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By Suzanne

David Labrava

Interview with David Labrava of "Sons of Anarchy" on Syfy 11/9/11

FX NETWORK: Sons of Anarchy
November 9, 2011/10:00 a.m. PST

Kristy Silvernail, FX Network / Media Relations Manager
David Labrava, Sons of Anarchy / “Happy”


Moderator Welcome to the Sons of Anarchy conference call. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Kristy Silvernail.

K. Silvernail Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Sons of Anarchy conference call with David Labrava, who stars at the ultra-intense fully patched SAMCRO member, ‘Happy.’ In addition to starring in this role, David also co-wrote last night’s episode called “Hands” with Chris Collins and Kurt Sutter. Before we get started, I just wanted to take a brief moment and thank all of your for joining us this morning and especially David. It’s a real pleasure to have you with us. As everyone knows, Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. eastern and pacific only on FX. So with that said, let’s open it up for questions.

Moderator Your first question comes from the line of Michelle Alexandria from Eclipse Magazine.

M. Alexandria I was reading your bio and it seems like you are a heavy writer. What do you prefer to do more, write or act or direct?

D. Labrava I love writing. I think writing and directing go hand in hand. I’ve been writing and getting published since 1990 and I kind of fell into the acting, which is a lot, a lot of fun. I enjoy acting, but I’m definitely pushing towards directing.

M. Alexandria Did you have any formal training acting or how did this role come about for you?

D. Labrava I got hired to be the technical advisor and when Kurt [Sutter] came up to my area to get some technical advice on the motorcycle club world, I showed him that I was … man for … and I wrote scripts and I asked him to let me have a chance when he cast the show. I got cast on the show and then he gave me a real chance to write and here I am.

Moderator Your next question comes from the line of Jeri Jacquin from Military Press.

J. Jacquin Last night’s show was intense. How did you feel watching ‘Clay’ and ‘Gemma,’ how did that come about?

D. Labrava I think it’s been culminating for quite some time. I think in my personal opinion if we just stay on the show level, I think ‘Clay’ should keep ‘Gemma’ a little bit closer since she is complicit from the start. Like if you’re following the show, they [supposedly] killed ‘JT’ together and now ‘Clay’ is pushing her to the outside and ‘Gemma’ is no dummy. She’s been around the block, so I thought that that fight scene was…it’s right on time. It’s right where it should be.

J. Jacquin Do you think it was a risk to show that much violence?

D. Labrava Not at all, violence sells.

J. Jacquin No, I agree with you, but that kind of violence, do you think that you’re going to be getting some hits for that?

D. Labrava No, I think if you follow the Internet I think the entire viewing public, they really want ‘Clay’ dead, which makes for great television. That’s the A story, it’s ‘Clay’ and ‘Jax,’ it’s ‘Clay’ and ‘Gemma’ and how evil can ‘Clay’ really be, which seems to have no boundaries.

J. Jacquin I have to tell you, we had a roomful of people and there were jaws dropping everywhere.

D. Labrava Oh, yes, I really even enjoyed the end, too. You got all these people with history, ‘Gemma’ and ‘Unser’ grew up together, ‘Clay,’ they have history. It’s prime time for everybody…wants ‘Clay’ dead and ‘Gemma’ wants him dead by the hand of a son, her son, so it’s going to be interesting as it comes to an end.

Moderator Your next question comes from the line of Lelle Lutz from Your Entertainment.

L. Lutz I would like to discuss a little bit more the creative process that you follow to complete the script. And if you’d be so kind to share with us, if you were given a basic storyline structure to follow and how much leeway were you able to incorporate in terms of your own ideas.

D. Labrava Writing a TV show is totally different than writing features or just what I started doing is writing features. You write a little bit more organically. You start from the beginning to the end, beginning, middle and end. In the TV world there’s probably at least 25 points that have to get carried over from episode to episode to make the show work. It’s an incredibly creative process to sit in that writers’ room with six other people and pitch ideas and pitch ideas until you have a great story and Kurt [Sutter] comes in. He is an incredible writer and you pitch ideas until everybody gives feedback and everybody signs off on it. And then you move away to write the dialog and fill in the blanks on the show.

L. Lutz My next question is that we haven’t seen much of ‘Happy’ at an individual level in the last episode. So can you share with us what are ‘Happy’s’ thoughts regarding the present situation that the club is facing and what can we expect from ‘Happy’ as the season comes to a close?

D. Labrava I think Happy is getting a little bit more vocal, but like in the club, there are all kinds of members, every kind you can imagine. Some guys are basically just soldiers, which is ‘Happy,’ he’s there, he’s a solider. He’s not an officer. He doesn’t desire to be an officer. He’s there to just make things happen for the club.

On the show production level like ‘Happy,’ I as an actor couldn’t be in episode ten and sit in the writer’s chair behind Peter Weller and do the writer job. So it was very important for me to learn that aspect of it, but I know I’m pretty certain ‘Happy’ will be in the rest of them, so…

L. Lutz And then my last question is I would like for you to invite us into ‘Happy’s’ mind, so given the state of things in SAMCRO, which MC member would you say that ‘Happy’ respects the most, then the member that he relates the most to and who does he have to least respect for and why?

D. Labrava No question, ‘Happy’ relates the most to ‘Jax.’ You will see it sort of near the end. You’ll see little moments between those two. I have to say ‘Happy’ respects everybody, but there’s a lot of emotion, it’s a lot of expressions.

You watch people, like if you watch closer, you could see the faces of the actors on the show, they’re all like, like especially Chibs [Tommy Flanagan], they’re getting in deep with this cartel and they know it. That’s not who they are.

You have to watch closely, because ‘Happy’ doesn’t have a lot of dialog, but if you watch closely, he’s watching ‘Juice.’ It’s painfully apparent [to Happy] that ‘Juice’ is a rat. ‘Juice’ has really screwed up with a lot of things going on and ‘Chibs’ and ‘Happy,’ some people are looking at him very closely. But I have to say on just a member level, ‘Happy’ is basically just a soldier. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not looking for a way out. He has no escape plan. This is his plan to be in the club and that’s it.

L. Lutz I just wanted to close my questions since you mentioned the Web and monitoring what has been said, a couple of fans that wanted me to pass on that they think you did a great job on your writing debut. So thank you so much and congratulations on a great episode. Thank you for answering my questions.

D. Labrava Oh, thank you so much, really.

Moderator Your next question comes from the line of Lance Carter from Daily Actor.

L. Carter I got on the call about three minutes into it and you were talking about I guess how you got on the show. But had you wanted to try your hand at acting before? Was this just an opportunity that came about?

D. Labrava I actually, it seems like the Hollywood thing sort of found me a couple times because I wasn’t living here trying to do this at all. I’m an artist. I’m a tatoo artist and I went to school to paint and that sort of thing. I started writing and getting published and I have to say I think every American kid grows up dreaming about being in the movies. That’s completely normal for us.

But I mostly wanted to be a writer in my life and then I got taught the script writing program and I got a chance to act and I have to say the acting is extremely fun, extremely vital. It’s an incredible crew that I work with. They all have a great appreciation for film. Those people that you see, we do movie trivia all day long. Like [Ron Perlman] knows all the way to black and white.

I enjoy the acting. I didn’t plan on that. It sort of fell into me and I’m having a lot of fun with it, but I’m definitely moving towards directing because I’m naturally a writer. And I think a good director edits, writes, has acted a little bit. He’s done a little bit of everything and that’s what I’m trying to do.

L. Carter Would you star in any of your other things you write or direct?

D. Labrava I sold my own show to the network last year, which now we’re shopping around to cable and FX is very good to me to allow me to do that. I also finished a feature film with a sequel we are shopping around now. I might put myself in a cameo in any of those movies, but mostly I want to be behind the camera.

Moderator Next we’ll go back to the line of Michelle Alexandria from Eclipse Magazine.

M. Alexandria Can you talk a little bit about your love of motorcycles and how that came about?

D. Labrava I was riding dirt bikes when I was a little kid. I got my first Harley Davidson when I was 17 years old. It was a frame with wheels and a tank on it and all the parts in a box. I got it for a great deal and six months later my mother is telling me to get it out of the living room. I have to build this outside; it’s stinking up the house. This is just what you go through if you are this person, you go through years of having motorcycles that’s been more in the garage than out on the road. It just takes a long time. It’s like you get bit by the bug and it won’t go away.

M. Alexandria One of the questions I always wanted to ask a biker is when you think of bikers, you just have these rugged individual people. It seems like the first time people buy a bike, they want to find a gang to join. What is it about that culture that makes you want to come together?

D. Labrava First of all, I never think it’s a gang, because the gang is a street gang. If you’re …, you know the different between a gang. I know the government likes to differentiate the clubs from the gangs, but it is really a motorcycle club and it’s kind of like the Army. Everyone is your brother. You have to love everyone, but there are so many guys, some of them really become your true friends. But everyone is your brother and we definitely have to be that kind of person. Some people are loners and some people identify with being in a group. They identify it and if you identify it, then you’ll find us and you’ll find a way to become one of us.

M. Alexandria Is there anything special you had to do to become part of that?

D. Labrava You have to be there. I have to say of the big clubs, all of them are run basically a little bit different. I’m in a very democratic club and you basically have to be there. You have to show support. You have to show us that this is what you want to do and it can take a few years to do that.

But it isn’t like what you might think it is. It is nothing like the mob. It’s a motorcycle club and they do defense fund parties and they go on runs together and camp out. I’m sure it gets painted to be something way more vicious than it really, really is, but in any group, I don’t care if it’s the Girl Scouts or the Lion’s Eye Bank, there’ll probably be some bad apples, some good apples, some guys who do nothing and some guys who do everything.

Moderator Your next question comes from the line of Lelle Lutz from Your Entertainment.

L. Lutz I was watching the video Behind the Cut with ‘Happy,’ and you mentioned that ‘Happy’s’ calling is killing people and that he sleeps well at night. Tell us a bit about ‘Happy’s’ back story that made him a natural in the killing department or do you think this is something he became good at from knowing that he is actually killing for his family in this case, his MC family.

D. Labrava I remember when Kurt [Sutter] explained to me why I was called ‘Happy.’ “Why didn’t you call me ‘Psycho’?” He’s like, “No, because your name is ‘Happy,’ you’re an assassin for the club and you’re never happy. It’s like ironic.” It’s like I explained before, ‘Happy’ is just soldier. I look at ‘Happy,’ he’s got his aunt and he has his mom, but the real family to ‘Happy’ is that club. Those are his brothers. That’s his little world. He’s there to do whatever. He is an assassin for the club.

This is s a TV show, you know what I mean, and his character is this guy who’s like, he’s ready to do whatever for the club, whatever it takes. He’s gotten very good at it through time, that’s why he does lines like I’ll do this and I’ll do it very well and they know he will. Like in the beginning when ‘Clay’ said, these guys are not killers. That’s why they’re having problems with the cartel. Like gun dealing is the extent of their ambitiousness and that’s why they have a guy like ‘Happy.’ Although ‘Clay’ has really emerged as evil personified for sure he has. It’s ‘Happy’s’ calling to do whatever it takes that the club needs, which is a lot of time kill people.

L. Lutz ‘Happy’ is definitely a fan favorite. I visited multiple times your ‘Happy’ page on Facebook, which you’re friend Howard Levine runs. Tell us about your fan interactions as a result of the show.

D. Labrava I have to say it’s very strange, I pretty much get recognized at least once a day. It’s very a popular show. I grew up a lot in Europe. I don’t know if you know this show is bigger in Europe than even here. It’s huge. It’s quite different. I live a pretty private life and now I get recognized and fans are so appreciative that it’s truly overwhelming. They are wonderful.

L. Lutz Yes, definitely the fans are very dedicated to the show. How about in your home state of Florida? Do you go back to Miami often and do you get recognized there a lot?

D. Labrava A lot and my mom is so proud, which is the ultimate best part of all of this is that I make my mother proud. She stuck by me. I haven’t been a walk in the park, but yes, it’s definitely cool to make the people that know you your whole life, I didn’t see this coming. You’re making the people in your life very proud, that’s totally exciting. I speak to my mom all the time, so it’s very cool.

Moderator Next we’ll go to the line of Lance Carter, Daily Actor.

L. Carter You’re working with some great, great actors. Since you are new at it, how have they helped you grow as an actor or was it mostly you just kind of learned by watching them?

D. Labrava Both, I learn by watching anything I do and these guys are wonderful, Tommy [Flanagan], Ron [Perlman], Charlie [Hunnam], all of them. These people have extended themselves. It’s exactly as I told Kurt [Sutter] when I asked him to let me have a shot at being on the show, I said I write. That means I can see. When he writes and he acts, he does everything, actually, but if you write and people ask me what acting school did I go to, I say I went to the school of let’s pretend. It started when I was nine.

Tommy [Flanagan], Charlie [Hunnam], these guys have helped me extensively. These are great actors. They have practiced their craft to the fullest and they’re great at it and they give me great input and I’m so very appreciative.

Moderator Your next question comes from the line of Jeri Jacquin from Military Press.

J. Jacquin I was thinking when you were talking about how popular this is overseas, the series has been hinting the last couple shows about the Irish. Where is that going?

D. Labrava I have to say you probably just have to watch to see where it’s going. But it’s pretty apparent we’re trying to do a deal with these guys. We just keep getting in pitfalls trying to be the middleman between the Irish and the cartel and I think it’s culminating to come to a head of something very exciting really soon.

J. Jacquin I notice you’re dealing with almost three different groups and the Irish. That has to be hard to keep up.

D. Labrava It is. It’s quite interesting when you’re trying to write the next episode and think three or four episodes down the line where this is really going. Kurt [Sutter] has a clear vision, which helps incredibly when you’re sitting in the writers’ room with five other people and the show runner has exactly clear vision. We work with a different director every time. We’ve worked with some incredible directors, but when Kurt [Sutter] is directing, it’s fantastic because it’s his vision. He sees exactly what he wants to see and it’s perfect.

J. Jacquin I was going to ask he seems like a very intense person.

D. Labrava He’s wonderful. I’m not just placating that, but it makes the job easy when somebody knows exactly what they want to see and exactly what they don’t want to see and exactly how it should go and the tone of the scene and every bit of it. It makes the job much easier. There is no guessing game involved and that’s good. It’s a tough thing to run a show and to work with all kinds of egos and different people and different opinions and it’s just a hard thing.

J. Jacquin Especially for such an intense show.

D. Labrava Yes, exactly.

J. Jacquin Do you see him as mentor then?

D. Labrava Without a doubt, he is my writing guru. He has helped me immensely. He has given me incredible breaks and I’m so appreciative. It’s no joke.

Moderator At this time there are no further questions.

K. Silvernail Then I think we can be done, so thanks again to everybody for participating today.

D. Labrava Thank you all so much.

K. Silvernail As a reminder Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. eastern and Pacific. With that I hope everybody has a great day. Thanks again for everything, David. You all can now disconnect.

D. Labrava Any time.

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