Kim Coates is so convincing on "Sons of Anarchy" that real-life bikers like to give him their opinion of the show.
Case in point. Coates was at the gym a few years ago when an ex-biker club member got right in his face.
"Listen man," Coates recalls the guy saying, "I'm not gonna pull any punches." Using colourful language, the biker went on to tell Coates that while he enjoyed his performance, he had problems with the show. A list of those concerns followed.
The 52-year-old actor calmly stood his ground.
"I said to him, 'It's a TV show. Based on some truths, based on 'Hamlet' metaphorically, but it's a TV show.'"
Maybe it was the Hamlet reference that soothed the dude. Maybe it was Coates' Harley out front. Whatever, Coates was able to make the case that he was "just trying to do a television show within the genre of the biker world."
Canadians who have not yet found the series on the Pay TV service Super Channel can catch up from the beginning when it premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. on FX Canada. The new Rogers-owned specialty channel launches Monday night.
Coates loves being on "Sons of Anarchy" and is thrilled the series set an FX premiere ratings record when it returned in the U.S. last month for a fourth season. A rare actor who makes you feel like you've known him for years on a first interview, the Saskatchewan native has never been busier. Besides "Sons of Anarchy," he was a familiar face on the just-finished HBO series "Entourage."
Coates has roles in five films set to come out, including "Sacrifice" with Cuba Gooding, Jr., and "A Little Help" opposite Jenna Fischer ("The Office"). He was at the Toronto International Film Festival last month to promote the rowdy hockey movie "Goon" (co-written by Jay Baruchel). Seann William Scott, Alison Pill and Eugene Levy also have roles in the film, which will be released next year.
"I love hockey, I'm a hockey guy," says Coates. He played a lot as a kid back in Saskatoon but his CCM Super Tacks got a tad rusty during his long years in Hollywood. Roles on "Black Hawk Down" and various "CSI" episodes got him into a game or two with Hollywood mogul Jerry Bruckheimer, a hockey nut who has his own shinny league.
L.A. hockey was never the same though.
"I couldn't get over playing hockey when it was nice outside," he says. "I'm just a boy from Saskatoon who doesn't want to be cold anymore."
These days he’s more at home on his Harley, a custom-built Wide Glide.
"Got to kind of design it myself from Eagle Nest Harley in Sacramento," says Coates, one of only two "SOA" cast members with biker cred heading into the series.
"Mark Boone Junior (Bobby Munson) and I were the only real riders when this started. All the boys are pretty good now except for one who shall remain nameless."
Told Ron Perlman (Clay Morrow) intimidates this reporter, Coates claims "he’s a pussycat. I have more fun with him than anybody else on that set."
Despite his onscreen image — often as the creep next door — in over 40 films, Coates is a pussycat himself, a dedicated family man married for 26 years with two grown daughters.
As for the Shakespeare metaphor, Coates is equally at home around Hamlet as he is on a Harley. He starred as Macbeth at Stratford when he was just 27 (singling out director Tom Kerr as "my mentor") and enjoyed a run on Broadway as Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire."
The latter experience taught him the value of conserving one’s voice. "Screaming, 'Stella!' every night can be draining," he says.
His love of theatre began at the University of Saskatchewan where he took a drama class "just for fun." He wound up doing play after play over four years, "an amazing learning ground for me."
He gets the Hamlet thing on "SOA" and credits series creator Kurt Sutter with turning this outlaw biker crew into compelling television.
"Kurt's an amazing storyteller," says Coates. "I like to think that most of us know our characters better than he does now but really the story is all in his head."
There was one time when Coates felt Sutter made a wrong turn on the series.
Without spoiling what happens in Season Two, there is a moment when Tig (Coates) gets cozy with Gemma (Katey Sagal), the wife of the club president, Clay (Perlman). Coates read the script, could not believe Tig would ever sneak around on Clay and demanded to see Sutter.
"Take a breath," Sutter told Coates, explaining that this is, after all, a tale of biker outlaws, a world of drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll. Gemma is lost and lonely and comes on to Tig. Tig is lost and lonely and responds.
"You're not doing it out of anything with Clay," explained Sutter. "It's just a moment of two very wounded people coming together for some love, some something."
Was it ever consummated? Will Tig get back with Gemma?
"All I know is that things are happening this year," says Coates. "Stuff is going down."
Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.