“Sons of Anarchy” cast and crew discuss Season Five at PaleyFest 2012

The stars and creative folks behind “Sons of Anarchy” don’t just make the popular FX television series. They live up the lifestyle to the fullest. Most of the cast are dedicated riders, while embracing the whole image of the Harley-Davidson, cruiser riding biker culture.

Their moods are intense. Their humor is edgy. They toss around f-bombs at press events as easy as they feather the left-hand clutch. Their wardrobes are streetwise. While other events celebrating top TV series at the 2012 PaleyFest featured actors and actress in suits and gowns, the “Sons of Anarchy” crew rolled in with t-shirts and boots. And their viewers out in the seats at the Saban Theater in Los Angeles sported the same.

During the fan-friendly media event, show creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter joined his wife and series star Katey Sagal (Sutter’s wife), Theo Rossi, Tommy Flanagan, David La Brava, Michael Marisi-Ornstein and others to talk about where “Sons of Anarchy” – essentially a V-Twin-powered Shakespearian political tragedy – is rolling to in the future.

Season Four ended with big changes, with Jax finally taking on the roll of the young king at the head of SAMCRO’s ornately carved table. Fans were immediately interested in how Sutter and company would tackle that this season.

“I’ve always wanted to play this idea of putting Jax in charge and explore how he handled the power,” Sutter said. “I also wanted to explore how those around him respond to having him in charge – the ripple effect of (Jax’s power) on the gang and the loyalties of it and where people land.”

“The interesting dynamic to play out this season is seeing Jax at the head of that table and the struggle that he has of being king. How can he be the leader of a motorcycle gang – an organized crime syndicate – and not become Clay?”

“And if you choose not to become Clay, are you doomed to the fate of John Teller?”

Sutter never made any secret of the fact that he’s recreating a sort of modern day Hamlet with “Sons of Anarchy.” The same tense standoff between The Prince of Denmark and his mother is playing out between Jax and Gemma (Sagal). Jax is at the head of the table now, but the matriarch really seems to want that job.

“I could really see Gemma sitting at the head of that table with the gavel in her hand,” Segal said. “And I think she should be a great head of the gang. It’d be interesting to explore how a woman could be this queen in such a world. I want to see her sitting there at the head of the table.”

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“Mad Men” cast and crew discuss the upcoming fifth season

“Mad Men” always had the feel of a show that couldn’t go on forever. It’s too smart, too ambitious, too consistent to live forever in a television world so full of subpar material. Basically, it’s too good to last.

So, it was disturbing, but not surprising to hear “Mad Men” cast and creators reveal the show is ready to retire from the advertising business after its seventh season.

For now – to celebrate the show’s fifth season – media joined fans of the show at the 2012 PaleyFest in Los Angeles to see what’s ahead for the most stylish and one of most (mad) manly shows on TV. Series stars Jon Hamm and January Jones joined John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, Kiernan Shipka and creator/executive producer Matthew Weiner for a red carpet episode screening and Q&A.

It was heartbreak for many of the male fans in attendance as the voluptuous and witty Christina Hendricks was otherwise engaged and couldn’t attend. Of course, it’s also possible she was laying low following her recent Twitter picture scandal in which said voluptuousness was on display for all the world to see.

Obviously, though still a couple years away, the specter of a series conclusion dominated much of the media’s bombardment of questions.

“As I’ve said, I don’t want to overstay our welcome,” Weiner said. “When I was a writer on “Sopranos,” I thought it was difficult sometimes to come up with stories that hadn’t already been covered on previous seasons or by other productions in the genre – other mob movies or TV shows. The fifth season is finished now, and I’m planning on seven. It’s just really hard to do this show.”

Pushing the idea of a final season aside, the hundreds of fans in attendance at the Saban Theater wanted the scoop on the new season. Last season ended with Don Draper – legally free of ice queen wife Betty and seemingly emerging from the shadow of alcoholism – suddenly getting engaged to Megan. Hamm said the major season-spinning plot twist felt like a shock right up until cast and crew made it official on film.

“(Weiner) and I talked about that ending for weeks before we actually shot it,” Hamm said. “But, even after all of that time, when it came time to shoot the scene, I was left wondering if it was all a fake. Was it just going to be a dream sequence or something?”

“I was just glad to see the season end up on sort of a hopeful, upbeat note,” Hamm added, “because my character had been on such a downward spiral throughout the season.

Weiner made it clear that, on the “Mad Men” set, the talented collective cast stays in character and interacts as a family as the top secret scripts unfold.

Weiner explained, “When I directed the scene where Don told his coworkers about the engagement, we filmed the group’s reaction shots first – a reverse angle. The other actors were mostly frozen – not a lot of reaction.”

“Then, we turned the camera around to see what they were so stunned by, and it was (Hamm) smiling as broadly as he ever has playing the role. That unnerved everyone. There hasn’t been a lot of smiling in (Draper’s life) recently before that moment.”

Hamm added, “I find myself really hoping that this works out for my character – after watching him struggle through the divorce and trying to give up his drinking.”

“We had that episode earlier in the last season in which (Draper) documented his struggles to stop drinking in his own journal. I think that story offered a new glimpse into how (Draper) was examining himself and evolving.”

While Hamm’s character moved on to a new potential relationship, ex-wife Betty Draper Francis (Jones) continued struggling with life as an often stern and unforgiving mother.

“I’m looking forward to see how people react to Betty now,” Jones said. “For a while, people have run away from me on the street all the time because they see how Betty treats her children. I think they’re worried about me becoming a mother myself now because they think I’m really going to be like that.”

“In this new season, I think Betty is still evolving, and I see her improving as a person.”

As the fifth season gets ready to roll on AMC, Hamm is following up on the longtime tradition of a series’ big star taking his shot at work on the other side of the camera by taking on some directing duties. It’s up to everyone else now to catch up to the idea.

“(The rest of the cast) said they’ll never work with me again. Actually, everyone was very supportive, and I got a lot of great advice from the other cast members.”

  

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