It’s 5 PM on the second day of New York Comic Con when Monkeys Fighting Robots meets Kim Coates in Magnolia Pictures’ Midtown Manhattan office. If Coates is worn down from a day of back-to-back interviews, he’s not showing it.
Best known for his role as Alexander “Tig” Trager, sergeant-at-arms of the eponymous outlaw motorcycle club in FX’s ultraviolent Hamlet-on-motorcycles drama ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ Coates now finds himself in a role on the other side of the law as Officer Downe.
Adapted from the Joe Casey and Chris Burnham comic of the same name and directed by Slipknot drummer M. Shawn Crahan (or Clown, as he’s more commonly known), ‘Officer Downe’ follows a resurrected Los Angeles police officer’s war on crime. And nothing is perhaps clearer during our conversation than the fact that Coates is pumped for its release.
“It’s on,” he says, slapping a conference room table. “Officer Downe is on.”
Over the course of our conversation, Coates gave us the details on what attracted him to the project, Clown’s direction, and whether we might see him pop up again in a certain TV spinoff.
What attracted you to the role of Officer Downe?
‘Officer Downe,’ you know, it was brought to me by my people in February of last year. I was in no rush to get back onto any TV show when ‘Sons of Anarchy’ ended, so I was saying no to every television show that was thrown my way — and a couple of movies, as well. I wasn’t in any rush. I knew things were all gonna happen when they were supposed to, doing something I wanted to do.
And this came to me and they wanted me to read it right away, and I did. It was crazy, like nothing I’d ever read before, really, in that genre of a futuristic cop who keeps dying and they keep bringing him back alive. It has vicious bad people, L.A. has turned to shit, and it’s kind of funny. And it’s a comic book, based on.
So fine, I didn’t know the comic book. I didn’t know Joe Casey. He’s famous. I didn’t know he was famous for ‘Officer Downe,’ as well. So I met the next day with nine people in a room like this, and we had Clown, Shawn Crahan, on speaker phone. He was in Berlin with Slipknot, doin’ his thing. I said to him, first thing out of my mouth, “How are you going to shoot this in 25 Days? I mean, how?” And he said, “I hope to have you as playing Downe.” So that was a pretty good thing for me to hear with everybody in the room. They obviously all wanted me because they offered it to me by the time I walked to my motorcycle that day.
I had five weeks to get into the best physical shape I’d ever been in for a movie. I did 95% of my stunts. Wait til you see this movie. It’s gonna blow your mind. I’m really proud of the crew, really proud of my co-stars. From the wardrobe, Don did such an amazing job — and Gerardo [Madrazo] shooting it. And oh my god, the stunt guys, Daniel Bernhardt and Frank, helped me get into physical shape, to fight like this cop would fight, and to figure out his internal workings.
He’s a good cop, 100%. Doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t have a wife. No dogs — he’s married to his badge, and he dies on the job. Sad. Big flashback. They put him on ice. They don’t know why, but they put him on ice in the depths of LAPD. Years and years and years go by, and they figure out how to bring him back. So he’s part Robocop, part Frankenstein. He’s mostly human, but every time he wakes up from being so savagely beaten and killed by these bad guys, a little chunk of his armor’s missing. A little something’s gone. He struggles with that.
So it’s a real method piece for me, too — from the gnarly faces I would make when I was fighting, like the comic book, to finding that real human heartbeat in him when I wasn’t, it was awesome.
You said you got in the best physical shape you’ve been in, so what was the training regimen like?
I had an incredible trainer, Nancy. I won’t tell you where in L.A., but she’s amazing. Her and her husband, Albert, they worked on me every day. And I worked with Daniel, like I said, and Frank. Not every day, but every other day for sure. We trained and trained and trained so that by the time we started, we didn’t have to fool around. We knew what we were doing somehow.
They blocked out all these incredible stunt scenes with great actors. We had [Sona Eyambe as] Zen Master Flash; he speaks Mandarin, but actually with a bad English accent and subtitles. It’s like a bad Japanese B-movie from the ‘60s, so there’s different kinds of film noir stuff going on. And Clown, really, was responsible for a lot of that. He directed it, with Mark Neveldine, who co-directed. It was on. It was a crazy filming experience like nothing I’ve ever done, probably ever.
It was also Clown’s first feature film, so what was it like working with him? I’m familiar with the music videos and tour documentaries he’s directed.
He’s brilliant. He’s kooky. He’s committed. He’s not afraid to fail, which all great artists should be. He was a collaborator. We worked so well together. I would come up with ideas and he loved ‘em. He would come up with ideas and I loved ‘em. It was a big thing for him, his first big feature. I think we’re pretty proud that Magnolia bought it right away, and it’s gonna be released on Nov. 18 on video-on-demand and some select theaters around the world. So I think he’s gonna be pretty proud like I am, for sure.
I had read that he said he brought a lot of “rock and roll” to the movie, so are there any fun set stories you can share?
Probably too many that I can share, but he beats to his own drum. I know he’s a drummer, so that’s a bad analogy. He had in his mind, I’m sure, certain types of music scenarios when we were filming certain scenes, for sure.
And this is a Hard R movie, son. This ain’t for no 17-year-olds. I’m naked, it’s violent, it’s funny, it’s crazy. It’s heavy metal and bad elevator music. It opens on a nude scene with me and a girl — I’m just doing my civic duty, of course.
You mentioned method acting and some of the gnarly faces you had to make, and one of the thoughts that jumped out in my mind was the first episode of season five of ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ when your daughter is being burned alive. What sorts of things do you have to think about to really get into the right mindset to bring that kind of emotion in a film or show?
That particular first show of season 5, when Kurt Sutter told me what was gonna happen about a month before, six weeks before we started filming it was shocking to me — to Kim Coates. It was shocking to me. Then when I read the script, it was doubly shocking. Handcuffed like an animal, daughter burning right in front of him — I mean, how do you even do something like that, right? I have two daughters in real life.
So I have a therapist buddy, and whenever I have to get deep and deep and deep in a human emotion, he helps me out. ‘Officer Downe’ was — the fighting scenes weren’t tough mentally. That was comic book time. That was me getting, like you just said, I studied that comic book. I’ve studied Joe and Chris Burnham’s graphic novel. I went for that. That was not easy, but it was OK.
It’s when he wasn’t fighting. It’s when he was dealing with his own life, when he was talking to himself in the mirror. I had a twitch, and Clown came up with this. He called it a “jank,” where his neck would just kind of go out because his nervous system was just waking up again or fucking up again. Those were my internal workings. Those I never planned — I just felt, and they just happened. It’s a big part of the film, man, and I’m really glad that I got, with Joe’s writing, deep, emotionally with this guy. Because he had to have a heart. He’s not a monster. He’s not a bad cop, he’s a good cop. But he gets killed a lot in the movie.
So how do you make that real? You make it real because it’s a comic book, it’s fictional. But the actors — and trust me, all my co-stars are fuckin’ brilliant in this movie — still have to make it real in the situation, and I did.
What’s it like going from playing an outlaw like Tig for seven seasons to playing a good cop in ‘Officer Downe?’
It’s great. I’m an actor first, right? I say this to anyone who wants to listen, but for ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ that transgender and Tig, Walton Goggins and Kim Coates — that was uncomfortable, but it was beautiful. It was a beautiful, beautiful, magnificent, Kurt Sutter-esque, FX going to the world, “Yeah! Fuck yeah! Show that to the world! How ‘bout that? We need a lot of love in this world right now.”
That same “uncomfortable but championing good acting and emotion,” I always look for that. So to be given Officer Downe, which as you just said, if Tig’s over here, he’s over there — yet it’s a comic book and it’s really fictionalized. ‘Sons of Anarchy’ was obviously fictionalized, too. We’d all be in prison by the second show of season one, so everyone fuck off, OK? It was made up — but a good story, right? Kurt Sutter wrote a great, brilliant story.
‘Officer Downe’ was exactly what I’d been looking for — something so completely different. That’s the kind of actor I am. I don’t wanna do anything the same. I never have.
Do you think you might pop up as Tig again in the Mayans spinoff?
No. I mean, never say never, but I wish them all the luck in the world. Tommy (Flanagan) and myself are the only two leads to survive. And D.L. (David Labrava), as well. D.L. was in the pilot, and he became a lead by the end. I was so proud of him and his work. But yeah, I don’t think about it. I’ll always have Sons in my heart. I’ll never forget it. I’m glad it’s over. We all needed to move on. It became really, really violent in the end — like, I think, stupidly violent. I don’t know what was going on.
But to be in that show and be pulled along by Kurt Sutter on his ship, and John Landgraf. And the love for that show around the world is evident and palpable, and I feel it every time I walk the street. And I wish them all the luck in the world. I know that Sons was magic in a bottle, it really was, so I wish them well.
— Kim Coates (@KimFCoates) October 8, 2016