Ally Walker portrays Agent June Stahl on the FX hit biker drama Sons of Anarchy. Tonight is the debut of Episode 3.10: Firinne, which finds the IRA wanting proof that one of their own has flipped, and Samcro intends to give it to them. We recently caught up with Walker to talk about the episode, as well as the rest of the season as it plays towards its finale. Here is that conversation:
It was kind of a wow reveal when we saw that "Stahl" has a girlfriend right now. Was that a surprise to you? Why was right now kind of the time to reveal that in the show?
Ally Walker: I'm not really sure why the timing was right. You'd have to ask Kurt Sutter that, but no, actually it wasn't a surprise to me. Last year, I had filmed a scene in bed with a female lover, so I'd kind of built that into the character last year. "Stahl," obviously, is kind of a sociopath. At least that's how I sort of like to play her and an opportunist, so I don't think her sexuality is really about being- It's interesting. I think she is gay probably, but I think she swings both ways depending on what works for her. So no, it wasn't a surprise to me. I actually had it last year and I loved it, but for some reason, they cut it out.
That was one of the things you just touched on. I was curious. Does she have a moral compass do you think? Because she does a little of everything and doesn't seem to have a lot of-
Ally Walker: When I got the character thrown at me last-or given to me, not thrown at me-but there was a lot thrown to me right away with "Stahl." In order to really kind of understand her, I had to sort of understand that whatever worked for her in that moment was how I was going to go what-"June"-I was going to go. That really is a sociopath, whatever works for her. So she's kind of like this wonderful little actress. At least that's what I like to think. I don't know if she's so wonderful, but- That's what I did with her. I just made everything, anything that was to her advantage, she was lovely. She could turn on a dime, and I really like that.
You seem to have a lot of chemistry with all the characters but especially "Jax," "Clay" .... Who would you like to see "June" with the most?
Ally Walker: You mean in like in a relationship or what?
Yes, in a relationship.
Yes. He is.
Ally Walker: But you know, I think Katey Sagal 's pretty hot, too, pal. Katey Sagal's a really good friend of mine, but I guess if I wanted to see "June" with anyone, it would have to be Charlie Hunnam, I'm sorry.
I also was huge big fan of Profiler. I wanted to know what was easier for you to play, was it the nice "Sam" or this ruthless, not-so-nice "June"?
Ally Walker: I think both of them were easy in different ways. I think it's been really fun for me as an actor, after playing "Sam" and after playing "Katie" in Tell Me You Love Me and sort of these kind of pure, sweet people to sink my teeth into someone so vile as "June Stahl." I really love this turn because there's just nothing off the table. She'll do anything to get what she wants. I just applaud her ruthlessness. It's kind of nice. It's a nice twist for me.
That's so funny because you hear a lot of people, they say they have to approach a character like that as like they're doing the right thing, justify it. She's in a weird spot because that character could be the hero character of a show, an agent who bends the rules to make their case. But here, she's the thorn in the side and there's this weird balance that you have to strike. I want to kind of get how you achieve that and how you make "Agent Stahl" work in the dynamic in the Sons of Anarchy, where she's obviously painted as the black cat.
Ally Walker: Well, that's an interesting question and that's actually what I used to laugh at. In the beginning, I said, "Look guys, I'm on the side of right. You guys aren't." I think the way that I sort of painted the character is that everything that she's doing is for the right outcome. If you really look at her reasoning behind everything, the problem with her is her own ego has gotten in her way, and now it's all about "June." It was probably always this way. It's so personal that she wants to win. It's not about doing the right thing anymore. It's about, "I'm going to beat you at your own game." In that respect, she lowers herself. But I really do believe that "June" is sociopathic, at least that's how I play her. I think in her mind, she's always right.
It also seems like she's kind of evolved over the course of the show because it seemed like in the first season that, okay, this is going to be kind of the big bad of season one in some respect and then she's going to go away. But you haven't gone away. In fact, your role in this has kind of become this interesting wild card. Do you know if that was always the plan or ...
Ally Walker: No, no. It wasn't.
... kind of experience ...?
Ally Walker: I was asked to do three shows. I know Kurt Sutter from working on The Shield, and Kurt asked me to come in. Tell Me You Love Me had just gone down, and he asked me to come in for three shows. I said, "Sure," because I really love his writing and I loved the concept of the show. I love the character. She was kind of wild. No, I just kept getting written for. It was really an honor. I mean, Kurt Sutter was really lovely to me. I guess she was just a good bad guy so they kept writing, and she got more and more outlandish, which is really fun to play. So, I'm very appreciative of what Kurt Sutter did for me.
The show is a really intense drama. I was wondering, what's everyone like when the cameras aren't rolling?
Ally Walker: Really sweet and funny. Funny, funny, funny. It's been my experience that when you have a really dark show-like when I was doing Profiler or if there's ever a really scary show-the crew kind of lets loose and the actors by being funny and kind of goofy. The guys are really funny. Ronny Pearlman is hilarious, and Katey Sagal and I gab about where to go get facials. It's like really normal and funny. It's a good group of guys. Very sweet group of boys. I love the boys. They're great.
Do you know what's in store for "Stahl" and how long you're going to be on the show?
Ally Walker: Yes I do.
Can you tell us how long you'll be?
Ally Walker: Absolutely not. I don't know how long I'll be on the show, but I'm a few ahead of you guys, that's for sure. But I'm not saying anything.
Who is your favorite character to work with?
Ally Walker: That's tough to say. I mean all of them really. I love working with Katey Sagal. Katey Sagal and Charlie Hunnam. I've had most of my sort of deeper scenes with these guys, and we just kind of hum along together. Katey Sagal and I are good buddies, so it's been a real pleasure for me to get to work with her. I think Charlie Hunnam is just a soulful little actor. I just really love working with Charlie Hunnam. I love working with Ronny Pearlman too. I worked with him in a film and then- I worked with him in two films. It's just a good group. There's no one, but those are the three I really worked with the most, so I would have to say I really enjoy working with those guys.
Is there a scene that you're particularly proud of, the way it turned out, either this season or in previous seasons?
Ally Walker: Yes, there's a few scenes. I think the writing on the show's been pretty good. I think it was season one right before "Donna" died, where I'm interrogating "Opie," and I'm just kind of screwing him over. I'm just doing it with sort of this relishing. Then there's the interrogation scene when "Jax" was in prison, which I really like because he kind of came right back at me. Of course, I love the scene with Katey Sagal in the 7-Eleven, where I'm stepping over the agents and confronting her. I think what I like about the character, what Kurt Sutter writes, is that there's just a lot of-he does this is sort of black comedy with my character, which is just so great because it just spices everything up and it makes it really fun to try to hit those. But I've liked quite a few of the scenes. I think there's a few scenes this year that are just- What episode are we on now? I don't even know what episode we're on, what's airing, but there's a few coming towards the end of this year that are just really good that Kurt Sutter wrote. But I like a lot of them. I like a lot of them. I'm sorry. I can't be more specific.
What do you think makes Sons of Anarchy such a unique show?
Ally Walker: There's the obvious sort of bad-guy element, bad-boy element that everybody wants to be a rebel and sort of a renegade and bikers sort of epitomize that, but I also think that the soulfulness and the sort of family bonds that these people have-the way they watch each other's back-is a very old-fashioned notion, if you will. Maybe not old fashioned but it's a romantic notion. You don't really see a lot of that anymore. It's become much more of a narcissistic society where it's the loners are there for themselves and people don't hang together. This is really a wonderful family. They all take good care of each other. There are codes that they live by that are very honorable. I think that really appeals to people, especially in tough times having, knowing that people have your back and they definitely do.
When you read a script, what are some of your initial reactions to how far "Stahl" is willing to go to ... herself and get her way?
Ally Walker: There's so many leaps with the character. She just flies over all the sort of logical steps to get somewhere sometimes. At first it really scared me, and I sort of like to take baby steps, but with her, I just had to just sort of jump because you don't really see-unless you work it with the way of it's like, "Of course, I would do this because that's the way I get what I want." I'm not really that way. I'm used to playing much humbler characters, if you will, with sort of normal thought patterns. Sometimes I literally go, "Oh my god. Oh my god. How am I going to do this? This is ridiculous." But somehow I just kind of, I just hang on and it goes. I just try to keep it real but it's a pretty big step. "Stahl's" a little nutty. But it's a lot of fun, I will say that. It's a lot of fun.
What do you enjoy the most about playing "Stahl" and what kind of reactions do you get from the fans of the show?
Ally Walker: Oh my god, it's been scary actually. People hate me so much. People really hate me. I've never had more people come up to me and say, "I love to hate you. I love you. I hate you so much." It's the weirdest thing. It's very flattering but there's a lot of people out there who kind of mistake it for reality, I think, sometimes, and they just are pretty harsh on me. What I love playing about "June" is her fearlessness. I really like that.
You say that "Stahl" is a sociopath. With the recent news about you landing a Lifetime pilot, is that true first off?
Ally Walker: Yes, it is.
She's a single mother with two children. Are you going to have some of "Stahl's" aspects flip into her just out of habit after being on Sons for so long?
Ally Walker: You know, I don't think so. I've been doing this for so long. It's really the material. If they write that in, I'll have to portray that. But I do what the script indicates, whatever the writer tells me with his writing is what I do. "Stahl" is a very different sort of personality. She's not garden variety. It may be kind of tough to turn her off because she's- I was actually thinking this the other day, it's like I have so much fun with her that it's kind of hard to turn her off and not be slick and twisted and kind of move quickly. So, I will definitely have to guard against that, but I usually do what the writer dictates, so no, I'll be okay.
Will "Stahl" be back at all for season four?
Have you ever thought one thing about your character and then get a script and think, "Oh, I was completely wrong about that."
Ally Walker: You mean just in general as an actress?
Yes or Sons of Anarchy, yes.
Ally Walker: Yes, in the beginning, I couldn't quite- Yes, actually this was a difficult character for me to embrace in the beginning because I came off Tell Me You Love Me, which was very very real and very down to earth. It was a very different character. It was a little bit tough for me at first to kind of get my head around playing someone who was kind of amoral and didn't really follow the logical steps that one would take. So I kind of had to find her. But after a few episodes, I was like, "Oh, I get it. Okay." She's out there. She's a very out there character so it was- I tend to play things real close to the bone, and this person was not close to any bones that I really ever-maybe she was but I didn't know about them. She's a, she's a trip. She was really kind of - at first, it was like "Huh, am I going to really do that?" and then I went, "Yeah, okay." I really enjoyed it. It was a learning experience for me. It really was. It was very fun and very scary for me to do the role. She's very different than anyone I'd done.
You've had a really incredibly successful career. Just real quick, what's your sort of advice to actors?
Ally Walker: Gosh, that's- You know Betty Davis' advice to young actors ...
Ally Walker: ... take .... Ronny Pearlman told me that one, by the way.
That was good. I like that.
Ally Walker: If you want to do this, you have to really love what you're doing. You have to really take care of who you are because it's a very difficult business and you have to really believe in yourself because- It is an incredibly tough business, incredibly tough and you just have to keep going. Perseverance is everything. It's everything.
Do you think there's an element of jealousy that "Stahl" feels towards that fraternal, familial bond that Sons of Anarchy have? We don't know much of her back story but it seems like she's a bit of a loner.
Ally Walker: Yes. Yes, that's a very interesting question. What I was just talking about, people having each other's backs. Obviously, no one ever had my back. I'm talking as "June Stahl" now. It's like I don't think anyone ever had "June's" back. I see a very disturbed background with a very bad childhood, who suddenly had to fend for themselves and kind of turn and become chameleon-like, and whatever face that needed to be put on was put on to take care of themselves. So yes, I think this person was man-made. No, I think she's very jealous of that. I think she doesn't like it at all. I think she's out to destroy it. I think in the beginning it was less personal with her, but I think it has become over the years extremely personal with her.
Obviously, "Otto" is in jail but he may be paroled. What does "June Stahl" fear more? "Otto" or "Opie," as far as a retaliation?
Ally Walker: I don't think "June" fears either one of those guys. I think "Opie" would be the-because "Opie's" out. But "Opie" kind of let me go and so because he let me go, I have no respect for him. So I don't really fear "Opie" anymore in sort of my twisted mind. "Otto," I don't think that I would allow him to get to me. I think I would be able to keep tabs and watch out. I think what "June Stahl" fears is that she missed a step in her, in her trickery. I think that's what scares "June," that she didn't cover all her bases, and she's not quite- If she ever feels doubtful about having screwed anyone, that's what will scare her. She can't slip up. I think it's more of a mental thing for her. She fears people who are smart, I think, and what she doesn't see coming. But of course, her ego is so out of control I don't think she sees a lot coming.
She didn't really mourn "Hale's" death too much, did she?
Ally Walker: Not at all. She didn't have a feeling for him. I don't think she cared for him. She thought he was an idiot. I mean really, if you look at the character, there's only those who can do for "June" and those who can't.
I've got a question about basically the scripts and your approach to them. You have a lot of tense scenes between "Gemma" and "Jackson" and also you've had a few tense scenes with .... How does it all seem to actually translate off the page? Is there ever anything that needs to be changed in order to improve or make the scene work better? Could you give an example of the process, how it goes from the script into the actual scene when you're actually acting?
Ally Walker: The thing of Kurt Sutter is he's really a wonderful writer. There's not a lot of changing with Kurt Sutter. He likes us actors to really adhere to the script, which I respect. He's a very good writer. He has really sort of thought everything through. I try to gather as much information and just kind of bathe in it before I shoot and just kind of- Then on the set, new things will come. You pick up things and subtleties in an actor's performance that will change your reaction. It's all kind of listening and reacting, and we have this history now.
For example, we did a scene- Charlie Hunnam and I-this year and it became very interesting. I never thought-you'll see it in a few shows-I never thought we'd do a scene like that. It was very seductive and kind of creepy. Charlie Hunnam and I at the end of the scene were like, "Whoa, what was that?" But it played beautifully and Kurt Sutter was really happy. None of us could have seen that coming. It was kind of this intimate little dance of threatening each other that was really kind of sexual-there's like a lot of sexual undertones, which is really weird, but it was fun to play. Those kinds of things seep in. They seep in because people's essence-for lack of a better word-their persona kind of comes in and it changes everything. It's really interesting. The older I've gotten as an actress, I do my preparation but I don't think so much anymore. I tend to just go, and it's gotten a lot more fun for me. I go, "Okay, the water's- I'm on a diving board. I'm going to get up to the diving board. I'm going to walk to the end of the diving board, and the water's going to be deep enough to catch me and," but that jump- I don't plan it. I don't know what's going to happen in that jump, but I jump. It has made it very fun for me. I hope it works. Most of the time I think it does, but there's always a swing and a miss going on. But it's really fun to see what happens on the set. It's really fun. I don't know if that answers your question, but-
It does pretty much. So like your scenes with "Gemma," I'm just waiting for who's going to hit out first you know?
Ally Walker: Oh, yeah ... "Gemma's" great. "Gemma's" great.
... spring. I've got one more quick question for you. I noticed that you did Universal Soldier back in the 80s and 90s. I'm just wondering what was that whole experience like. You're working with Van Damme and-
Ally Walker: Oh, that was a great experience for me. I sort of came off a television series and was- It's funny because I was asked to do, I was asked- I auditioned for it like every other- There were a lot of girls and they had wanted bigger names than me. It was very flattering, flattering- Roland Emmerich -I was doing a lot of comedy at the time and I was doing some work with the ... and I'd take comedic stuff if I could. Roland Emmerich picked me because I was funny, because I made the scenes funny. He's like, no- It was a great experience because Roland Emmerich would go, "I would just ad lib something and make it funny." It was really fun. I had a wonderful time on that film. I loved the guys. I'm a tomboy. I always get along well with boys. I love Jean-Claude Van Damme. Loved Dalt. Loved everybody. It was really fun for me. It was really a very fun experience for me.
Because of the unique fandom that the show has and the unique access that Kurt provides via Twitter and his blog and all that, there's like this weird- It's a weird dynamic like there's that dangerous vibe that you alluded to just in the biker culture, but Kurt-he doesn't play nice and he doesn't follow the rules.
Ally Walker: No.
The show seems to live in that kind of freewheeling world too. I know you said he's an amazing guy and all that, but can you go a little bit more through the process and what it's like working with him and what he's like as a creator?
Ally Walker: I think Kurt Sutter's different as a creator for different people. My experience of Kurt Sutter has always been a really professional lovely one. I like Kurt Sutter very much. As I said, I worked with him on The Shield. And I had done a documentary on the foster care system in Los Angeles County. Kurt Sutter came to me and showed me and helped me get through the process of submitting it to various film festivals and helped me out. He actually brought me in and asked me to talk about foster care and Shawn Ryan -because they wanted to do Glenn Close 's character as one who was really involved in foster care and foster kids, and that was her big thing. I think Kurt Sutter, he really, he really helped me with that. He's always been a very loving person to me. He's a very tough dude. He is a very smart-very, very smart guy and very intense guy. But Kurt Sutter with me is .... Kurt Sutter 's a sweetie with me. I punch Kurt Sutter 's arm. I'll go like, "Come on. Don't make her say it.. Oh my god, Kurt Sutter." He'll giggle and laugh with me. He is a sweetie with me. I think people have a different experience with him. When you read some of the stuff he writes, I'm like, "Geesh, Kurt Sutter. Back off buddy. Let's not get too-" But he's a very passionate guy and he feels what he feels very deeply. He's an .... He doesn't sugar coat it. If I don't do something that Kurt Sutter likes, he's like, "No Al." I know he means business. It's like if I say, "Well, why would I-" He's like "No." But I don't really ever question him because I respect him as a writer. Because his mind is such that he knows exactly what it is. He knows exactly where you're going. You don't have to be fearful. He's got you. I admire that. That's a very good writer there and I like writers.
Was the Shakespearean parallel like ingrained in your discussions or was that something that's just kind of in the writing and part of his master plan?
Ally Walker: I think that's part of Kurt Sutter's master plan. You saw that Hamlet in the beginning. You did. It's there. It's obvious and you have to kind of- If anything, it gives it that more dramatic through poetic. She's so lyrically the bad guy and "Gemma" is so lyrically the mother. It gives it a very lyrical kind of-what am I trying to say-aspect, and I love that. It makes you be a bit more on stage. At least, it did for me with "June." It was a bit more ... stage.
When the first show came out, everybody knew that that was part of the backdrop. So you felt kind of safe but it went off the rails and kind of started getting unpredictable. It's been interesting to see where it ties into that and where it kind of veers from it. I didn't know if that was something that was-
Ally Walker: Well, I think you have to go back again to The Shield, and if you look at his background, it did that there too and then it came right back. It was brilliantly brought back and everything tied together. The Shield was one of my favorite shows of all times, and you see Kurt Sutter's stamp on The Shield... Shawn Ryan absolutely ... but I see Kurt Sutter there too and what a great playground those guys had. That's what they did. They like tripped out a little bit and then they snapped it right back in. It's sort of that pattern, that script, and it's really remarkable. That is a good writer. So you really have something to hold onto and you can swing from the monkey bars and you can slip and slip, but you can grab the monkey bars again. You're not left hanging, which I really love.
What else can you tell us about your Lifetime pilot? I know you've touched on it a little bit. How did the project come to you, kind of origins of it?
Ally Walker: Gosh, it's been really quick. I'd just signed with Innovative Artists, which is my new agency, and Katie Mason is an old friend of mine. She became my manager at ... all within the last couple of weeks. Well, Katey Sagal s been with me for a couple for months, but then I just signed with Innovative. One of the first things they did-I met with them and I signed with them and then literally a week later, they said, "We have something here. We want you to look at it. We want to know-" In the beginning, they all will try to figure out what you like, what they like, you know blah, blah, blah. How it's going to work. They sent me Exit 19 and I just loved it. I just went, "Oh." I loved it. Then they got me an offer. I've sort of stayed away from being a regular on a series for a really long time. I did Tell Me You Love Me but it was so ensemble, I worked like two days a week, which was great because my children were very little at the time. The baby was just two and a half. Now it's been ten years since I got off Profiler and I went, "It's okay." I wanted to come back and it's just kind of fortuitous that this thing landed in my lap. I know Nina Wass and Gene Steiner, the producers of the show. I just really like. It's just really good. It's very sweet, and it can be dark but it's funny and it's quirky. I love that. It's not one thing, it's a lot of things. I think the writing is excellent. For me, it's always the writing, because you're the voice. That's who I am ultimately is what the writer has prescribed, so I really just go with the writer, the writing. But it's a really great little pilot and I mean not little, but it's a great pilot and I hope people respond to it.
You talked about your fan base. Do you, did you have a strong lesbian fan base before your character kind of came out on the show?
Ally Walker: I don't know. I really don't know. I had a strong lesbian fan base or gay fan base with I, oddly enough. I believe I did. I think that's what- I don't remember, but I think I did. I don't know. I don't really classify them. I certainly don't want people to see her sexuality as part of her being evil. I was concerned about that. That's why I really- I slept with "Hale." I think "June" is an opportunist more than she is anything else. If it's going to help, and I think-this woman makes her feel good. She's very good looking and that kind of makes me feel good. So yes, I think "June" is kind of sort of beyond sexuality anyway. So I'd classify "June" as an opportunist, an opportunist, whatever works for her.
Do you or "Agent Stahl" have any aspirations to ride a motorcycle?
Ally Walker: I had a boyfriend from Germany when I was about 22 years old, and I used to sit on the back of that bike. I actually have no aspirations to ride a motorcycle ever again. It's exhausting. You get cold. I'm sort of pragmatic, even at a young age. I didn't want to fall.
How about "Agent Stahl"? You think she'd ever-
Ally Walker: "Agent Stahl" has probably ridden several motorcycles, and it bores her by this point. She looks down on them, at the end of the day, it's just a stupid way to get around.