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Interview with Rockmond Dunbar of "Sons of Anarchy" on FX 11/2/11
FX NETWORK: SONS OF ANARCHY
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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