FX is known for its gritty dramas and has been ever since it introduced a new “commish” (does anyone remember that particular show?) in the form of Michael Chiklis’s badass character Vic Mackey on The Shield. The network went on from there to create the unsettling Nip/Tuck and the angry yet hilarious Rescue Me. But its crowning achievement thus far might very well be a little drama it started airing in September of 2008. Yup, that’s right, I’m talking about that long-running biker gang soap opera we all know and love called Sons of Anarchy.
Sons is a wild and often brutal look into the whole subculture of “outlaw” biker gangs — you know, the ones initially made famous in real life by the rise of the Hell’s Angels. It takes a long, hard look at what makes up that culture, whether it be violence, brotherhood, self-identity, working against the man, treachery, loyalty, and even ultimate disgrace or redemption. It also touches upon a ton of important societal themes like corruption in government and those who serve it (i.e. law enforcement) from the local to the federal level, cultural identity within an oppressed group, racism, and the justice system. The show is much like a wild joyride on the back of a driverless Harley.
But as with all series TV, all good things must come to an end, and the show stopped running in December 2014 after seven awesome seasons. With a spin-off in the works and its continued presence on Netflix, I thought I would take a look back at one of the driving forces behind the show’s success, its stellar cast of leading and recurring ladies, and see where they are now.
15. Winter Ave Zoli – Lyla Winston
If you’re going to have a show about outlaw bikers, then it only makes sense that at some point, you’re going to introduce a sex star or two, right? I mean, after all, it seems like the two worlds might go well together. Enter our girl Lyla Winston, a full-on star of “the other industry” who sticks around for quite a few seasons. Lyla has got the typical porn starlet’s addiction to booze, coke, and danger, as becomes very apparent when she and Opie begin a torrid and long-lasting affair. But she’s also got a young child to care for, which she seemingly does well. So maybe Lyla is sort of the “hooker with the heart of gold?” In any event, she eventually gets beaten up and threatened after getting involved in some of the darker corners of the adult industry but rebounds as a producer.
Winter Ave Zoli — and ain’t that a cool name — may be a starlet to look out for. She’s got the looks, and now that she’s got some major experience, she might have the ability to break big! She had a recurring role in Legends (with Sean Bean, which never hurts), and is guest-starring around network TV on things like Code Black.
14. Kristen Renton – Ima
Hey look — another p–n star is shacking up with the biker gang. What a surprise, am I right? Ima Tite (think about her name for a while, won’t you?) is a buddy to Lyla. Of course, this show, being what it is, they soon aren’t friends at all when Ima has an affair with Lyla’s husband, Opie. Ima is also the one who gets Lyla into fetish p–n, which turns out poorly for all involved — especially Ima, who gets beat up quite thoroughly for doing such a thing to Lyla.
Kristen Renton is another up-and-comer who is trying to make serious inroads into Hollywood after her stint on Sons of Anarchy. She was in Charlie Sheen’s short-lived show Anger Management for a few episodes back in 2014 and also had a recurring role in the gay guy-straight roommates sitcom Dudes last year. In between, she starred in the gritty druggie-drama Street Level and is in the awesomely named Fat Ass Zombies, which is currently in post-production.
13. Drea de Matteo – Wendy Case
Now we get down to the meat of the matter. Wendy Case, the ex-wife of Jax and the mother of his first child, is one of the bigshot characters of the show. She’s also, in suitably impressive fashion, a recovering meth addict and alcoholic who was originally a drinking and “friends with benefits” partner to Jax. She’s got quite the storyline as she’s also in a constant struggle with Gemma, Jax’s mom, over the attention of Jax and her ability to mother her own child. We’ll get to Gemma’s controlling ways later.
Drea de Matteo is no stranger to playing tough but battered characters in violent shows. She will always be remembered as the monumentally unlucky Adriana in The Sopranos, the show that paved the way for every show like it that would come after, including Sons of Anarchy. She currently plays a major character on J-Lo’s cop drama Shades of Blue.
12. Katey Sagal – Gemma Teller Morrow
“Here’s Gemma!” The mother of Jax and widow of the founder of the club, Gemma is hardcore! She basically will do whatever it takes to secure the future of her beloved club, which she helped found way back in the late ‘70s. Gemma will go to any extreme to get what she wants and often does. Perhaps that, among many, many other things, is one of the reasons why she’s ultimately taken out in the penultimate episode of the series. If you like strong, powerful, fairly unscrupulous women, then Gemma’s your gal. Well, she was, up until the very moment that her son killed her.
Katey Sagal, who plays Gemma in every single episode of the series, is no stranger to the spotlight or superstardom. Everyone knows that she was Peg, the mom on Married with Children, to the tune of 260 episodes! Nowadays, she does work pretty much whenever she wants, for whomever she wants, for as long as she wants. That means she’s recently guest-starred on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Big Bang Theory, but I’m pretty sure she can get work anywhere.
11. Maggie Siff – Tara Knowles-Teller
Tara Knowles-Teller is Jax’s wife. Well, actually, I should say she was Jax’s wife since Gemma (who else) killed her by stabbing her like a million times in the head. This, of course, led to Jax going completely nuts and shooting his own mother in the back of her head. Tara, who had been Jax’s high school sweetheart, had been gone from Charming for years until she returned due to her fears that her ATF boyfriend was becoming abusive. She had hoped that the guys would be able to protect her from him and ended up reconnecting with Jax. Little did she know that the original Old Lady of the gang would off her.
Maggie Siff must be a pretty damn good actress because she was on Sons of Anarchy and Mad Men concurrently for a few years. Since those shows ended, Maggie has been keeping busy as a major regular on the TV drama Billions.
10. Annabeth Gish – Althea Jarry
So what do you do if you’re a lady in San Joaquin? Apparently, if Sons of Anarchy is any indicator, you either become a criminal or a cop. Our next character chose the cop route and quickly became embroiled in the entire storyline that is the show. I’m talking about lieutenant Althea Jarry, who comes to the Charming area (that’s right, San Joaquin has a neighborhood called Charming where a biker gang hangs out) to head the local sheriff’s department. Of course, a sheriff can’t do her job if she doesn’t know the people she’s hunting down, which is probably why Lieutenant Jarry has a passionate affair with Sons member Chibs. Or maybe she’s just crazy — the jury’s out on that one.
Annabeth Gish is well-known for her early work in movies like Mystic Pizza and Wyatt Earp. She continues to work often, mostly in television these days, and most recently and notably played a major character in the massive X-Files reboot that was such a hit in 2016.
9. Courtney Love – Ms. Harrison
I’m including this character because it might be the only time in the history of the series that the actress playing a role is actually wilder and crazier in real life than the character she portrays. Of course, I’m talking about the infamous Courtney Love playing the part of Abel Teller’s Pre-K teacher. What??? That is a seriously off-the-wall casting choice.
For those of you who are deaf, dumb, and blind, Courtney Love is the infamous leader of the band Hole. OK, OK, I jest. Yeah, she was definitely all that but she will forever be known as “Mrs. Kurt Cobain.” That’s what people think of to this day when they hear her name, and that’s never gonna change. Nowadays, she does a lot of TV movies and had small recurring roles on Empire and Revenge. Did I mention she was the wife of Kurt Cobain?
8. Ally Walker – June Stahl
Since we’re talking about Sons of Anarchy, we might as well start off with a character who’s dead. ‘Cause, eventually, like Game of Thrones, it seems like everybody on this show dies. June Stahl was a total badass lady cop, so much so that she totally antagonized her fellow officers. But… she got results when she went up against SAMCRO. That’s “Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club,” newbies. C’mon guys! Run. You can’t walk to get a Netflix subscription and start binge-watching this show — you won’t regret it. Anyway, officer Stahl often got results although she often made us crazy with her kind of psycho approach to enforcing the law. That is, until she was offed by Opie. That sounds like it should be a band name, doesn’t it?
Ally Walker, who played June with such an edge, has been very busy on TV since SOA ended. She was the lead on the cop show The Protector, which only lasted a season, a regular on the cop show Taxi Brooklyn, and a regular in season four of Longmire, which is awesome and going strong. I guess she likes cop shows. She’s currently in USA’s alien invasion show Colony, so she’s branching out.
7. Paula Malcomson – Maureen Ashby
Like all good motorcycle clubs, the Sons like to ramble the wide horizon, which is why we found a charter club of theirs in Belfast, Northern Ireland, of all places. That’s also where we found another tough lady, this time one on the wrong side of the law. Maureen Ashby is the wife of the dead (there’s a shocker) president of the chapter. Because she’s an outlaw in Northern Ireland; it should come as no surprise that she’s also been linked through her family to the IRA — notably through her priest brother, gun-running cousins, and daughter Trinity, who is on the lam and hiding out with dear old Mum.
Paula Malcomson is pretty awesome. Since Sons of Anarchy passed into legend, she’s been a main character in the Battlestar Galactica offshoot Caprica and the wife of Ray Donovan in the gritty drama of the same name. Even cooler, she’s played the mother of Katniss in all four Hunger Games movies.
6. Marianne Jean-Baptiste – Vivica
It seems that whatever side of the law they are on, all of the ladies in this show are pretty tough. Vivica is no exception. She’s an experienced fence and heads her own little gang of criminals. The best part of her character is that she has named her sons, both of whom do the dirty legwork for her, Luther and Vandross. It’s good to know that the old soul singer has an enduring legacy somewhere! Vivica is also one smart cookie. When her sons abscond with guns earmarked for those other Sons, she makes sure they end up back where they belong.
Our lady of the moment, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, is highly regarded in the TV industry. In the past couple of years, she’s starred in the cool and unusual Broadchurch, the eerie Blindspot, and is now a major character on the CBS series remake of Training Day.
5. Bellina Logan – Fiona Larkin
Back we go to fictional crazy women. Remember that whole Belfast chapter we were talking about? Well our lady of the moment, Fiona Larkin, is actually a full-on IRA soldier who’s also the estranged wife of Chibs. Weird, huh? Or maybe just cool writing. Because with the arrival of Fiona in Charming, everyone knew that the world-class son of a you-know-what, Jimmy O’Phelan, couldn’t be far behind. Jimmy, of course, was the one who started the whole saga of “Chibs in America” as way back in the day, it was he who drove Chibs out of the IRA. Fiona was one nasty piece of work, but never forget, so was her old man.
Bellina Logan, who played Fiona so convincingly, is certainly not a household name, but she gets very steady work as a “special guest star” on network TV. Since Son’s wrapped, she’s been in everything from Medium to NCIS to HBO’s Enlightened.
4. Taryn Manning – Cherry (Rita)
Obviously, if you’re going to hang out with a biker gang and hope to be somebody’s “Old Lady” someday, it helps if you have a name like “Cherry.” Maybe that was the inspiration for the lady named Rita, who burned down her condo in Nevada and fled her abusive husband only to meet up with the Sons. Or maybe it’s the actual cherries she has tattooed on her thigh. Whatever the case, Cherry quickly became an object of lust for more than one guy in the gang, although she really only had eyes for Half-Sack. After the cops discover her Nevada secret, she flees to Belfast to hide out with the charter branch there.
Taryn Manning spent a lot of time bouncing around Hollywood after the show ended, working in both TV and movies. She finally got a nice recurring role on Hawaii Five-O, which helped her land her biggest role as the crazy hillbilly “Pennsatucky” Doggett on Orange is the New Black.
3. Robin Weigert – Ally Lowen
So it stands to reason that if you’re going to spend all of your time running illegal guns and drugs, laundering money, kidnapping and murdering people, and generally behaving outside of the law, you’re probably going to want occasional legal counsel. If you do need that legal counsel, why not opt for a kind of hot MILF lawyer. At least, that’s what SAMCRO decided to do when they hired Ally Lowen, who helps out the club’s longtime lawyer, Rosen, for a few seasons. Of course, once Ally helps Tara get out from under Jax, it’s all over for her, as Jax terrorizes her into fleeing Charming.
After SOA wrapped, Robin Weigert, who played Ally with both fearlessness and vulnerability, went straight into recurring roles on some of the biggest shows on television. She’s appeared in Chicago P.D. and the gloriously dark Jessica Jones, as well as had occasional stints as different characters on Law & Order: SVU. She had a cool recurring role on American Horror Story in 2016 and is currently a regular on Fearless. Go, Robin!
2. Kim Dickens – Colette Jane
We’ve already had a few adult film stars thrown into our SAMCRO mix, so why not the owner of an escort agency? Yup, we’re really getting seedy now! The lady in question is Colette Jane, who has ambitions beyond being on her back all the time. In fact, she’s working with the club to see that dream come to fruition when she and Jax decide to get it on, if you know what I mean. Then again, Jax decides to get it on with just about everybody. Colette winds up dead — I know, I know… there’s a surprise.
Colette might have been a rather naughty lady, but she was ambitious, and it looks like Kim Dickens, who played her, is also ambitious, albeit in a slightly different way. Kim is currently starring as a major player in Fear the Walking Dead and was a recurring character in the critically acclaimed House of Cards.
1. Marya Delver – Candy Eglee
Say hello to another lady cop in the form of Candy Eglee (which, I must say, is a weird name for a cop). She starts out as a member of the Charming police department and ends up on the Sheriff’s Department payroll. She’s actually pretty tight with the biker boys as she went to high school with Jax. This may explain why she is constantly warning the club and turning a blind eye to their misdeeds. She doesn’t seem to be actually corrupt, though, which is a shocker in this show.
So here’s the first weird entry of the day. Marya Delver, who played Officer Candy, doesn’t appear to be acting anymore. Sons of Anarchy was actually her last listed gig as an actress. Before the show, she was all over TV in small guest roles and also starred in her fair share of middling movies. I wonder what happened to her since SOA was the biggest thing she’s done to date.