Catherine recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael
Marisi Ornstein, the actor who plays Chucky Marstein on
FX's smash hit Sons of Anarchy, which airs
Tuesdays at 10 PM. While we know a bit about Chucky -
like, he's a man who can make a mean bowl of chili and also
a man with a peculiar personality trait - we also know a bit
But when we had the chance to catch up with him, he was
ready to give us an even better glimpse into the role of
Chucky, his own lifestyle and hobbies and much more! Read
below to find out everything he had to share!
You paint as a creative outlet. What do you think 'Chucky's'
creative outlet would be?
I think 'Chucky's' creative outlet is probably management
of whatever is in front of him at the moment. And I think
he probably lays out a lot of tasks for himself, like at
all times. And I think he wakes up in the morning, gets
dressed, and goes to work on whatever he can find to go
to work on.
On Facebook I saw you talking about possibly touring
your artwork. Were there any definitive plans on that yet?
Yes. I'm working on that. I'm working on-what I'm doing
with my oil paintings is really interesting. It's like the
first time it's ever been done actually. I'm using hand-mixed
oil paintings and I'm linking media that I've created and
I'm adding music to it. So it's very much like rock 'n roll.
I've written these stories that go along with the paintings
and it's something-I've been working this way for quite
a while now, many years. And I'm using QR codes, which is
really cool. It's cutting edge modern technology.
So, basically, in the live show I have a QR code next
to the painting and people can scan the code and get the
media delivered to their phone in a matter of just a couple
of seconds. And they can listen to the story of the painting;
actually hear the painting talking to them. So I'm trying
to tour that and also work out some kind of life performance
because that's how these stories originated.
I wrote the stories and I used to get together with my
friends in New York and L.A. and stuff and we would perform
these stories in little cafés and bars or wherever
we could find a space and it was a whole lot of fun. So,
that's what I think the tour would be. It would be the exhibition
and then some element of a live show. I was even thinking
about going to London with it.
Now, 'Chucky' helps out the club so much and his fast
thinking with the chili last night was incredible. So, can
you talk about filming last night's episode and your thoughts
on this amazing season?
Oh, man. I am so loving this-I so love shooting this season
and I'm so loving watching this season. It is just so exciting.
Every single show is so exciting the way it's unfolding.
Shooting the show that aired last night was incredibly fun.
I mean, the heads were just-I was looking at them and I
had a hard time believing that someone actually made them.
I mean they actually looked so real it was unbelievable.
Like every episode, I just have a complete blast in it.
I just love existing in this world and I really loved watching
last night's episode. I thought it was really, really deep
and serious and very funny. I thought it was really cool
and I loved it.
Definitely. Now what kind of reactions do you get from
fans of the show when you meet them?
Wow, you have fingers. Yes. I've met so many different
people who love the show and I'm always interested in that.
I'm always interested in-wow, you know I just talked to
an 80-year-old woman who is a diehard fan of Sons of Anarchy
and so many different people. That's my favorite part. Like,
wow, you too? You watch Sons of Anarchy? I'm just amazed
at the large span of our audience. I just love it and I
think it just reflects what we're dealing with is, I guess,
a basic honesty that everyone relates to which I think is
a real credit to Kurt and to everyone who is working on
We were wondering, what have you learned about the motorcycle
club culture that surprised you from filming the show?
I've learned about it is that it is an incredibly American
culture that goes back to the Wild West and that it is still
in existence and that's a really cool American fact that
this part of American culture has survived through time.
It's about loyalty, and it's about family, and it's about
friendship, and it's about being involved in something that's
kind of larger than you. If you take a look at all the charity
stuff that clubs deal with and if you take a look at how
they add to a community and if you take a look at American
history it is just, kind of, a really interesting part of
our culture that I actually love.
That's very cool. And have you talked to actual bikers
while you've been on the show and what's their reaction
to the show?
Yes. They love it. I mean they really love it. We honor
and respect the reality of the world and I think that they
really enjoy the show because we respect the reality of
the world so much and I think that's real important, you
It's clear that you are a very talented oil painter.
I'm just wondering how you channel your artistic skills
into your acting and vice versa?
Thank you. Well, I feel it's all coming from the same exact
place. When I get a script and do my work and then show
up on set and work. It's the same kind of zone that I'm
in when I'm in front of a canvas or when I'm writing a story
about one of my paintings or playing music. Whatever I'm
doing at any given time it's the same exact zone. It's like,
I'm a creative person and I use painting, and acting, and
writing, and writing songs or whatever as tools to just
get a point across in order to communicate a story or an
emotion or something like that.
So if I'm feeling something, I know if it's a song or
if it's a little story that I'm going to write or if it's
a painting or if it's a play. You know, I might sit down
and write a play. I have. I used to write and perform a
lot of my own materials with my friends. I made a film at
one point about something I was going through. I didn't
want to make a film. I didn't say, "Hey, I want to
make a film now." I was just going through something
and I said, "Wow, man, this is a film."
So I got together with my friends and shot a feature length
film on a budget of like $500, I think I spent, to shoot
a feature film. I used digital video and it was actually
the first film ever to be shot on digital video, like in
the world. And I did that by accident because I didn't want
to spend any time trying to raise money for the film and
started shooting on Hi8 and I just didn't like the way it
looked and I went to be in B&H Camera in New York City
and bought a digital video camera and went to work.
I actually shot the film by myself and all the actors acted
as crew and it was awesome. So, you know, that could have
been a play, or that could have been a painting, or a story.
But it was a film. So I went and made a film. So what I'm
saying is that it all comes from the same exact pool of
What can we expect from 'Chucky' in the episodes to
Well, you know, more of the same. 'Chucky' is a guy who
has found a home in this club and is extremely loyal and
just basically makes himself completely available to whatever
anyone needs at the moment. I think he's real attentive
to what's going on and he knows when it's time to just get
out of the way. And then he knows when it's time to help
out. And if he can help out he just jumps in and just helps
out. It's a cool kind of person. I really dig 'Chucky' because
of that, you know. I love that, very selfless individual,
When you started the role or when you got the job, what
was your reaction when you found out the character would
have the habit he does?
Well I love that. I mean that was what I loved about it.
I love people who are complicated. I love to play people
who are complicated. I always did. Like characters that
I played in the past or like I developed the character of
'Louis' in Angels in America. A very complicated guy. I
played people like, 'Ivan' from Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov,
very complicated people.
I love being an actor because I love that. I love being
presented by a character that kind of boggles my mind. And
that I have to do some work, do a lot of work and exploring,
okay, how can I make this guy absolutely real and absolutely
believable to myself. And then I go to work in doing that
in order for it to be believable to an audience, to other
When I learned about 'Chucky' and the compulsive masturbation
and this and that it wasn't very difficult for me to believe
that that could be true. I mean, I feel like no matter what
you think up has already happened somewhere in the world,
right. I mean there are so many people that exist and I
felt like it was just a tick that I really loved it. And
what was cool about it is that I was able to separate the
tick from the guy so that he could be sitting next to 'Clay'
and 'Jax' is in the van and just have a conversation and
be wickedly masturbating while he's just talking and not
even be aware of it.
I think that's really, really like a challenge. And it
ended up being really funny and I'm very happy about it.
I really dig 'Chucky' and I really dig that whatever's thrown
at him he just survives. His fingers get chopped off, he
survives. He figures it out. He gets shot. He figures it
out. I just love that about the character.
At what point did you actually find out what he would
be like? Was it during an audition or was it in the script
No. I saw the script. I read the script and I just was
able to see the whole script and the journey during that
first episode in Season 1, the journey that he makes. It
starts out with 'Otto' up at Stockton and the first thing
that I thought of was, I'll bet that 'Otto' is the first
friend that 'Chucky' ever had like in his whole life. The
first person he ever connected to, ever. And I think that,
right there, is the key to 'Chucky;' that he has such a
loyalty to 'Otto' and to this club and I think it's because
of that. I think 'Otto's' probably the first person who
ever really talked to him and connected to him. And I find
that to be really, kind of, beautiful.
And do you think you've been on a show like this before?
One that's really dark, but also comedic.
Yes. That's the brilliance of what Kurt's doing. I find
that that's what makes something compelling. When it's just
so, so as dark as possible and then as buoyant as possible.
I mean, I find that to be just a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant
balance that is presented to us as a cast and that's a really
lush and inviting challenge for an actor to take a script
that is kind of that extreme. The more extreme the better,
actually. The more serious and dark and the more funny,
Like, you look at people like Lenny Bruce, you know. You
look at stuff like that and you just see the stakes are
really high. And I have never in my life laughed harder
than I have when I've been in a dark situation, you know
what I mean? I mean it's just something that happens. It's
just a natural aspect of things. And I think that's a really
good world to be living in. I think it's really exciting
to watch and I think it's really exciting to work in as
a creative person.
I was hoping you could walk us through the progression
or evolution of 'Chucky' on the show? Were you originally
assigned for x amount of episodes? Did you know you'd be
on for this long or does your character kind of catch on
and Kurt told you little by little that he'd be sticking
around? How did it all come-?
Yes. I mean, I was just hired to do that one show in Season
1 and that was it. Then, basically, he gets thrown back
to 'Lin' in the Chinese club and that's it. What I did on
the last shot when they threw me in the car I said to myself,
"Well, hey man, this is not a guy who would just sit
in the car and let them take him away." So what I did
was when they threw me in the car I just jumped at the other
door and I opened the other door and I just took off out
of the car and they chased me.
think that was what this guy would do. He's a survivor,
man. I just did that one show in the first season and then,
yes, they brought me back. They brought me back into the
second season. Since then, 'Chucky' and me have been just
trying to figure out what's going on and 'Chucky' seems
to have found a real home there, you know, and he's useful
and that's how it is.
I think 'Chucky' is often used as the comedic source
on the show. Do you have more room to do that kind of, sort
of, thing to improvise more than those actors because your
job is almost to make the viewers laugh in many ways?
No. I never improvise. There's no improvisation at all.
It's just everything is completely scripted and what I do
is, basically, I get the script and I figure out what's
going on and I just go and do it and it's inherently funny.
He's inherently funny. So I don't even really think about
the comic aspects of it. I just let that be what it is.
I just kind of go in and play the truth of it as the character
and I've been playing the guy for a while. I really know
who he is and I know his relationships with everyone in
the club and everyone in the town. And, basically, just
go in and play the truth of it. It ends up being funny because
it's inherently funny. It's written funny, you know.