phelan uses the kidnapping of Jax’s son Abel to his own advantage. Through a series of convoluted plot twists, the Sons finally track Jimmy down and arch-enemy Chibs extracts revenge on the man who gave him his scars.
Why the show’s producers couldn’t get an actual actor from Northern Ireland is something of a mystery, especially when Welliver’s accent is not exactly the most authentic. But, to be fair, season three was a rare misstep for the great show as the Sons travelled to Northern Ireland to rescue Abel.
Like other SoA actors, Welliver first found fame in Deadwood, where he played bagman Silas Adams. This was followed by appearances in Ben Affleck’s directorial debut Gone Baby Gone and as Glen Childs in The Good Wife. It’s been a winding highway to the A-list for Welliver, but he’s finally made the transition to leading man with his note perfect rendition of Michael Connelly’s Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch. In the role, Welliver so perfectly inhabits the character as to make you forget any previous sins for dodgy Irish accents.
6 Flopped: Kim Coates (Alexander ‘Tig' Trager)
Tough, sometimes brutal, and with a definite penchant for violence when it’s not always needed, Tig was also a pretty far out-there character. There was his fear of dolls, something he shares with show creator Kurt Sutter. Then there’s the one-liners that provide an insight on Tig’s delicate mental state. For example, here’s Tig on disposing of evidence, “I’ll flush their bellies with bleach. No DNA.” Yikes! Thankfully, Tig was one of the few characters to have a happy ending. By the time the show’s finale rolls round, he has been promoted to the club’s vice-president and found love with Venus van Dam.
While SoA didn’t turn Coates into an A-lister – and to be honest, the role of Tig was never going to be that role – it has cemented his status as a character actor guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Recent roles include Ghost Wars and Netflix’s excellent female-led western, Godless, where he played Ed Logan.
Oh, and if you haven’t watched him in Goon, then go and stream that movie immediately after you’ve finished reading this list. His performance as Ronnie Hortense is a little piece of comedy gold.
5 A-Lister: Kim Dickens (Colette Jane)
Kim Dickens had already played a madam on Deadwood before she was cast as escort agency owner Colette Jane in SoA’s sixth season. Colette goes to Jax and Nero Padilla for help making her escort agency more legitimate – good luck with that. However, Jax ends up sleeping with Colette while his wife Tara is behind bars for conspiracy. It wasn't the largest role on the show, but it was still a memorable one that had a great effect on the main character, Jax.
Unfortunately, and like so many before her, Colette’s dealings with SAMCRO lead to her untimely demise at the hands of the triads in the show’s final season.
None of that has stopped Dickens from entering the A-list. After notable appearances as Joanie Stubbs in Deadwood, wayward mother Shelby in Friday Night Lights and a lead role in David Simon’s Treme, Dickens went on to top-line The Walking Dead spin-off Fear the Walking Dead as Madison Clark. That’s alongside major movie roles, including a prominent part in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Next up for Dickens is The Highwaymen, a movie that also stars Woody Harrelson, Kevin Costner, and Kathy Bates, though her role in that one is still undefined.
4 Flopped: Theo Rossi (Juan Carlos 'Juice' Ortiz)
Juan Carlos 'Juice' Ortiz started out his Sons career as the club’s intelligence and surveillance expert, despite being described as ‘unreliable’ by Clay Morrow. Sporting tribal tattoos on his head and spouting some of the show’s sassier lines, Juice loved his bikes and was even a little bit adorable at times. Well, adorable by Sons of Anarchy standards at least. However, by season four, Juice has been targeted by the authorities as a weak link in their efforts to build a case against the club. This started Juice down a dark, dark path of betrayal, recrimination, prison and his own demise at the hands of Marylyn Manson’s Tully.
While the unlucky Juice may not have made it out of prison alive, Theo Rossi, has gone on to have a solid, if not A-list, career as a character actor. Post-SoA, Rossi has starred in the well-received indie Lowriders. Playing the volatile Francisco ‘Ghost’ Alvarez, Rossi owns every scene that he is in. Howeverm his most visible role right now is as Hernan 'Shades' Alvarez in the Marvel-Netflix production Luke Cage. Sporting, well, shades, Rossi plays the supervillain who shares a history with the title character going back to when they both did time together at Seagate Prison.
3 A-Lister: Ron Perlman (Clarence 'Clay' Morrow)
Veteran actor Ron Perlman was already well known for the six films he made with Guillermo del Toro, including Hellboy and Blade 2, before the part of the volatile, morally dubious club president Clarence ‘Clay’ Morrow made him a star in his own right. SAMCRO’s president, and one of the First 9, Morrow was responsible for moving the Sons from outlaws into outright criminals, something that never sat well with step-son Jax. It was a career defining role and, for most fans, Perlman is the only one that could have possibly occupied the saddle of Morrow’s Harley, right?
Actually, it was only by chance that he got the part. A pilot for the show had already been shot with Scott Glenn in the part of Morrow. Glenn’s undoubtable a brilliant actor (think Silence of the Lambs, The Right Stuff) but is more known for a quiet, studious intensity. That’s not what network FX were looking for. They were looking for volatility. Enter Perlman.
Since Morrow was taken out by Jax, Perlman hasn’t stopped working, including the lead role of vigilante judge Pernell Harris in Amazon’s Hand of God, in StartUp’s third season, and Gnarlak in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
2 Flopped: Ryan Hurst (Harry ‘Opie’ Winston)
Best friends with Jax Teller and intensely loyal to SAMCRO, Opie Winston was drawn back into the outlaw life despite spending five years in prison for the club and the protests of his wife Donna. Alas, that loyalty led to the passing of Donna at the end of the first season and his own eventual end, when he is taken out in prison while Jax, Tig and Chibs are forced to watch.
Hurst’s portrayal of the gentle, yet sometimes brutal, fan favourite Opie led to a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. That shouldn’t be surprising. Hurst is a quality actor. Before SoA, he was known for his affecting portrayal of real-life high school athlete Gerry Bertier in Remember the Titans.
Hurst followed SoA with a starring role in Outsiders, the story of an outlaw family living their own way in the Appellation Mountains. The series definitely had echoes of SoA, including a prison brawl. Unfortunately for Hurst, Outsiders was cancelled after two seasons.
While that show might not have been Hurst’s ticket to the A-list, he’s still in demand as a character actor. Next, he will be back in the saddle alongside fellow SAMCRO veteran Charlie Hunnam in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s A Million Little Pieces.
1 A-Lister: Charlie Hunnam (Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller)
The role of Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller propelled Hunnam firmly onto the A-list. It’s easy to see why. Hunnam more than handles his own against a host of great character actors as the troubled Jax. By the end of the series, Jax had taken out both his step dad and mother, witnessed the passing of his best-friend (poor, poor Opie), before riding his Harley head first into an articulated lorry. Heavy, heavy stuff.
A real-life motorcycle aficionado, Hunnam had been lined up to play Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey a mere two days after finishing his final scenes on Sons of Anarchy. However, Hunnam turned down the role of the billionaire so he could give his full attention to playing Jax Teller. That’s loyalty to SAMCRO.
Before Jax, British-born Charlie Hunnam had been an upcoming actor, known for menacing supporting parts in Children of Men and Cold Mountain.
Since SoA ended, Hunnam has taken lead roles fighting kaijus in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (which also featured Sons alumni Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chu) and as King Arthur in the origin story King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. While neither set the box office on fire, the fact remains that Hunnam was starring in mega budget summer movies. His next roles look like they aim to put him in a better place with the critics. First there’s the remake of Papillon, followed by Triple Frontier alongside Ben Affleck.
Which of these surprised you most? Let us know in the comments!