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By Suzanne

Rockmond Dunbar

Interview with Rockmond Dunbar of "Sons of Anarchy" on FX 11/2/11

November 2, 2011/10:00 a.m. PDT

Kristy Silvernail, FX Network / Media Relations Manager
Rockmond Dunbar, Sons of Anarchy / ďEli RooseveltĒ


Moderator Welcome to the Sons of Anarchy Conference call. At this time, all phone participants will be in a listen-only mode. Later, there will be an opportunity for your questions, and the instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder, the conference is being recorded.

Iíll now turn the conference over to our host Kristy Silvernail.

K. Silvernail Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Sons of Anarchy Conference Call with Rockmond Dunbar who stars as Charmingís new lawman, ĎEli Roosevelt.í Before we get started, I just wanted to take a brief moment and thank all of you for joining us this morning and especially Rockmond. Itís such a pleasure to have you with us, so thank you. As everyone knows, Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on FX.

With that said, letís open it up for questions.

Moderator We go to the line of Margie McGrath with Spoiler TV.

M. McGrath My first question is do you think ĎEliísí going along with ĎLincí now because he has no choice or do you think he believes itís the right thing to do to take on the club?

R. Dunbar I think we just wrapped the full season so I kind of know where itís going and where it ends and I canít tell you, unfortunately, but, itís going to be a really interesting twist. Everyone thinks that they know exactly whatís going on but Kurt is so genius with his writing and storytelling that youíll never be able to figure it out. I mean even when we Ö read through for the scripts, for the next episode itís always surprising. We have a great, great talented group of writers so Ö itís going to be interesting.

M. McGrath Is it more fun for you to play a cop or a bad guy?

R. Dunbar Itís fun to work Ö on most characters that are three dimensional. I love characters that basically have something to say and a lot to do. I love characters that are conflicted, characters that are not just surface presentational models basically, so this characterís definitely a job. I loved the last character that I played, ĎMark Gustafson,í with FX Ė another great character that Sean Ryan created. So yes, I donít think itís an either/or thingÖitís more the basis of the character and if the characterís three dimensional or not, and then I get to play and have fun.

Moderator We have a question from the line of Tom Wilson from Simply TV.

T. Wilson Early on in the season I thought that ĎElií was on a mission to bring down theÖbut as the season has gone on it seems to be that heís actually a bit Ö more by a Ö desire to prevent crime. What do you think his message Ö towards the club?

R. Dunbar I didnít hear the tail end of that question. To prevent theó?

T. Wilson What do you think about his message of Ö, ĎEliísí message of Ö towards the club?

R. Dunbar I think heís an honest straightforward police officer, no if and or buts. I donít think heís a negative sort of bending the rules type of guy. I think heís a guy that is straightforward. He loves policing and he loves his job, and he can never be turned, flipped, or turned into something else that heís not. He will always try to do the right thing and the right way of policing. Unfortunately and fortunately because of the great storytelling it always looks a certain way because the bad guys are actually the good guys in the series, so when you have someone who is the new sheriff in town and heís trying to do his job some of the things that he might choose to do then look bad or look negative but itís actually correct policing.

T. Wilson Why do you think ĎElií would have become a police officer originally when he left Ö?

R. Dunbar A little back story is he comes from a long line of police officers. He actually grew up within the neighborhood. Grew up within the area, loves the area, loves the Bay area, and went to school outside of the area, and then came back home, so he loves the area just as much as the bikers do. Heís probably at the end of the day Iím not sure how many generations down the line but he comes from a decent lineage of police officers.

T. Wilson Are we going to see more of his wife and that side of the story as the season goes on?

R. Dunbar Itís really interesting and thatís probably a question for Kurt or the writers. I have no idea. When we were actually filming the show you didnít know what was going to happen until you sat down in the read through and started to read the script. You had no idea what was going to happen.

Moderator We have a question from the line of Lena Lamoray with

L. Lamoray Now, as a huge Terriers fan I was so happy when you were cast on the Sons of Anarchy. Now, ĎElií could really use some help from ĎHankí and ĎBrittí right about now.

R. Dunbar Itís kind of funny.

L. Lamoray How would you compare playing ĎDetective Markí to ĎSheriff Elií?

R. Dunbar Two totally different characters. Two totally different personalities and hopefully Iím portraying that and they donít look exactly the same. I think FX gave me the opportunity to play a different character and knew that I could play it, and hopefully thatís shining through. But theyíre both two totally different ways of policing, and I couldnít even choose like a favorite to tell you the truth because I actually loved playing ĎMark Gustafsoní and I love playing ĎElií now.

L. Lamoray Now, Peter Wellerís directing next weekís incredible episode so what was it like working with him again?

R. Dunbar Peter is great. I absolutely love working with Peter. I love working with actors that turn directors and really know the language and how to speak to an actor to get an actor to a certain point. I think actors make wonderful directors period so itís really great working with Peter. I love his sensibility. I love his way of storytelling and his eye. He has a really great eye for pulling the story together and actually getting an actor to a space where playing the field is really comfortable, and he brings out the best work in you.

Moderator We have a question from the line of Elle Lutz with

E. Lutz My first question is that it seems to me that ĎEliísí position on SAMCRO seems to have softened and heís become more disapproving of ĎPotterísí antics. You know we see him stand up but his thoughts about how he sees the Sons are not really shared. Can you share with us what is going on in ĎEliísí mind and has his views on the Ö has changed based on the resent events?

R. Dunbar I think itís going to be very clear towards the end of the season. Those thoughts will actually be verbalized and played into action. But to give you where he is right now he doesnít like to be manipulated or bend to do things that are unnecessary. He does like to be fair but at the same time his life of criminal activity is really harsh.

So whatís going on in his mind right now is heís being manipulated and he doesnít like it, and heís trying to figure out how to get out of this situation but also how to police his town. Itís very, very difficult when you are under the strong hold of another government official and can be put in the position where you might not be able to do the things that you love, and so heís trying to figure that out. Heís very, very conflicted.

E. Lutz Have his views on the Sons changed at all?

R. Dunbar I donít think his views on the Sons have changed. It might look like his views on the Sons have changed because of where the line is being softened but if he wasnít being manipulated it would still be the same thing. If the Sons Ö doing drugs, thereís no drugs in his town. The Sons are trafficking guns and he knows about it. Heíll police that way. But I donít think his view of the Sons is changing. I think his view of the situation is changing because heís being manipulated.

E. Lutz Okay and my last question is that weíve seen mention how ĎElií is experienced with dealing with gangs and we all know what happened in the last year in Charming, so can you tell us what do you, in your opinion, think heís trying to do differently not to fall into the same situation?

R. Dunbar I donít think heís doing anything differently. Heís being himself. Heís absolutely just doing what he does best and trying to put it into place in the situation where everyone is treated the same, but, again, that manipulation is being turned over. But outside of that I can tell you this; I started off when I came into the office to speak to Kurt about the character and what he wanted to do with the character.

Initially our first conversation was, ďHey, look man, weíre going to bring you in for a ten episode arc. Youíre going to die. Itís going to be great. I donít know what your demise is going to be but of course itís going to be brutal because you know our show.Ē And that was my contract. Thatís what I knew my contract to be. I signed up for it at the very beginning. But once the tenth episode came then that changed so I donít know whatís going to happen with the character. I have no idea ifówell, the way itís being set up now there will be some type of continuation but I donít die so thatís one good thing. But weíll see.

Moderator We have a question from the line of Catherine Burke with

C. Burke It says that youíve also written, produced, and directed numerous projects. I was wondering what attributes or what do you admire about the writers and the staff for Sons of Anarchy?

R. Dunbar The challenges that they put themselves in. I love writers that paint themselves into a corner and donít know where theyíre going to go next. It's easy to do a procedural show and say, ďOkay. Well, weíre going to tackle this criminal activity and we already know what the scenarioís going to be.Ē But when you paint yourself into a corner, and you donít know where youíre going to go, you donít know how youíre going to get out of it but you know you have to because you have to have another episode because youíve been picked up for 13 or 22 or whatever the case may be, thatís the type of challenges that I love.

And I think these writers do a really great job of that, of challenging themselves to take it to the next level and the dialog is crisp and the characters all speak differently, but the words are easy enough on the tongue. Because sometimes a writer Ö so much and try to get all the exposition out where it becomes boring and the actors feel like models but you never feel like that on this show. Youíre telling a story but also youíre not just saying it with the words youíre actually showing people whatís going on and whatís happening. And I think thatís good writing when you can show and not tell. But thatís one of the attributes of the writer and the staff and Kurt that I absolutely love. They paint themselves into a corner, you donít know how theyíre going to get out of it, but you know they have to.

C. Burke Since portraying ĎElií on the show, how have your perceptions changed or even possibly cultivated about motorcycle gangs?

R. Dunbar I have family members that were in the first Black Harley motorcycle gang, The East Bay Dragons, so I grew up with a healthy perception of motorcycle gangs. And Iím from Oakland, California so that says it all right there. Itís family. Itís strong hardcore family, so my perception has never changed. I have two huge dragons tattooed on my forearms for a reason and Iíve always had an affinity for the family aspect of motorcycle organizations and I always will.

Moderator A question from the line of Megan Masters with TVLine.

M. Masters So weíve kind of seen in recent episodes that ĎElií seems to genuinely want to help this ĎTaraí situation. Heís aware that there was a hit put out on her and next week we know that kind of comes to fruition so how does that kind of develop moving forward towards the end of the season? Does he become more involved in helping her? Is he involved in that kind of storyline at all?

R. Dunbar Thatís hilarious. He becomes a little bit more involved just because itís happening in his town and itís a situation that shouldnít be tolerated. You know any threat on anyoneís life is very serious and heís taking it that way. So yes, youíll definitely see more of that storyline developed and hopefully not come to a close by the end of the season because I think itís really interesting.

M. Masters And then ĎElií also seems to be feeling bad for the situation that ĎJuiceí is now in and it seems that maybe heís going to try to help in a little bit as opposed to just sticking on the side of ĎPotter.í So are we going to see more a pairing between those two moving forward?

R. Dunbar I donít think youíll ever see a pairing because there is a hard line between criminal and law enforcement and that line will never bleed over, I donít think. It hasnít so far. But I think my character definitely has sympathy towards ĎJuiceí because not only am I being manipulated but heís being manipulated and thatís just not good policing to ĎEli.í Itís not oneís not fair or itís interesting. Itís just not right, and he constantly wants to be on the right side of the law. So pairing up with him and becoming partners and doing something that is illegal, I doubt that will happen. I think weíve seen that character already so I donít think that weíre going to see that character again. Itís so much more interesting with my character actually working against the Sons but having a hard line of like how heís going to do it.

Moderator We have a question from the line of Lance Carter with Daily Actor.

L. Carter So when Terriers was unfortunately cancelled did you immediately start looking for another job, and when you do, do you look for a character thatís completely different from what you just did?

R. Dunbar You know itís kind of hard. Itís alwaysóI donít think that there are so many jobs out there for actors, especially African American actors, where we can pick and choose what we want to do so you kind of have to be in a position where that next jobóIím always looking for that next job. I mean just from the Sons of Anarchy Iím rolling into another television series, The Game on BET. Iím doing like eight episodes of that show, and I wasnít looking for the next job but now Iím starting to get in the position where Iím getting offers, like Sons of Anarchy was an offer.

I didnítóI always try to createóYou know I have a small production company so I try to create my own type of characters that I want to do. So I donít think I necessarily have had the choice to look for a specific character. It just depends on what the job market is like and what comes across the table.

L. Carter Whatís your advice to actors?

R. Dunbar Tenacity. You just really, really stay ready, stay focused, and learn as much as you possibly can and doóif you want to be in this business do it for the right reasons. Donít be in it because you want to be a celebrity. Be in it because you really love the work and the work keeps you up at night and it keeps you motivated and wakes you up early in the morning because you have ideas and things of that nature, and never get in to it because you want to do it for money. Have that passion in your heart where you would do it for free just because you absolutely love it, and if you just want to do it because you want to be famous then go do reality TV.

Moderator We go to Tom Wilson with Simply TV.

T. Wilson I wanted to askódo you like motor biking when youíre not working?

R. Dunbar One more time?

T. Wilson Do you like motor biking at all or is itó?

R. Dunbar No. Iíve actually learned on Soul Food, the television series I did on Showtime. I learned how to ride a Harley on that show, and then every time I went to go take classes on how to learn, get my license and everything, I started working so I never really have the downtime to learn properly and go through the right channels. But now Iím at the age where kind of getting on a motorcycle is probably not the best idea. Iím 38 now so kind of hopping on a motorcycle is probably not to smart. I think Iím going to stick to four wheels or maybe three.

T. Wilson Do you have any other projects coming up when Sons of Anarchy finishes?

R. Dunbar Yes. Sons of Anarchy just wrapped. I directed a PSA with KiKi Palmer and the YWCA for anti-bullying, so youíll see that coming out fairly soon. I just directed a pilot presentation called Ö I have a pilot thatís circulating right now that my producer partner and I wrote for myself, a buddy cop show. I have two films that we just got distribution for that Iíll be directing at the top of the year, and I just got an offer to direct a Ö, which looks like the second quarter of next year are going to put that together, which is really, really interesting. I canít wait until I can start talking about it. Itís such a game changer for me.

I directed a film called Pastor Brown three years ago. We got 18 offers for distribution; three of those offers were international. We finally settled on ARC Entertainment. Theyíre going to do distribution for the movie, theatrical release, thank God. And it looks like that will come out somewhere around Easter of next year. We just had like a two year lawsuit on the film and we finally got it back so now that will come out and thatís my directorial. Great, great film. Very spiritually uplifting. Really good feeling film. Sallie Richardson and Nicole Ari Parker, Keith David, Ernie Hudson, Tisha Campbell, Tasha Smith, Michael B., Michael B. Jordon, Creflo Dollar, Angie Stone Monica to name a few, all in the film.

And I just signed on yesterday to do six to eight episodes of The Game, which is on BET. Iím playing a character that actuallyóI did one episode. I was a character called ĎPookieí from Richmond, and a very Ö character and very fun. So Iím going back to Atlanta next week and Iíll start working on that while Iím prepping these other two independent films that Iíll start directing Iím sure.

Moderator We have a question from the line of Diane Morasco with Morasco Media.

D. Morasco Now, my question is if you were to sit down with anyone past or present who would it by and what would you be talking about?

R. Dunbar Wow, definitely Jimmy Hendricks andówell, letís just start with Jimmy Hendricks. Thatís a lot. Creative process, opening up and just speaking on creative process and how to stay focused, true, and be within the moment, just wanting to speak on his process. That would just be top of the line for me. Who else? I would sayóletís stick with that. Thatís a lot. Thatís heavy. Thatís a long conversation. Thatís a six month conversation.

D. Morasco What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

R. Dunbar Be patient. Always be kind. Stand in the middle of the river. Just be prepared. It will all come. Donít be in such a rush and give yourself room to make mistakes because youíre human. Weíve got to make mistakes and allow yourself to make those mistakes because it only gives growth.

D. Morasco My next question to you would be, basically if you had a chance to write the character of ĎElií what characteristic would you give him thatís not there yet?

R. Dunbar Thatís a really good question because I always go towards conflict and imbalance and what type of conflict or imbalance or internal demon that he has that needs to be suppressed in order for him to do his work. And I wouldnít immediately lean towards drugs or some type of mental illness because itís been done so many times and I donít think itís necessarily that interesting. But what type of conflict would I give him and I think is interesting to play and could get some mileage out of it? I think it definitely would have to be a passion geared towards maybe his career and the balance of trying to figure out how to really function within his career but alsoóI donít know. I would have to think about that but it would definitely be a conflict. It would be some type of conflict and imbalance within his personality.

D. Morasco Okay and you know what I was kind of hoping for a little twist even that there could have been some kind of connection between ĎElií and ĎJuiceí given the fact that they both share being African American. I was hoping that there would be a twist like you know a family member. Like if that were the case how do you think that would change things for ĎElií if he found out that he was related to ĎJuiceí?

R. Dunbar I donít know. I would love to see you write that and play that out. That would be interesting. That would be something but you know in some relation form shape and down the lineage, the line, Iím sure he is related.

D. Morasco Yes and my last question what makes Rockmond laugh? I mean really laugh in your core.

R. Dunbar I love dark humor. I have a Ö sense of humor. I love things that are so grounded in life but just happen to be just a little bit twisted. My sense of humor is a little bit twisted. I love jokes that just donítóthat shouldnít be funny but kind of are so those types of things just really makes me laugh. Anything thatís like really grounded in humanity and just are so real but happen to be faux pas or just really shouldnít be funny I kind of like it.

K. Silvernail We have time for one more question.

Moderator Our last question is from the line of Melissa Girimonte with

M. Girimonte What a strong stand following Sons of Anarchy has and obviously most of the fans are going to be fighting with the MC on the series. Have you had any specific feedback on your character from the fans or any encounters with the fans so far?

R. Dunbar Yeah. You know itís really interesting because I already had a fan base from Prison Break and a small movie that I did called Ö and so my audience that I brought actually to the show is itís really interesting and new. A lot of people from my Twitter and also from Facebook love the character. The people that love to hate him. Thereís people that are like more fans ofóa fan club from the very beginning and they were like, ďYouíve got to die in the next episode. Thereís no way.Ē But then you start to love to hate him and itís really interesting how the character is starting to take new legs and the original fans of the show areóeven though they love the MC theyíre really kind of pulling for my character too at the same time. So itís been really nice. I think that is just all in the hands of the writers. They created a really great character and Iím trying my best to keep up with them.

K. Silvernail Well, thanks, again, to everybody for participating today. As a reminder, Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. I hope everybody has a great day. Thanks again for everything, Rockmond. Everybody can disconnect.

R. Dunbar Okay. Bye-bye.

Moderator Thank you. This concludes our conference. You may disconnect.

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