Sons Of Anarchy: The Real Life Biker Who Inspired Charlie Hunnam’s Jax

Summary

  • Jax Teller’s character on Sons of Anarchy was inspired by a real-life biker that Charlie Hunnam met before filming started.
  • Hunnam spent time with a real motorcycle club, including a 22-year-old biker who he considered to be Jax Teller.
  • The casting of real Hells Angels members in Sons of Anarchy added authenticity to the show’s portrayal of biker culture.


The stories seen throughout Sons of Anarchy are fictional, but Charlie Hunnam took inspiration from a real-life biker that he met when preparing to play Jax Teller, leading to the Chill Will biker story. Hunnam was the lead of Sons of Anarchy from beginning to end as Jax and the character went through a major journey that saw him go from SAMCRO’s hope to change their history and take them on a new path to the man who almost destroyed the club he grew up in.

Jax’s tale isn’t based on a true story and takes many elements from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a confirmed inspiration for the show. However, Jax was heavily based around a real biker Hunnam met in several other key ways. Speaking to The Huffington Post back in 2015, Hunnam was asked if he got to spend time with real motorcycle clubs, and he shared that he spent a lot of time with one particular club during the initial rehearsal period of Sons of Anarchy, where he met the real Jax Teller.

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Hunnam Based Jax On A Young Oakland Biker With A Similarly Tragic Fate

Despite Eerie Similarities, Jax’s Journey Was Not Influenced By Any Real-Life Figures

Hunnam explained he went to Oakland before Sons of Anarchy season 1 started shooting and hung out with “a very well-known club that have a presence in Oakland,” enough for him to get the feel of what life as a member of a motorcycle club is all about. Once there, he met a 22-year-old member of the club who Hunnam says “was Jax Teller.” His dad was in the club, he had been in it his whole life as well, and he was “the heir apparent.”

Hunnam went on to describe the unnamed biker as having “an amazing presence about him” and was like “an old school outlaw, cowboy” and gunslinger in the modern-day. Unfortunately, according to Hunnam, he was killed the week after he left Oakland, mirroring Jax’s death in Sons of Anarchy. Hunnam inherited his necklace which he keeps as a memorial for him. The biker had such an impact on the actor that he based everything about Jax on him – from the jeans and shoes he wore to his mannerisms.

Jax as a person was based on a real-life biker from Oakland, but his journey was an original story with Shakespearean touches, and so it’s equal parts dark and interesting that Jax and his real-life counterpart ended up having the same fate, as Jax Teller arranged his death in the Sons of Anarchy series finale. It’s hard to imagine how different Jax would have been had Hunnam not met that young biker, but that experience surely added a lot more realism and emotion to Jax.

SOA Cast Real Hells Angels In The Show To Add Authenticity

The Show Drew From Real Bikers In Other Ways

Custom image of the Sons of Anarchy club and Happy Lowman

Not only was Jax Teller based on a real biker, but the series also cast several real-life members of the motorcycle club Hells Angels to preserve its authenticity. David Labrava, Rusty Coones, Chuck Zito, and Ralph “Sonny” Barger all featured in Sons of Anarchy playing roles of varying prominence over the show’s seven seasons.

This is not only a fun detail about the show, but it also illustrates Sons of Anarchy‘s high level of commitment to depicting the lives of motorcycle club members as accurately as possible. Sons of Anarchy‘s Hells Angels casting and Charlie Hunnam’s tribute to the real-life Jax Teller he met are strong examples of this dedication to verisimilitude.

Jax From Sons Of Anarchy Wasn’t Just Inspired By Real Life Bikers

The Shakespearean Influence Mixes With Biker Culture

Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller on his bike in Sons of Anarchy

While many of the individual character traits of Jax Teller were based on a real person, his overall arc was based on a classic literary character, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Like Hamlet, Jax is heir to a kingdom (in this case the SAMCRO club) and comes to suspect that his stepfather killed his father, and is filled with doubt as to how he should respond. Thomas’s manifesto plays the role of Hamlet’s father’s ghost, alongside other Hamlet counterparts in Sons of Anarchy.

Of course, there were also a lot of divergences in updating Shakespeare’s story in a modern setting, but ultimately Jax meets the same fate as Hamlet: getting his vengeance, but at the cost of many lives, including ultimately his own. Sons of Anarchy compellingly combined Shakespearean drama with real-life biker culture, including the man Jax is based on.

Charlie Hunnam Went To Extreme Lengths To Make Jax Realistic

Charlie Hunnam’s performance as Jax helped to create one of the most convincing protagonists in recent television. Hunnam was fully committed to the role over the course of the seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy and that commitment apparently continued off-screen. When speaking about his time on the show (via GQ), Hunnam admitted he became consumed with the role in his everyday lifestyle:

I lived it as much as I could. I never got in a car the whole seven years. I was only on my bike and rolling around with a bunch of real bikers and occasionally acting like a maniac.”

The fact that Hunnam was accepted by real bikers in the community proves that his commitment to the role struck an authentic chord with people who know that world. Likewise, some fans also showed their enthusiasm for Hunnam’s portrayal in ways that went beyond the norm. In an interview (via GQ UK), Hunnam revealed that it is not uncommon for fans to offer his knives as a gift to honor his portrayal of Jax. He explains that his character carries standard issue U.S. Marine Corps Ka-Bar knife:

So now I have dozens of Ka-Bars that military guys have given me, and I’ve been told that a couple of them ‘have been used.’ Which is a little bit … grimy, you know?

The fact that Hunnam was so deep into the character of Jax for so long, his performance could blur the lines between acting and reality at times. When looking back on one pivotal scene (via Vanity Fair), Hunnam remembers feeling there was no need for rehearsal. Taking place after Tara’s death, the scene involves Juice telling Jax that his mother Gemma killed his wife. Hunnam remembers that “something happened in the room where life became what was happening.” Moments like that helped cement Hunnam’s performance as Jax in Sons of Anarchy as being so memorable.

  • Sons of Anarchy Final Poster

    Sons of Anarchy

    Summary:
    Sons of Anarchy, created by Kurt Sutter, follows a notorious outlaw motorcycle club, the Sons of Anarchy, as they confront drug dealers, corporate developers, and law enforcement to protect their livelihoods and their hometown of Charming, CA. Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Sons of Anarchy explores what happens when the seduction of money and power comes between family. The show follows the Teller and Morrow family legacies, with Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller handling his duties as the V.P. of the club while dealing with the new president – his stepfather – Clay Morrow.

    Release Date:
    2008-09-08

    Cast:
    Kim Coates, Charlie Hunnam, Theo Rossi, Mark Boone Junior, Maggie Siff, Katey Sagal, Tommy Flanagan, Ron Perlman

    Seasons:
    7

    Genres:
    Crime, Drama, Thriller

    Writers:
    Kurt Sutter, Chris Collins

    Story By:
    Kurt Sutter

    Network:
    FX

    Streaming Service(s):
    Hulu

    Franchise(s):
    Sons Of Anarchy

    Directors:
    Kurt Sutter

    Showrunner:
    Kurt Sutter