Ellen Gray: Jimmy Smits, Wanda De Jesus, Harold Perrineau added to 'Sons of Anarchy' in new season

Jimmy Smits (right) is the new friend to Charlie Hunnam (left) and Katey Sagal on "Sons of Anarchy."
Jimmy Smits (right) is the new friend to Charlie Hunnam (left) and Katey Sagal on "Sons of Anarchy."
Posted: September 12, 2012

* SONS OF ANARCHY. 10 p.m. Tuesday, FX.

KURT SUTTER may not need to get Katey Sagal anything for their next anniversary.

Because the creator of FX's "Sons of Anarchy," whose wife is one of the show's biggest stars, has already given her Jimmy Smits.

There aren't many things to be exactly cheerful about in Tuesday's season-five premiere of "Sons," a drama about an outlaw motorcycle gang in which the level of violence still holds the power to shock. But the introduction of Smits as Nero Padilla, an intriguing new friend for Gemma (Sagal), is one.

"I thought it was such a great role. And [Smits is] a dream to work with," said Sagal, laughing, after I'd complimented her on Sutter's largesse, following an FX press conference last month.

"And look at him - he's gorgeous," she added, glancing over to where Smits was talking to other reporters.

She and Sutter, who've been married since 2004, are "pretty secure with each other. He's not afraid I'm running off, and I'm not afraid he is. We don't want to. I adore my husband," she said.

It doesn't hurt, either, that Smits' longtime partner, Wanda De Jesus, is also guest-starring in "Sons" this season (as is "Lost's" Harold Perrineau, playing a somewhat less congenial character).

"I mean we did have to do a few scenes where I was like, 'Really? Wanda's in the room?' " she said.

She wasn't concerned about her own husband?

"Kurt was like in the next building," she said.

"You know, we're actors . . . I've done love scenes with many a person. Even though, John Ritter, I was quite smitten with, I must say," she said.

"He was my first screen kiss, actually, when we did ['Chance of a Lifetime'] together," said Sagal, who was also co-starring with Ritter in "8 Simple Rules" when he died, nine years ago Tuesday, of an aortic dissection.

"And I'll never forget. I was quite nervous about it, and then he laid it on me in a big way and I was like, 'Oh, this is fabulous.' It was great."

By contrast, doing a sex scene is "pretty technical and clinical. And it's always very safe, and they close off the room," she said.

"And [Smits is] beautiful. If you have to take your clothes off . . . he just goes there," Sagal said.

How is that for her?

"Not so easy, for me," she said. "And on FX, we have very strong rules about what you can show and you can't show, so you know . . . you sort of have to be careful."

And then there's being a woman of a certain age as opposed to being a man of about the same age.

"Oh, I'm in the gym a lot," Sagal said. "Those scenes are shot dark and quick . . . [but] you have to do it over and over again. You just get into it. It's like anything. It's like playing a shooting scene or a dying scene. You know, you just be present with the material. That's really what it is.

"And Gemma is in such a place of her life right now - in my backstory, it's not really Kurt's, but I think she's kind of a blackout drinker, so when she drinks, she doesn't really know where she is. Because you'll see this season, she has a lot of situations she finds herself in where she's like, 'Who are you? How did I get here?' "

As an actress, she may have felt that way herself at times. "You have that moment of 'Oh, my God, how am I going to be in bed with this person and do this thing? Basically, I just met him,' " she said of Smits, laughing.

Sutter, of course, she's known far longer. And she's learned, she said, to trust he knows where he's taking her character and the rest of those on "Sons."

"He's so methodical in his approach to things that it always has a reason. There's nothing really gratuitous," she said. "I don't even know what's going to happen next. He will not tell me. And trust me, I ask."

Sutter may not be the only one who's made some points at home with this casting.

De Jesus, whom Smits refers to as his wife, is a "huge" fan of the show.

And now they're both getting to work on it. Though he's the only one who's introduced naked.

How much had he known about that aspect, going in?

"In the initial conversations with Kurt that I had, that came up," Smits told a few reporters after the press conference.

"At least I knew Paris [Barclay] was going to be directing that, and I had worked with Paris before on ['NYPD] Blue,' so my back would be covered," he said, adding, "Yeah, on a lot of levels."

He also knew that he wouldn't be getting to ride a motorcycle, though he's been practicing, just in case.

"It kind of reminded me of my George Lucas 'Star Wars' conversation. 'We want you to be in "Star Wars," but you're not going to get a saber,' " said Smits, who was in "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."

" 'You can come and play on "Sons," but you're not going to ride.' "

Contact Ellen Gray at graye@phillynews.com or 215-854-5950. Follow her on Twitter @elgray. Read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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