In his first Sons of Anarchy appearance, Donal Logue’s Lee Toric sits in an interrogation room with Kurt Sutter’s Otto Delaney, a man he has just savagely beaten, and tells him: “When a man is forced to put away what he does, sometimes he forgets who he is. Thank you for giving me something to want.”
It’s a powerful scene and an absolutely riveting way to introduce the man poised to be a major adversary to the show’s titular motorcycle club. But the moment becomes even more poignant when you realize that it could have just as easily been a real conversation Logue and Sutter, Sons of Anarchy‘s creator, had in-between takes.
During a conference call with reporters, Logue talked about Toric and hinted at what may be in store for the rogue former U.S. Marshal. But he also talked about how the cancellation of the low-rated, but highly-acclaimed FX show Terriers convinced him to give up acting for a while to pursue his truck driving license.
After deciding to jump back into the acting business, Logue says he found his time on Sons of Anarchy refreshing. It helped to restore his faith in the business.
“It feels very comfortable doing stuff on Sons of Anarchy,” he said. “The writing is great and the level of acting chops around you is always very high. It’s very easy to go in there and take your place. You’re in a good environment that is being supported from all sides.”
Likening his time on Sons to his stint on ER, a set he found similarly warm and inviting, Logue added, “It always surprised me that the most successful and really amazing shows were also the happiest kind of environments, and welcoming.
“It is fun as an actor because after Terriers I was really bummed out. I actually went to truck driving school. I’m not trying to be overly crazy dramatic about it, but I just was kind of like … I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades, and I kind of lost the joy.
“I ended up doing this really goofy, but really fun experience in this other horror-type film. I went and did a comedy improv show in San Francisco. I was at a theater and I saw this ─ it was one of those old theaters that hadn’t played since the ‘30s and ‘40s ─ and I looked around at these pictures of Burgess Meredith and Ernest Borgnine and stuff, and all the different shows they did. I realized guys like Burgess Meredith, when you read their obituary; it was like: ‘He appeared in over 300 movies and 7,000 episodes of television and 1,400 productions on Broadway.’ It was so insane. That’s what you do. You just go from part to part to part to part and you embrace what is different about all the different parts.”
Logue said that he and Sutter had been in talks to have him guest star on Sons of Anarchy for three years, but the timing never quite worked out until now.
“What had happened was invariably he would always have a conversation with me like 42 seconds after I had committed to doing another pilot,” Logue said. “Two years ago it was Hallelujah, this thing for ABC. Then last year I had done a western called Tin Star for TNT, neither of which ended up going.”
In the end, Logue is quite pleased with how the timing worked out, since it’s allowing him to play a character he loves.
“It’s basically like [Sutter] knew me well enough to go, ‘Don’t worry, when you come back I think I have the perfect suit that will fit you well.’ It feels like a custom-made role,” Logue said.
The actor described Toric as a “Harvard educated special forces guy who was a roguish U.S. Marshal” and said that after Delaney killed Toric’s sister with a crucifix smuggled in by Tara Knowles that Toric is now “on a crusade.”
“If you mess with someone, you’re always taking that risk that they have a family and that they have people who are vengefully minded,” he said.
Logue also believes this is a threat unlike any that the club has faced before because Toric can’t be bought off or reasoned with. He is solely out for vengeance against those responsible for his sister’s death.
“This guy’s sister was brutally murdered by an outlaw organization that engages in illegal activities,” said Logue. “We had talked about this before even with Kurt, that a lot of times you’ll either have existing law enforcement types who are maybe antagonistic, but start to shift the longer they are around the club. This is the first time someone comes in from a satellite, from beyond, and is very skilled and is very experienced, and also has from the get-go a super particular ax to grind … it just feels to them like a threat of a different level.”
According to Logue, the key to understanding Toric is in the book he was reading in his hotel room as he sat on the bed surrounded by his vast arsenal. The book, Watchfiends and Rack Screams, was written by the French writer Antonin Artaud, who spent time in sanatoriums and struggled with an addiction to opiates.
“I’m no scholar of Artaud, and I have read some in the past, but I will tell you that how it plays with Sons of Anarchy in a weird way is that he didn’t believe that there was much of a difference between art and life. He thought that art’s duty was to be as real as life, and to be just basically shocking and brutal – to hit you in your face so hard that it broke the kind of comfortable veneer with which you perceive reality,” he said.
Logue added: “Artaud basically would say, ‘Okay, you kind of like violence? You like war? Let me take you down to the morgue and just shove your face into a dead body … now, do you like what this is?’”
He believes that this may be Toric’s mission as well, that his savage beating of Delaney was to illustrate a point about violence and the world Delaney and the other Sons have elected to live in. Logue believes that Toric is trying to show the club, and perhaps Sutter is trying to show fans, exactly what it is that they are endorsing.
“In the cartel world, in the motorcycle club world, stuff happens. People get killed. You know the rules. It’s kind of amoral in this kind of way. I think his thing is I’ll shock you with ─ to make you see what’s right and wrong, I’m going to come at you ten times heavier. If that makes any sense,” Logue said.
The actor talked about his scene with Maggie Siff in last week’s episode. In it, Toric starts out sweet, only telling Siff’s character Tara Knowles that he’s the brother of the nurse who was murdered and that he’s looking for answers about his sister’s death. As their conversation progresses, Toric slowly makes it clear that he knows more than just an average mourning family member and he has more of an agenda than simply looking for closure. Logue explained the character’s decision to handle his interrogation in that manner.
“It was shocking for [Tara],” Logue said. “She says, ‘Please sit down.’ The guy just stands up and moves closer. The way I feel about it is, especially with Tara – and this is just me as a fan of the show having watched it and the progression – she’s come into this world from another world, and she’s discovered that she has kind of an acumen. She has kind of the backbone and strength to do things that she probably didn’t think she was capable of before.
“From my perspective, when I watch her squirm a little bit because I drop little bits of information like he was your patient, this was the third time. Then as soon as she knows that I have that specific knowledge, she is like, ‘Who are you?’ I know more then. It was time to kind of drill, it’s time to go in there and go, ‘Look, I know what’s up. I know she brought the thing, and I know that she came back the same day.’
“If you want to play this game, this guy Lee Toric, this is a game I’ve been playing for 30 years with Mexican drug cartels, with mobs. I’ve been down this road. You think you’re good at this? This is what I do.”
Logue also elaborated on Toric’s interrogation method and made it clear that he believes the former U.S. Marshal had already made his mind up about Knowles’ guilt before he ever spoke with her.
“When I ask you a question, I’m not asking you to discover something; I just want to know if you’re lying to me or not,” the actor said. “I’m asking you a question, I know the answer, so just think carefully on what you’re going to tell me because a lot is going to be determined by how you answer this. Don’t think I need to know this information.”
Logue likened Toric’s quest to the 1976 Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales. In the film, Wales is a Missouri farmer whose wife and son are killed by a band of guerrilla soldiers. From there, Wales is singularly focused on getting revenge on those who killed his family, who are simultaneously pursuing him.
“You know, it’s The Outlaw Josey Wales. This has taken something very personal, this whole world has taken something very personal from him, and I don’t think he cares. I think he was utterly fair when he said to her, ‘I believe that you didn’t know what this guy, what his intentions were, but I believe my niece and nephew thought they were going to grow up with a mother.’”
Logue was careful not to reveal too much about what was in store for Toric, since he knows how protective the show is about spoilers, but he did give an indication that we will see Toric on Sons of Anarchy next season.
“I think it’s fair to say that whatever he’s got to do might take a while to do,” Logue said. “I didn’t know exactly like what the parameters were in terms of talking about the beyond, but I think Lee Toric is a pretty significant threat to these guys. I think that I’m implying that it could go somewhere deeper and further [than this season’s finale].”
He added: “It’s funny because I have never really worked on anything before where anyone would care about spoilers.”
While he wouldn’t give any specifics about what Toric will do in tomorrow’s 90-minute finale (including, amusingly, refusing to say whether or not his character would fire one of those guns from his hotel room), he did promise that the show’s fans were in for a really great episode.
“Look, the finale is action-packed because I was there at the read-through and around for some of the filming,” said Logue. “I think it’s kind of an interesting ─ my trajectory is a little different in that so, but some scary stuff goes on. I think in this instance I’ll say you’ll just have to tell people they’ll have to watch.”
Fans certainly will be watching the finale. And many will be keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that Toric is settling in for a nice long feud with SAMCRO.
And another thing …
Here are a few other fun tidbits from Logue’s hour-long conference call, including some further musings on Terriers:
- Logue on what Terriers season two may have been like: “I had a really a really good hang with Michael Raymond-James yesterday, and we muse about it. We muse about shooting our own little indie film version of season two. I have to say that it was a thrilling kind of ride to be on Terriers, and of course it was really this kind of odd circumstance where it was really loved by the people it was loved by, but it didn’t really do well. In fairness to FX, they were just so generous in keeping it on the air the whole year.
“I talked to some people in Europe who had seen it, and it really played to them like a BBC mini-series. It ended on this kind of really kind of beautiful existentialist kind of moment, and so to me it felt like a complete document. I miss it, of course, but I felt like however that all 13 tied up I felt like at least we have that, and it feels kind of ─ Michael and I joked about what if it just started going downhill after that and becoming absurd? At least it has this tight little package that’s really nice. I’m kind of having fun moving on and doing all these other things.”
- Logue on his acting in Terriers: “I feel like if someone had to say, ‘What do you do? How would you describe your work or your style? ‘I would say watch the whole season of Terriers, and if you think it’s good, that’s great. If you don’t like it, I respect that. That’s kind of what I do.”
- Logue’s advice on acting: “It really does boggle the mind when people ─ when they think of acting as something other than a craft that you need to continue to do always. It’s a kind of growing, organic skill. I always thought, and I had an argument with a friend of mine who is kind of into it, but doesn’t really ─ a lot of people are like: how do I get on a TV show, and make money or whatever?
“I was like, dude, you are a guy who has the coolest leather jacket and jeans, and a really old Gibson Les Paul and a cool haircut. And you’re like, ‘Okay, I want to be the lead guitar player in a famous rock band touring the country making lots of money.’ ‘Okay, can you play guitar?’ ‘No, but look at me.’ ‘Do you know scales? Do you know chords?’ ‘No, check me out.’ A lot of people feel that way about acting. You’ve got to pretend like you’re a guitar player, man, and you’ve got to know scales and ─ you can’t just look cool and do it.”
- Logue’s other projects, including The History Channel’s Vikings: “I’ve done some smaller films that are kind of intriguing. I did a film with Katie Cassidy and Tracy Spiridakos who is the lead in Revolution, that new show. We did this indie movie up in Canada last year that I thought was good.
“Vikings is this Michael Hirst drama, the guy that wrote Elizabeth and created The Tudors and worked on The Borgias and stuff. I clocked this for a long time, and I tried to get in on it forever, but I think that they initially were just hesitant about having an American join a pretty international cast. It ended up working out, and so I came on Vikings not unlike I came on Sons, at the end of a season maybe setting up some potentially further important story lines. I just got back, but I can say it was a really fantastic experience. I think it’s going to be great.”
Written by Joel Murphy. The season finale of Sons of Anarchy airs tomorrow on FX at 10 pm. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.