In US bikie drama Sons of Anarchy, Ron Perlman, 62, plays family linchpin Clay Morrow.
What were your initial thoughts when you were told about the show and what your role might entail?
It was television but exploring a world that had never been explored before on television. It is a very violent, explosive and dynamic world. The role was to play a badass leader of a biker club. I'd never played anyone who had that kind of mindset before. So it was a personal challenge. I was fully engaged with it. I was curious how the world would receive it, as well.
You've had a wide range of roles through a very long career.
I wouldn't say Clay is a career-defining role. It's been a profound highlight for me. But this character moves in a very specific world and it hasn't seemed to alter the trajectory I am on in any significant way, but it's highly appreciated.
Do you see Clay as a good guy or is he merely conflicted?
I don't think he's good or bad. I think of him as a leader with responsibilities. He is what stood between his family and their health, as well as their financial and spiritual well-being. He had to make some hardcore decisions. Living off the grid and being kind of an outlaw brings a dangerous reality. He has to be ruthless. He has to have a singularity of purpose, vision and a good degree of ruthlessness.
Does the show go too far sometimes in terms of plausibility?
A positive cornerstone of the show is that [show runner] Kurt Sutter finds us incredibly volatile and violent realities but none of them come out of the blue. None of them are violence for violence's sake or truly gratuitous. They are always born out of an organic set of situations that lead to things spinning out of control. The stakes are high for the club. They are in a lot of shady enterprises.
Have you had much feedback from motorcycle clubs over there?
We hear from a lot of clubs around the United States and through Europe and they feel that we are representing them in a very non-gratuitous fashion. Sometimes it's glamorous and sometimes it's hardcore, tough and ugly and that is the reality for these guys.
You are in a strange position where your on-screen wife (played by Katey Sagal) and the show runner are married in real life. That must be an interesting dynamic on the set.
I think what is most surprising is how unflinchingly out there Kurt puts his own wife. We have some stuff to do together - our sexual relationship was very playful and in the open and the dynamic she and I had as two leaders of the family was pretty controversial. If he is cool with that, that's cool with me. But sometimes I read the stuff he comes up with and it's like … whoa!
Tell us about the way the character of Clay has developed in the series.
Season four last year was Clay's best season. He had just had a 14-month stint in prison. He had an urgency to what he wanted to accomplish and he did some things truly outside the box and very bizarre and very controversial. I had a ball playing him doing those things.
Most of the cast have now become motorcycle enthusiasts, we hear.
A lot of the other guys have taken to it. I do it as I need to do it but when I need to go home, I get in my car like an old Jewish man. These guys go out riding their Harleys and I go out the back to water my flowers.
Sons of Anarchy
Season five on Showcase, Wednesdays, 3.10pm and Sundays, 8.30pm. Season three is out on DVD.