'Sons of Anarchy' postmortem: Jimmy Smits on Nero's choices (and cardigans)

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Image Credit: James Minchin/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Sons of Anarchy‘s season 6 finale, stop now. (Read our full recap.) Jimmy Smits spoke to EW about Nero’s decisions — and his badass, business casual cardigans. 

For more insight into the finale, check out our burning questions with Kurt Sutter, Maggie Siff, and Katey Sagal, as well as our other postmortem interviews with Siff, Theo Rossi, and Rockmond Dunbar.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When Nero asked Gemma if she’d leave everything behind but him, he already knew the answer?
JIMMY SMITS: I think he knew the answer to that. He understands that the pull from his past and the pull that she has being the lioness of that particular den are very strong.

What I liked about Gemma and Nero’s relationship is that it was the healthiest one on the show this season because they were honest with each other about everything — and then the second they started holding things back, it all went to hell.
It’s been a kind of awkward courtship. Like when I read the whole thing about him accepting the conjugal [visit Gemma had with Clay], Jimmy was like, “What? WTF?” [Laughs] But then I had to reset and say, “Wait a minute, Nero is the companionator. He understands relationships and how you deal with women in a totally different kind of way than I do.” When I put that kind of thinking cap on, it’s like, “Okay, there’s something different going on there in terms of their relationship, and what they’ve been through, and acceptance and tolerance.” Like Unser will ask her, “So where’s your pimp?” “He’s with the whores.”

Tell me about filming the break-up scene. It seems like at one point, when Gemma realizes Nero is dumping her, that she’s actually unsteady on her feet before she recovers and calls him an a–hole.
I’m glad you picked that up, because there was something that made her unsteady. Because again this world that Kurt [Sutter] creates, the characters have these major tugs. It’s no accident that both of these characters have little cuts on their heart. They complete each other, in a way. There’s something genuine there, so the potential of having that end — when I saw visually what Katey decided to do as Gemma, it made a lot of sense. But she recouped and went to go do her business, like, right after that.

Jax and Nero still have Diosa together. I’m just trying to imagine how things will be between them.
It’s gonna be very tenuous. I can’t imagine. They’ll come up with stuff, and then we’re gonna have to sit down and reset. There again lies, not the conundrum but the beauty of painting on a larger scale when you’re doing a television show — especially a cable show like this. You have to be able to be fluid. It’s not the beginning, the middle, and the end that you have when it’s a closed [movie]. You have to be able to accommodate little curveballs. Who knows. That bullet might have my guy’s name on it.

Noooo!
Yeeeeah. [Laughs] I thought I was gonna be there for only 10 episodes. So the guy’s on borrowed time as far as I’m concerned. As long as I get to rock those cardigans, put my tattoos on.

You manage to make a cardigan look badass. Were you originally like, “Yay, a cardigan,” or “Dude, I can’t wear a cardigan”?
When we started talking about it in the beginning, it was like, “Come on, cardigans? Mr. Padilla’s Neighborhood. ‘Welcome to Mr. Nero’s Neighborhood.’ But [costume designer] Kelli Jones and I had a dialogue about this guy from the streets who’s trying to be a businessman, but he can’t do suits. So it kinda morphed into this cardigan thing, and he’s trying to do something businessy [Laughs] and he’s got this wifebeater on underneath it. It’s like the tattoos. Tracey Anderson, who’s our head makeup person, came up with a lot of tattoos that — depending on how much you see — it’s a couple of hours to put on. Each one of them tells a story. Most of the guys that have been in the joint, tattoos tell a part of their story. It’s putting my son’s name on my neck and what that means. It really helps me get into character because it takes a long time to put stuff on. And the cardigan adds to that. [Laughs]

Nero did show up with Fiasco for Alvarez’s meeting with Lin. So he’s in this now?
He’s in it, with reservation.

Is that where you thought the character would end up?
The character is gonna end up on the floor. [Laughs] Where all of these characters end up. That’s part of the schematic of the show. There’s not gonna be too many last people standing, I don’t think.

Last question: If you could have one wish for SOA‘s final season, what would it be? I know you got your motorcycle license for the show.
You know what it is. It’s ride a motorcycle. When am I gonna get on a f–kin’ cycle here? Am I gonna get on a hog or what? I don’t think so. When I got the job, I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I was like, the show’s about dudes with motorcycles, you better be proficient in riding. Because actors will do that all the time: “Oh yeah, I know how to ride a horse. Sure, I can ski downhill.” So I went and made sure I was at least semi-proficient.

I feel like if the Byz-Lats hook up with the Mayans, there’s gonna be more motorcycles around Nero. He might need to hop on one for a quick getaway.
Give me a Vespa or something.

Read more postmortems with Kurt Sutter, Maggie Siff, Rockmond Dunbar, and Theo Rossi.

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