'Sons of Anarchy' Star Jimmy Smits on Nero and Gemma's Future

Jimmy Smits as Nero Padilla in the Sons of Anarchy Season 6 episode, Poenitentia.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the "Poor Little Lambs" episode of Sons of Anarchy.

If it feels like Sons of Anarchy is speeding headfirst into its Dec. 9 series finale, we have to point out: Tuesday's "Poor Little Lambs" episode was just the fourth installment of Season 7. That means, despite the various entanglements Jax and his cohorts find themselves in — which, in "Lambs," led to tragic consequences for the women of Diosa Norte — there are so many more dark times ahead.

What, exactly, might that be? SoA star Jimmy Smits, whose Nero Padilla is among those continuously feeling the blowback of Jax's grand scheme for vengeance against the man he thinks murdered his wife, isn't totally sure. Smits, who's currently filming Episode 11 (of 13 for the final season), says he still doesn't know exactly how the series is going to end.

"We're all very excited to know," the actor tells Yahoo TV. "You think the obvious people would be Katey [Sagal] and Charlie [Hunnam]. [But] they're in the dark, too, I can say with pretty good accuracy, in terms of what exactly happens — how we close up shop."

[Related: 'Sons of Anarchy' Director Paris Barclay on the Season 7 Premiere]

As we celebrate the fact that Mr. Padilla is still alive in Episode 11, Smits talked to us about that shocking massacre at DN, how much longer Nero's fragile relationship with Gemma and crumbling truce with Jax can last, how we haven't seen the last of the Venus and Tig relationship, and how he might be going in a very different direction for his post-SoA roles.

When we talked near the end of Season 6, you weren't sure how much of a role Nero would have in the final season. Turns out he's right in the middle of all the drama, more than anyone except Jax and Gemma. Was that a surprise?
At the end of last year, I went to Chicago and did a play, and I was thinking, "Maybe I'll go back and do four episodes or so, just go out with a bang." [Creator] Kurt [Sutter] called and said, "Because of all these things going on with the show, I think I'd like Nero to be part of the mythology." I don't know where that's going to lead to, ultimately.

Kurt and I, this season, because I see that he really has his plate full, I backed off in terms of doing the lunches with him: "Give me what you're thinking about in terms of the arc." There's the trust factor that we've developed over the past two seasons. I know that I'm one of those spokes in the wheel. I'm here to do whatever you need for this particular character to service your storyline.

I just want to keep all of the balls in the air in terms of what we've given as that first wave of what the character was, that he can be this consigliere, that he can be this badass, that he can be vulnerable, that he can service Gemma in many different ways. I mean that from the most profound to the most titillating. As long as he keeps those balls in the air and all those plates spinning, whatever the metaphor you want, I trust what he's doing, and I trust the way [director] Paris [Barclay] executes it — the visual tip. I'm there for the ride. That's basically it in a nutshell.

SONS OF ANARCHY -- Pictured: Jimmy Smits as Nero Padilla. CR: James Minchin/FX

Paris told us he sees Nero and Unser as the angels of the season, trying to keep the body count as low as possible. Nero looked particularly crushed when he walked in on the scene at DN, after Lin's men murdered all the women. There's a lot of guilt for him, isn't there? He felt responsible for them as their boss, and he knows they're paying the consequences of Jax's dealings.
Thanks. I appreciate that you got that all from that little tape. I think that's going to continue to flourish in subsequent episodes, because this character came in with this "exit strategy." That was his whole thing. You caught him at a point where he thought he was at the door, getting ready to leave. To Jax, at that particular time a couple of seasons ago, to hear that rap, that supposed ideology of "We can get out of this" and "We can do better for our families"... but it hasn't been as easy as he may have thought it would be. There is going to be a lot of guilt. There's going to be a lot of remorse. There's going to be feelings of vengeance. There's a lot of confusion that this character that I'm playing is going to be going through.

[Photos: Check Out More Pics From 'Sons of Anarchy' Season 7]

Nero tells Gemma that Jax is really "unchained" right now, and that he's in danger of his vengeful behaviors becoming who he is, not some temporary state he's in. Was he speaking from experience?
I think the life that he's lived, he's seen that happen. And he's experienced it also firsthand. Maybe not at the same level, but he's experienced vengeance, what the consequences of it are, with his own crew, with his family. The guilt he has about his son... all that stuff is at play.

Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller and Jimmy Smits as Nero Padilla in the Sons of Anarchy Season 6 episode, The Mad King.

Gemma joked earlier in the season that Nero probably regretted buying her that drink, ever getting involved with her. He denied it, but as his association with her and Jax continues to complicate his life and his exit strategy, is he beginning to have regrets about life with the Tellers?
Definitely he goes through the gamut of all of those feelings, but love sometimes can trump a lot of things. People find themselves doing things that they never thought they would be involved with. Because of the ticker that he's got — both he and Gemma have had heart issues — they got something going on that's more profound than any other stuff. The feeling of not belonging to a family and then belonging, loyalty, or on the flip side, what happens when you feel that you've given so much of your soul to something and then there's the sense of betrayal... that's the thin line between love and hate. It's no joke.

Nero has put aside his anger at Jax, for having Juice kill Darvany and lying about it, out of love for Gemma and sympathy about Tara. But is it still bubbling there under the surface?
It has not been resolved. That's another thing that's dangling there, and it’s going to come back on some level.

Courtney Love as Ms. Harrison (Prashant Gupta/FX)

On the lighter side, there was a great lineup of guest stars in "Poor Little Lambs": Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love, Kim Dickens. They brought some much-needed moments of levity to this dark season.

Absolutely. And first of all, a lot of those people want to be on the show because they're fans of it, and they want to jump on board. "Let me do whatever it is, I'm there, for an episode, whatever." Manson was really good in his scenes! And Courtney Love playing the school teacher? Come on! It's great! I love the fact that stuff gets flipped on its head. It's wonderful the way Kurt's been able to incorporate these wonderful actors, or seeing something in someone, that he can flip on his head in terms of whatever their persona is. These characters are going to have these little arcs that get fulfilled.

And Walton Goggins's return as Venus: This newly discovered relationship between Venus and Tig — or "Alexander," as she calls him — hinted that Venus will return.
Walton's work is incredible. It's Emmy-caliber work. And what's coming down the pipe is really great. Who would've thought Kim Coates's character is going to have this... this character, this outlaw, deviant kind of character, you're going to be able to see a different side of him. I can attest to the fact that what you saw is just the beginning. There’s a continuation of something that is going to be very different for television.

With production on the finale so near, are you thinking about your next job? Do you feel a need to do something less dark or serious for a while?
I've been thinking about the next job for a while now. I think just from talking to me before, you know wherever there's a good part, if that's going to be in an indie film or six months in a play or a TV show with the right people or a little role in a big movie, it’s just about what the part is and what I feel like I need to do — which acting muscle I might need to stretch. Dark and serious is not a concern of mine.

I might like to do something that's a little bit more facile with the word. These guys are much more rugged, quieter. I mean, Nero gets to talk, he gets to say his piece, but the facility with language is something that I wouldn't mind jumping into. Outside of that little stint on Dexter, [Sons of Anarchy] was welcome for me in a lot of ways. I wanted to do a "guy's guy" kinda thing. So, OK, got that out of my system. We'll see what happens next. Maybe you’ll see me in a suit and tie instead of Nero’s cardigans.

Sons of Anarchy airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.