In the world of gritty cable dramas, Alexander ‘Tig’ Trager from Sons of Anarchy was always a bit of an anomaly. He was a remorseless killer who did whatever needed to be done for his club, but at the same time, Tig was an eccentric pansexual who often subverted and challenged the macho culture he was a part of.
Since the show ended in 2014, Kim Coates, the charismatic actor who played Tig, has continued to subvert expectations by choosing an eclectic mix of film projects. His latest project, The Adventure Club, features Coates as a quirky mentor to a team of tween explorers. We talk to Coates about his experience playing Trager, his life post-SOA and his approach to choosing film roles.
[To hear the audio version of this interview, click here.]
The character of Tig on Sons of Anarchy was so brilliant. And, it is a character we hadn’t ever seen before. It seemed like a character that could have been one dimensional, but you guys always found depth with it.
Man, you just nailed it. I gotta tell you, seriously, most of my fans know this, but there are a few that don’t. I auditioned for Clay, I auditioned for Bobby. We all had to audition, everybody. Charlie [Hunnam]. Everybody. And I was, I was too young for Clay and I wasn’t right for Bobby, so I moved on. They shot the pilot without me. And, seriously, I got a call the day before they had decided to reshoot the pilot. And they recast Clay with Ron Perlman that day.
They didn’t have the character of Tig. They didn’t. They didn’t have the sergeant-at-arms. They blew it. And so Kurt Sutter realized maybe Kim Coates should be that guy. Buy, I was golfing all day, and I’m never on my phone when I golf. I had all these messages when I was done.
Long story short, I drove my car to meet Kurt way late. I thought they gave the part away, obviously, because I was way late. But, he waited for me and I walked in and Sutter looked at me and said, “All right, would you play this guy?”
I said to him, and I meant it, “Well who is he? I need to know.”
And he said, “I haven’t written much for him yet, because it’s so new. I just recast Clay this morning with Ron Perlman,” which excited me. I was a big fan.
I said, “Well, I’ve got to see something, I can’t say yeah, you know.” So, he showed me one scene of the show which we did use in the first episode, not the pilot. It’s so gross and dark and funny, but so psychotic.
I looked at Kurt and I said, “This isn’t for me. I have to say no. I wish you all the best.”
He said, “Wait a minute.” And he looked me right in the eye and said, “Please trust me. This guy is psychotic and crazy and tough, and he’s the sergeant-at-arms.” And you know, there’s no explanation needed when your the sergeant-at-arms. You’re the guy. He’s gonna be funny. He’s gonna break down. He’s gonna become the moral compass. He’s gonna have levels that I don’t even know what they are yet, but let’s find them together.
And you know what? I trusted him. And I’m so glad I said yes. Cause that seven years went by like that. It was intense. I’ll never forget it. He couldn’t write for all of us all the time, but when he did, Tig got some of the best stuff ever. And, I’ll ever forget it.
I’ve so moved on. I’ve done nine things since post Sons. Nine movies. Epic, all different. I’m right back where I want to be in the saddle of different parts all the time. And, but I’ll never forget playing Tig Trager.
What was it like doing the story arc with Walton Goggins Venus Van Dam character?
It was mind blowing right? It was mind blowing for two reasons. Number one, Walton is a big fan of Kurt and Kurt is a big fan of Walton. They did The Shield together. They were friends. He got a lot of people from The Shield on that show, Kenny Johnson.
And Walton said to Kurt, “I want something different. I want something so different.”
When Kurt Sutter came up with Venus Van Dam and brought it to Goggins, there wasn’t even hesitation. Walton shaved his legs, he put those massive breasts on. Boob fittings, hair, walking around in pumps, got that voice, hung out with some transgenders. So, for Walton to get into it so much, how could I not? Right?
Season seven for me was way too violent, way too over the top, way too crazy. Right? For me, and for a lot of us. But, it was epic. And I knew Kurt knew what he was doing. So, he went at it.
When Kurt Sutter came up with Venus Van Dam and brought it to Goggins, there wasn’t even hesitation … So, for Walton to get into it so much, how could I not?
For me to have that love affair obviously was a bit uncomfortable, but amazing. For Walton and I it was something we’ll never forget. And I think it jarred the world that watched that show. Tig is the only character who could have done something like that and gotten away with it. Even my redneck fans around America go, “That was acting man. I don’t know what that was. That was crazy shit. That was crazy shit.”
Well, that’s right. You know why? Because this country more than ever right now needs love. It is so toxic. And I don’t want to talk politics, but honestly that love affair with Tig and Venus will be remembered forever, and I’m pretty proud of that.
You played an iconic character of Tig on Sons of Anarchy. You obviously got a lot of support for it, and as you said, you’ve moved on and started doing other projects. Did you have a specific approach to your career post-Sons of Anarchy? What were you looking for new projects once the show ended?
Good question. I only need two things. Number one, I was so thankful to be back to movies full-time. And, number two, I didn’t want to do another television series right away. So when Sons wrapped two years ago and three months ago, I said no to two series right away. Didn’t want to do them. No more TV, no. I’m gonna put my feet up, I’m gonna really take some time off and think about this, right?
Officer Downe was the first film that came my way that I really wanted to do. And, I got into that with such zeal. I was so zealously ready for a movie like that. It was my movie, I was the lead. Had to get in the best shape of my life, do all my own stunts. Clown directed it from Slipknot. It’s his first directing. Joe Casey wrote the graphic novel with Chris Burnham. And you know, his comic work, we turned it into a movie. We shot it in LA. It was low budget.
We opened at the LA Film Festival last fall. You couldn’t get tickets. It was sold out in three seconds. It’s already been on video on demand. It’s opening right now in two weeks on DVD. I’ll be doing lots of press for that again.
So, from that then I do The Land in Cleveland. Then I do The Adventure Club, which we’re talking about. Strange Weather with Holly Hunter. I do Goon 2. I do two massive miniseries. I mean, brother, I haven’t stopped. And they’re all such different iconic characters that I’m just loving it. I’m loving everything.
What was it specifically about Adventure Club that drew you to it or made you excited about this project?
It was so different from anything I’d done. If you want to talk about Officer Downe being a hard R, almost an X, and to talk about Tig Trager. You want to talk about Strange Weather with Holly Hunter. I’d say the nicest guy in the world, I mean, truly. The Adventure Club is a family movie. You can’t say that much anymore, right? They’re mostly PG-13 or R. Well, this is family movie. There’s no swearing. It’s such a great little story.
What drew me to it was a couple of things. A, the writing. It’s always about the writing with me. It’s not about the size of the part. Whether you’re the lead or number nine on the call sheet. It’s about the part and the writing. Sam Arnold play Ricky, Dalila Bela plays Sandy and Jakob Davies plays Bill. These three kids are our leads in this picture. And, what do they do? Well they find this magical box and they know it’s something special. Is it a genie in a bottle? There’s magic in this movie. It takes place right now, today. And who do they bring it to? Ozzie.
And Ozzie is this guy who I play, who is this curator of this antique shop. It’s like a wonder cabinet. It’s got potions and old books and artifacts and dust and crazy stuff. Well, “Uncle Ozzie,” as the kids call him, they come to him. Because why? They trust him. So, I’m playing a character that people trust and I love that.
I’m playing a character that is funny and I hopefully made him even funnier. I have four pairs of glasses on. I’ve got frumpy clothes. I rode around set on this 50-year-old bike. Not a motorcycle, but an old two-wheeler. Just smiling. These kids probably didn’t even know who I was. Well, they sort of did, but their parents really did, right? So, I was loved it when I got there.
I’ve done things with Billy Zane before. I didn’t get a chance to work with him. His filming schedule was different from mine. But, Gabrielle Miller who plays Jane, she’s from Corner Gas. I’m a big fan. It was a real wonderful time. And to have Shane and Sarah, the two Trilight Entertainment producers offer this to me. It was a no-brainer, man. I had a great two days. It was just so different to inhabit this older, trustworthy, wacky, beautiful guy and have these kids trust me. I got to spend a day with them and they’re drinking hot chocolate and I’m drinking coffee and telling stories.
It was great. They say working with kids and animals is a bit off, but I’ll take it anytime. It was so much fun.
You mentioned that after Sons you said no TV. Is that just in the short term? Do you think that’s something you will get back to or are you just enjoying bouncing around doing different movie projects?
What I meant was I didn’t want to get back into a regular on television right away. I didn’t want that at all. I needed to take a breath from Tig Trager and the grind, happily, on Sons for those seven years. So, it was really important for me to change it up. And I did and I have. I said no to regular television.
It was just so different to inhabit this older, trustworthy, wacky, beautiful guy and have these kids trust me.
But, I just did an arc on Kevin Can Wait. I’ve never done a sitcom. It scared the crap out of me. Kevin James, my good friend – I’ve done two movies with him. He’s been dying to get me on his show and I kept saying no. Well, I finally stopped saying no and I did it last week. And, I’m telling you what, man. There’s no more rules anymore.
You can do commercials, voiceovers, you can do movies, TV, stage. There’s no more rules like there were in the early 90s. “Oh, I can’t do TV. Oh I can’t do a commercial. I’m just a film guy. I’m a film/stage guy.” Well, that’s what I was, and am. But, now you can do anything. Because the writing on television is some of the best writing there is. Period.
And so, for me to do this sitcom – A, I love comedy, B, I love Kevin James, C, I’ll do anything with him. But, it scared the pants off of me. It’s live TV in a way. It’s live audience and there’s 24 pages a day you’re shooting, and they’re changing it up. I’m a film actor. It’s like, “What the hell is happening?”
But, that’s all I mean. Am I looking for a new series? Sure. My people are always looking, but at the rate I’m doing movies these days, I’m in no rush. I’m in a great place and I love being here.
Is there anything you haven’t done in your career that is a bucket list item? Like, doing a musical or something else we haven’t seen you do?
Oh please, don’t invite me to a musical. That would just be horrendous. Oh my god. I mean, back in the day, I took it so seriously at University I stumbled into acting and did 24 plays over four years. I went from being a history teacher to being an actor, and here we are right? But, I did, I played Action twice in West Side Story. I was in Cabaret. So I’ve done a couple of musicals, but lordy lordy, that was way back then.
No, there’s nothing. I mean I’ve done 60 movies now. I’m doing a miniseries now. I’ve done television, I’ve done comedy, I’ve been a paraplegic. I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to continue to grow as an actor and as a producer. I’m right where I want to be. So, every movie is different for me. Every adventure I find something hopefully different about it and I learn something from it. Because, time is flying right now and I’m in it. And, it’s a great, I get to talk to you. And all the interviews I’m doing, and all the stuff I’m doing.
So, no, man. I give back. I’ve got between five and 10 charities that I love talking about. And, I’ve helped raise so much money for all of them. And, happily, a few places around the world that I own. It’s all good, man. There’s no downside for me other than the political system that’s happening in this country right now. It’s fairly depressing, but I try not to talk too much politics, because I just end up feeling so shitty by the end of it, you know?
What’s the best way for people to keep up with you and your latest projects?
Yeah, that’s a great question. I try not to do too much social media because it’s kind of madness out there for me right now. But, my daughter, Kyla Coates, she started this charity with three other brainiacs like her when she graduated college. She’s just the smartest – Summa Cum Laude graduate, got her masters at USC, graduated UCLA Bruin. And she started this charity called One Heart Source over in Tanzania, and now it’s in South Africa as well. Jamaica. It’s to help empower these young kids who have no fathers, no mothers, no life, no anything with an educational background, with AIDS awareness, with food and books. And all these incredible brainiac kids from around the world get to go to Tanzania and South Africa and Jamaica, like I just said. And, Kyla is one of the big shots.
I think that Sons of Anarchy had three events, and we raised, oh my god, over $400,000 for that organization. So, I’m fairly proud of that. But, between five and 10, some in America, some in Canada. People can find out by going to my Twitter feed. I do tweet, I do talk about my charities and obviously when I’m doing movies and stuff, I’ll feed my fans with a few photos and talk about funny stuff here and there.
I’m not on Facebook, I don’t Instagram. I know if you go to my Wikipedia page, punch it into the internet, all my stuff comes up. All my movies, all my charities. But, yeah just follow me on Twitter. And I talk about these events that I do go to and people that have to pay to come, and it all goes to charity. And I’m pretty proud of all of it. I really am.
Interviewed by Joel Murphy. The Adventure Club premieres in theaters and On Demand February 10. Follow Kim Coates on Twitter to keep up to date on his latest projects.