INTERVIEW – Robin Weigert talks personal conflict and moral ambiguity on ‘Sons of Anarchy.’

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As legal representation for SAMCRO, Ally Lowen has been involved in some of the most scandalous events to ever occur on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. This season, she’s struggling to keep Tara out of jail on conspiracy charges, as well as covertly assisting her in trying to escape the clutches of the club with her family intact. Unfortunately, Tara’s exit strategy may pose a major threat to Lowen’s carefully orchestrated defense.

In a recent conference call with journalists, Robin Weigert discussed the complexities of playing such a “morally ambiguous” character, whose personal feelings may slowly begin interfering with her function as the club’s lawyer. Here are some of the highlights.

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Now that we’ve finally seen Tara’s master plan get put into motion, can you talk us through how much of that plan Lowen was involved with, and her reaction when she finally pieced it all together?

I had built such a careful case and this is a huge bomb that she drops right in the middle of it. You can understand why Tara would want total security, that she could keep Gemma away from the kids, but at the same time she’s wrought havoc on my work, as Ally Lowen, to try to prepare for us to have a solid case in court. What she’s done could be investigated and be punctured. If that happens, then it damages all the rest of what I’ve carefully orchestrated for trial. I think that’s a lot of what’s going through my head, and I have no choice really but to stand by her side in this chapter, but it’s a tough one.

robin weigert interview 02This seems like it could come back and bite Lowen somewhere down the road.

Being a lawyer for a member of a house divided is a lot more dynamic than being a lawyer for a house united, and this whole season has been about the fracturing of that family. Early on, I had to take sides and it was said in no uncertain terms in that scene with Gemma, whose side I was going to take. I think the line was, “I guess I’ll have to figure out which innocent is in need of a good defense,” with the word innocent loaded with irony. Really, none of them are innocent and to be a lawyer and sign up for this job, you’d have to know that you were doing a little bit of a dance, a careful dance.

It’s the same as being a lawyer for the mob, I guess. You are really working the law to try to help your client; and at the same time, you know that your client will have done a lot of things that are not on the right side of the law, so you have to kind of almost play the game of law. It feels like this has somehow gotten personal for Lowen, because of her investment perhaps in the kids, in a sense that their innocence and even their lives are in danger.

Over the course of her involvement with the Sons of Anarchy, Lowen has seemingly taken everything in stride. Why do you think the situation with Tara has affected her so much?

Characters like Unser and, to an extent, Lowen, as morally ambiguous as their roles are at times, they are on the side of right somehow. They’re wanting good to prevail over evil and are fighting that fight. I think what you’re seeing is that these characters are more embattled this season and have to make choices; and as soon as you have to make choices, there’s no way not to become personally engaged because these aren’t choices dictated by the law. They’re dictated by one’s conscience, and as soon as you start to make choices on that basis, you’re implicated, and you’re involved in a different level.

She’s had to create a kind of hierarchy of what’s more important than not and even at some risk to herself this season, because, certainly, she’s been threatened. She’s walking into deeper and deeper waters here where she stands to be ever more threatened, because the situation is becoming unbelievably volatile, and the potential for volatility is just escalating. She has to recognize with each step she takes that she’s committing more and more.

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How do you think the events of the past few episodes have affected Tara’s relationship with Lowen?

Well, it’s interesting that it is a professional relationship, and yet the stakes have become personal. I don’t know that they’re exactly friends. I mean, I think as I begin to realize how much is being concealed from me, elements of trust are being savaged in the process, so the capacity to represent her well is being challenged and I think if there’s one thing I want to be, it’s a good lawyer.

We’ve either got to get on the same page or I’ve got to get out. I think that’s clearly what’s going through my mind at this point. I cannot be at odds with my client and still do well by her. I can’t be kept in the dark and still do well by her. You know, we have to join forces. You’re also starting to see in Tara a kind of wildness, I think, because as much as she’s working to save those kids, there’s just no way she doesn’t also love her husband, no matter how much of a defense she has up against him.

She’s really plunging into the territory of unbelievably painful ambivalence right now and you’re watching it. I think Maggie’s work this season is so tremendous, and you can really feel how fragmented she’s becoming inside. I think that I, as her lawyer, am registering how extreme it’s getting for her. There’s just to a lot to weigh, a lot to measure in terms of what are the best steps to take.

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Do you think Lowen is concerned about the fallout from Jax and Gemma, when they manage to finally uncover the whole truth about Tara’s plan?

I think, in terms of just non-altruistic fear that she might have, which for part of herself is coming from this sort of animal survival part or is it coming from this sort of lawyer ego part. I think it may be a mixture of both. I mean, surely, she is not imagining that she is going to genuinely get murdered. But it can’t be outside of her mind.

She’s seen, for the first time, lists of the atrocities that have been committed by various members of the club, because Tara’s been building this case with her, she’s showed her evidence and Wendy showed her evidence too, of just exactly how egregious her clients have been. I think she may realize for the first time that anything is on the table. I think there’s a difference in terms of the intensity which she’s been experiencing from past seasons. I think past seasons have all been imagined power, and in this season, she may be slowly perceiving her lack of power, because she’s dealing with so many rogue elements that she can’t possibly control.

Is it fair to say that Lowen is letting her personal feelings cloud her judgment?

This is where I really feel like the character is being put to the test, because I think up until now in other cases I’ve represented, I’ve been able to stay cleanly on the side of just being there as a representative. Here, as I’ve peered into the hell of what these kids have facing them, if they don’t get cleared of this club, it’s starting to be a cause. It’s starting to be a real cause for me, and it’s sort of impossible to not get caught up and engaged.

This is a season where she’s being thrust into a relationship to herself that she’s probably not that familiar with, having to really decide where she stands as a human, so I think it’s kind of cracking her open slowly. I think it’s why there are little peeks of more emotion showing from the character. As soon as the human stakes get really high, I think you’re very much put to the test. It’s not for the faint of heart, this kind of work.

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Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesday nights at 10pm, exclusively on FX.

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